Civic Engagement Nebraska Politics

Don Bacon Fights Antisemitism…When It’s Politically Expedient

Bacon went so far out of his way to ignore REPEATED antisemitic remarks from within his political party that he actually went to a community rabbi to see if he would disagree with me that the President’s “disloyal” remarks were antisemitic. The rabbi didn’t.

On last Saturday night, a man attacked a group of Chasidic Jews at their rabbi’s house in Monsey, New York. Immediately, people used the horrific attack to push their political views: the Left insisted that the uptick in antisemitism is Trump’s fault while the Right gloried in the fact that the assailant, an African-American man, was probably not a Trump fan and thus the Left could be blamed for attacks on Jews.

After learning about the attack, I couldn’t sleep. So I posted the following short thread on Twitter:

Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) responded to my thread from his official account, writing: “I agree with you on this one.”

The problem for Bacon is that he actually doesn’t agree with me. Because he does exactly what I asked people not to do, namely using Jews as a political football.

In August, President Trump said that Jews who vote for Democrats are stupid and disloyal, invoking a well-worn and dangerous antisemitic canard that Jews can’t be fully loyal to the country where they are citizens because they are, above all, loyal to world Jewry (in this case, their loyalty, as far as Trump understands, ought to be to Israel). At the time, I joined together with a group comprised of members of the Jewish community in Nebraska and asked for a meeting with one of Congressman Bacon’s staffers. We asked that the Congressman make a public statement condemning Trump’s harmful rhetoric about American Jews. We explained the very real harm that comes from comments about the loyalty of Jewish people. We talked about our shock that Republicans seem constitutionally unable to speak out against something that everyone knows is wrong. We can’t pretend the President’s words don’t matter.

One person in the meeting said it perfectly, “We’re not questioning the Congressman’s integrity; we’re counting on it.” It shouldn’t be difficult to stand against antisemitism but unfortunately the GOP has made it an unpardonable offense to question anything Trump does.

After that meeting, the Congressman’s Chief of Staff called me and we spoke for more than a half hour. He’s a good man, whip smart, and I’ve worked with him on several initiatives that are important to me and to the Congressman. The Congressman, however, said nothing.

And when I reminded Bacon of this episode on Twitter, he replied: “I
 do disagree with you on this one.

In other words, Bacon wants to claim that we agree that we should stand in bipartisan opposition to antisemitism but when it actually comes time to stand up to the RAMPANT antisemitism within his own party—including the obvious antisemitism coming from the President of the United States—he disagrees.

When it comes to making the hard choice, to standing against the bigotry emanating from the people with whom Bacon identifies and on whom he relies, he chooses not to. In fact, he actively looks for ways to excuse it, to point to the other team.

Bacon went so far out of his way to ignore REPEATED antisemitic remarks from within his political party that he actually went to a community rabbi to see if he would disagree with me that the President’s “disloyal” remarks were antisemitic. The rabbi didn’t.

Trump repeats antisemitic tropes in public over and over. He and members of the GOP blame America’s problems on George Soros—a contemporary stand in for the Rothschilds—or claim that Soros is bankrolling protesters or their political rivals. And Bacon says nothing; in fact, Bacon has engaged in Soros-talk himself!

 But then the very same politicians call for Democrats to lose their seats for remarks about Jews and money or about Israel…and Bacon applauds.

This is EXACTLY what I wrote about in my very first tweet, the one where Bacon said we agree. This is playing politics with the lives of Jews. When it fits his political narrative and works to his party’s political advantage, he’s on it. Otherwise, he runs in the other direction.

If Don Bacon wants to claim that he stands on the side of American Jews, especially at the moment when we’re facing unprecedented antisemitism, he needs to actually listen to us when we tell him what’s threatening us. Even if one of those things turns out to be members of his political party and their actions.

The fact that he’s unwilling to work to get his own house in order doesn’t mean that we simply have a political disagreement, which is how he attempted to describe it in a final Twitter reply to me:

Bacon declined to say which local rabbis disagreed with me…because they don’t. In fact, there is near-universal consensus amongst Jews that the President’s comments were antisemitic in August, just as his public comments about Jews and money (on multiple occasions) are antisemitic. The reason the Congressman disagrees with me is because he’s afraid to take a strong public stand against President Trump. He believes that Trump will say nasty things about him and he’s afraid that his Trumpy base of support in the Omaha suburbs will abandon him.

Here’s the upshot: Congressman Bacon isn’t a bad man; he’s just not a brave one. If he was, he wouldn’t be wasting his time running around Omaha in an attempt to find a rabbi who thinks Trump’s comments about Jews are a-ok so he can show me a thing or two. He’d do what EVERYONE knows is the right thing and make a strong public statement that defends his constituents (his district contains the only sizable Jewish community in the state) against the rising tide of antisemitism whenever something terrible happens or someone says something antisemitic, rather than speaking out only when it’s the other side of the aisle who can be blamed.

If Nebraskans want someone who is brave enough to put their interests first, to stand up and defend them even when it’s difficult to do so, they ought to vote for one of the fine candidates who are running to replace Bacon in 2020.

Gladys Harrison
Morgann Freeman
Ann Ashford
Kara Eastman