First, the good news: the absolutely, positively, most blatant antisemites generally did not win.
- Actual Neo-Nazi Arthur Jones lost to Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski 73-27 in Illinois' 3rd congressional district.
- Jones' Holocaust-denying compatriot, John Fitzgerald, lost by a similar 72-28 margin in California's 11th district to Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier.
- In North Carolina's 48th state house district, GOP nominee Russell Walker -- who once said Jews "descend from Satan" -- lost to Black Democratic minister Garland Pierce 63-37.
- In Missouri, GOP nominee Steve West (who was disowned by his own kids) fell well short of unseating Democratic State Rep. Jon Carpenter.
- Finally, in California, Maria Estrada's virulent antisemitism didn't stop her from earning an Our Revolution endorsement, but it presumably did her no favors in her D-on-D challenge to State Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon -- she lost 56-44.
- Open White Supremacist Rep. Steve King (R-IA), last seen telling the world that European Neo-Nazi parties would just be plain old Republicans in America, had a much closer than anticipated race against Democrat J.D. Scholten. Still, King prevailed 50-47, thus proving that there is no limit to how racist you can be if there are enough Republicans in your district.
- Meanwhile, in Washington, GOP State Rep. Matt Shea -- who advocated for an American theocracy where non-Christian men are executed -- handily won reelection 58-42. Huzzah.
Now, those guys represent the worst of the worst. Most (not all) were running on the GOP line, and most (not all) lost. But the Tablet list itself evinces a clear antisemitic spectrum, and once you move past the obvious cases the story gets more complex.
On Tablet's list were two definite borderline entries, for whom I think it's fair to question if they are properly called antisemitic at all (certainly, they're far further afield than some of the names further down on this list):
- The case for including Indiana Rep. Andre Carson (D) appears to boil down to "he's been in a room with Farrakhan and the Iranian president", which isn't exactly on the level of denying the Holocaust. Call me jaded, but this felt very thin to me. Carson's Indiana district is gerrymandered to be reliably blue, and so it was -- Carson took his race 63-37.
- Lena Epstein -- the Republican candidate in Michigan's 11th congressional district -- also has fair grounds to question her inclusion. Yes, inviting a Jews for Jesus Rabbi to eulogize the Pittsburgh victims was stupid, and insensitive, and baffling, and did I mention stupid? -- but was it antisemitic? I'm not sure. But we no longer need to expend much effort figuring it out: Epstein was soundly defeated by Democrat Haley Stevens, flipping this open GOP seat blue and I suspect signaling the last we hear of Epstein in national politics.
- On the Democratic side, Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) is the poster child -- while the past few weeks might have you believe that every Democrat in the country is a Louis Farrakhan fanboy, Davis is one of the few who actually has praised the man (the NOI has a large presence in Davis' Chicago district). Davis' district is one of the bluest in the country, and he took 88% of the vote against nominal Republican opposition.
- On the Republican side, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) endorsed a Holocaust denier for school board (and that wasn't even his only connection to the Holocaust denying set). "Putin's favorite Congressman" looks to have gone down in his toss-up race, losing narrowly to Democrat Harley Rouda.
- Also falling into this category (though arguably shading into the class below) is California GOP Rep. Steve Knight, who ran an ad featuring a far-right activist notorious for antisemitic and racist online comments (Knight plead ignorance about the guy's views, but you'd think the t-shirt he was wearing in the ad -- a US flag with "infidel" stamped over it -- would be a giveaway). Knight lost his seat 51-49 to Democrat Katie Hill.
Next, we get to people who have themselves said or done antisemitic things -- albeit perhaps not as vividly as a Steve King sort.
- For Republicans, George Soros is the fulcrum. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who gave a Holocaust denier a State of the Union ticket and is a major source of Soros-related conspiracy theorizing, works as a good example. He handily won his re-election race 67-33.
- Speaking of Soros, in Minnesota's 1st district, Jim Hagedorn -- who claimed that Joe Lieberman only supported the Iraq War because he was a Jew and who then cut an ad claiming his opponent was "owned" by the
Jewishglobalist billionaire -- looks like he will squeak out a win over Democrat Dan Feehan. If that result holds, it marks one of the few districts this cycle to flip D-to-R. It also is particularly painful for me because this is the district where my wife grew up and my in-laws still live.
- And while Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis is more well-known for the racism, he too dipped his toe in the antisemitic Soros conspiracy pool, accusing his African-American opponent, Andrew Gillum, of looking to "seed into our state government, you know, Soros-backed activists." DeSantis, a Republican, prevailed over Gillum by about a single point in what had been thought to be a blue-leaning race.
Two more Democratic members of Tablet's list -- Leslie Cockburn and Ilhan Omar -- fit in this category, albeit for comments that are several years or (in Cockburn's case) decades old.
- Cockburn wrote a book in the early 90s that was basically a "Israel is responsible for all awful things" screed; she lost her VA-05 race to Republican Denver "bigfoot erotica" Riggelman, because America is awesome and that was really a choice. The margin was 53-47 in a race that was viewed as a decent, if not top-of-the-class, Democratic pickup opportunity.
- Omar, running in Minnesota's 5th district, has come under fire for a tweet where she accused Israel of "hypnotizing" the world to prevent it from seeing its "evil". While she has seemingly moderated her views on Israel, she pointedly declined to walk back this comment or recognize how it seems to traffic in antisemitic tropes (in contrast to her 5th district predecessor, Keith Ellison, who pointedly disassociated himself from prior Farrakhan affiliations). Omar won her race by a crushing 78-21 margin.
Finally, it's worth looking at some local races where Republicans (albeit not always the Republican candidate) ran antisemitic ads.
- In Alaska, a GOP mailer which showed stacks of cash being stuffed into Democrat Jesse Kiehl's suit didn't seem to work, Kiehl defeated right-leaning independent Don Etheridge 60-37. (Etheridge said he disavowed the Republican ad).
- In California, Republican Tyler Diep painted his Jewish opponent Josh Lowenthal green, enlarged his nose, and showed him clutching $100 bills; Diep prevailed in his California Assembly race, 54-46.
- Pennsylvania State Rep. Todd Stephens (R) made sure to drop the "Johnson" from the name of Democratic opponent Sara Johnson Rothman when he photoshopped her holding a stack of cash, instead going with "Stop Sara Rothman". Stephens won re-election by a narrow 51-49 margin.
- In North Carolina, Republican Rickey Padgett tried to unseat State Senator Mike Woodard (D) by, among other things, posting a picture with Chuck Schumer dressed in a Nazi SS uniform. Woodward prevailed by a 62-36 spread.
- Finally, in Connecticut, Democrat Matt Lesser gained national attention when his Republican opponent Ed Charamut sent out a mailer depicting Lesser with wild eyes, a huge nose, and a wad of cash. Lesser prevailed in a tight race, winning 52-48.
What are the takeaways here? Well, for starters, the most virulent and explicit antisemites generally lost. That's good, though given that those candidates generally ran in ideologically lopsided districts it's easy to overdraw from that. The Steve King victory shows that where the partisan lean works in the antisemite's favor, partisan allegiance generally trumps (seriously, does anyone have confidence that if Arthur Jones ran in Steve King's district as the Republican candidate, he would lose?). And if that holds true for to a blatant bigot like King, it certainly applies to more mild or sporadic offenders, like Davis and Omar.
The more interesting -- and troublesome -- story is how less overt but still clear antisemitism played out in more closely contested races. Those who assume that America just doesn't tolerate antisemitism are in for a surprise. Hagedorn's antisemitic past (and present) didn't seem to dent his chances in Minnesota's toss-up first district, for example. This isn't to say that antisemites were universally winning -- more that antisemitism, even when expressed, generally isn't a losing issue either even in the sort of closely contested districts where you might expect candidates to tread more carefully.
Moreover, there's a partisan lean to this that cannot be ignored. Certainly, there are incidents of antisemitism in both Democratic and Republican politics. And because American Jews (and Jewish politicians) are so overwhelmingly liberal, there are far more progressive "targets" for antisemitism than there are conservatives. Still, between Soros conspiracy theorizing and "Jews clutching money" ads, there seemed to be a noticeable step-up in GOP appeals to this sort of antisemitic sentiment that doesn't have a clear parallel among Democrats right now.
And Republican strategists must have come to a conclusion that these ads work. Yes, maybe they turn off some Jewish or more liberal-leaning voters. But Republican campaign operatives must think they make up for it by revving up the conservative base (or even independents -- for a variety of reasons I strongly suspect that right-leaning independents might be even more susceptible to this sort of appeal).
There was certainly no systematic punishing effect for Republicans going to this well -- and so we can expect they'll keep doing it. And that is a worrisome conclusion.