The insurrectionists inside the U.S. Capitol came so close to achieving their goal of lynching Vice President Mike Pence and killing Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And some of the most visible elements in that mob sported clothing and signs branded with the letter Q.
Q, which stands for QAnon, is an irrational cult of believers living in a fever-dream conspiracy in which they’re fighting against Satan-worshipping pedophiles working undercover in the government’s "deep state" bureaucracy. QAnon takes many of its cues from historic anti-Semitism like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or blood libels – including accusing the secret cabal drinking the blood of babies to stay young or as a cure for COVID-19.
The crowd included neo-Nazis and antisemites of various stripes, including the far right Proud Boys, the Nationalist Social Club, white nationalist Nick Fuentes’ "groypers," and one man, Robert Keith Packer, wearing a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt. A particularly disturbing image was when Kevin Seefried marched into the Capitol rotunda brandishing a Confederate flag: During four years of civil war, Confederate traitors never got that close to occupying the seat of U.S. government.
This rot is not limited only to the rioting insurrectionist mob chanting "Hang Mike Pence" and "Where’s Nancy?" 2020 also saw the election to Congress of two QAnon supporters, Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene from Georgia.
Both women are entirely unqualified to serve as legislators, with Boebert having a criminal rap sheet almost two pages long while Greene’s claim to fame was contributing "articles" to the conspiracy website American Truth Seekers linking the Democratic Party to "Child Sex, Satanism, and the Occult."
Her political opponents in Colorado have criticized Boebert’s actions during the siege as being "willful ignorance or purposeful insurrection": she live tweeted the location of the Speaker despite legislators being told not to disclose their location. The week after the failed coup, the Twitter hashtag #ResignBoebert went viral. She has also been accused by a fellow Congressman of giving unknown persons a "reconnaissance" tour of the Capitol in the days before the riot, an accusation she denies.
The existence of racist ideologies in American politics and its halls of power is hardly new. Representative Steve King of Iowa was a notorious racist and anti-Semite who nevertheless held on to his congressional seat for eight years. But the contagion of vile ideologies during the Trump era appears to have metastasized.
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Not only does the Republican caucus in Congress have more QAnon conspiracy theorists than members of color, but there is a noisy new generation of racists emerging.
North Carolina’s youngest representative, Madison Cawthorn, who fabricated a story about admission to the naval academy (making him culpable of "stolen valor" or pretending to be in the military) and recommended "lightly threatening" Congresspeople who rejected Donald Trump’s claims of voter fraud, posted to Instagram his dream vacation in 2017: visiting the holiday home of what he called "The Fuhrer," Adolf Hitler ("[O]n my bucket list for years. And it did not disappoint"), while formally denouncing "racism."
The Republican Party is facing a reckoning: as many as 140 of its House representatives supported sedition even after the Capitol building had been occupied for four hours.
Jewish Republicans, in particular, have to come to terms with the extent to which the party has been infiltrated and taken over by white nationalists, despite escalating evidence since the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" neo-Nazi rally, which Trump singularly failed to denounce, and the subsequent attacks against Jewish targets in Pittsburgh (the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history), California, New Jersey, and New York.
In fact, Jews were targeted more in anti-Semitic incidents in the four years under Trump than in the forty years that the Anti Defamation League has tracked data.
The cognitive dissonance that conservative Jews and many Israelis who supported President Trump’s foreign and fiscal policies while ignoring the dog whistles to various right-wing extremists runs deep. But they may face an even deeper integrity challenge in the future. The new generation of Republicans is less circumspect about their antipathy towards Jews, and even further ensconced in baseless conspiracy theories tinged with historic antisemitic tropes.
The success of these individuals may even encourage more young unqualified Republicans harboring dangerous right-wing ideologies to seek higher office. The greater likelihood, however, is that a new generation of Republicans running for elected office have last names that are "Trump."
Lara Trump, wife of son Eric, has expressed her interest in running for office in North Carolina, while Ivanka has staked a claim in Marco Rubio’s backyard, musing about challenging him for Florida’s Senate seat.
Like Greene, Boebert and Cawthorn, none of the Trump scions have any qualifications for elected office save large Twitter followings. Sadly, the current GOP state of affairs is that a history of service, expertise or knowledge has less to do with elections than celebrity even if that sole "qualification" is tainted by scandal and racism.
Beyond the lack of qualifications, the Trump brand will continue to resonate with the most antisemitic elements of the political spectrum. While right-wing extremists initially viewed Trump suspiciously, they realized after his endorsement by David Duke and the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville in 2017 that the Trump family was the best chance they had of shaping America’s political rhetoric to be more closely aligned with their own.
Among capitol insurrectionists, nestled among Nazi shirt-wearing thugs, was Aaron Mostofsky, son of an Orthodox Judge (and former President of the National Council of Young Israel) from Brooklyn, NY. Mostofsky was one of several Orthodox Jews at the Capitol demonstrating against certification of the 2020 election. His brother, Nachman, executive director of Chovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion), was also there, although he did not storm the building.
But being part of this movement won’t protect Jews from attack, as it hasn’t over the past four years. Trump and his cronies have consistently refused to condemn acts of antisemitism, preferring to recede behind the "both sides" equivocation.
The fact that Ivanka Trump is a convert to Judaism will have little impact on the increasing racism and conspiracy theorizing in American politics. Ivanka continues to be the plausibly deniable face of Trump’s dark legacy, whether she runs for office or not.
We know from history that the "past is prologue" when it comes to vigilance against the scourge of antisemitism – and we know that appeasing, coddling or even leveraging the racist, antisemitic far right is never a strategy that can ever offer safety for Jews, minorities or democracy.
Mia Bloom is a professor of Communication and Middle East studiesat Georgia State University, author of four books on terrorism and violent extremism, and a researcher with the Evidence-Based Cyber Security program in Atlanta, Georgia. Twitter: @MiaMBloom