Editorial: Time for Nassau GOP to speak out against hate

Editorial: Time for Nassau GOP to speak out against hate

Of course, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman should denounce former President Donald Trump for dining at Mar-A-Lago with Holocaust denier and white nationalist Nick Fuentes and Ye, the entertainer formerly known as Kanye West, who recently kicked off a campaign against Jews by declaring “Death Con 3 on Jewish people.”

That was before the heavily criticized dinner with Trump. Afterward, West went on an Alex Jones podcast wearing a mask and praised Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.
“There’s a lot of things that I love about Hitler,” West said.

Nassau County Legislators Arnold Drucker and Joshua Lafazan, both Democrats, were right to criticize Blakeman, a Republican, for remaining silent following the dinner at Mar A Lago.

“In the days following this incident, prominent Jewish Republican leaders across the country have been among the scores who have loudly and unequivocally condemned Trump and his association with and mainstreaming of virulent antisemites and racists,” Lafazan and Drucker wrote in a letter to Blakeman. “On the contrary, your failure to date to denounce Trump’s despicable embrace of these individuals has been extremely disappointing.”

Drucker and Lafazan might have added that more than the usual suspects among Republican congressional leaders also have criticized the meeting in one form or another.

And for good reason. Not forcefully denouncing West and Fuentes allows the unacceptable to become acceptable.

“The normalization of antisemitism is here,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, following Trump’s dinner with West and Fuentes.

This cannot be permitted anywhere. In Nassau County, Blakeman’s condemnation is important for several reasons. He is the highest office holder in Nassau as well as its first Jewish county executive where, as he pointed out in announcing a trade agreement with areas occupied by Israel, he represents 230,000 Jews.

As county executive, Blakeman is also responsible for the public’s safety at a time when attacks, both verbal and physical, on Jews are surging. Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City more than doubled last month from a year ago, according to NYPD data.

Blakeman has frequently blamed bail reform for a rise in crime in New York. He should be just as vigilant about the rise of hate speech. He was also the Nassau County Republican Party’s liaison to Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. So Blakeman carries more clout than many.

But Blakeman should not be the only Republican voice to speak out in opposition to Trump’s dinner and the rising tide of hate being directed at blacks, Muslims, Hispanics, members of the LGBTQ community and particularly Jews.

That is the responsibility of every Republican-elected congressional member state senator, assemblyperson, county official and county legislator who has supported Trump in the past. The former president’s association with racists and antisemites did not just begin with his dinner at Mar a Lago.

He has stoked the fires of hate since even before he began his first run for president in 2016 when he questioned without any basis the birthplace of Barack Obama, the United State’s first black president.

He kicked off his campaign with an attack on Mexicans crossing the border and began his presidency with a ban on Muslims entering the country. He showed his disdain for blacks and Asians throughout his campaign.

His platform featured attacks on “globalists” accompanied by photos of prominent Jews who he said were undermining the country by among other things replacing white Americans with immigrants to change the electorate in favor of Democrats.

During the racist, antisemitic “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, marchers carrying torches shouted “Jews will not replace us.” Trump’s response to the deadly confrontation that followed the march was that there had been “very fine people on both sides.”

In the wake of Trump’s language, hate speech, hate crimes and far-right groups emboldened by the president’s language surged. Some traditional Republicans left the party but most stayed as the Party of Lincoln became the Party of Trump.

We actually called on Blakeman to speak out against hate last December after members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group that helped lead the attack on the U.S. Capitol, marched without a permit down Sunrise Highway and into Rockville Centre where they stormed stores shouting slogans and passing out flyers detailing the group’s fringe philosophies. Members of the Proud Boys now face federal charges of sedition in federal court for their role in Jan 6.

But why the urgency now for Republican officials to speak out?

For one, Republican leaders, who are set to take over the House in January, say they will reinstate Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, and Paul Gosar, Republican of Arizona, to committees from which they were jettisoned by Democrats in part for their antisemitic comments or associating with white supremacists like Fuentes. This is at a time when Republican House members are becoming more extreme with the loss of representatives like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

For instance, George Santos, a Republican who will now replace Democrat Tom Suozzi in Congressional District 4 on the North Shore, attended Trump’s Stop the Steal rally before the attack on the Capitol and provided financial aid to some insurrectionists. Second, Trump, as seen by his meeting with West and Fuentes, appears to be trying to solidify his position by increasing his appeal to far-right Republicans.

This includes Trump calling on social media for the “termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution” so he can be immediately reinstated as president based on the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.

But perhaps the most important reason for Blakeman and other Republicans to speak out now is what is happening on Twitter, the social media platform recently purchased by Elon Musk, the country’s richest man. His decision to provide amnesty to accounts operated by white nationalists and fringe activists has appeared to have turbocharged hate speech and threats of violence to blacks, gay men, and Jews

“Elon Musk sent up the Bat Signal to every kind of racist, misogynist and homophobe that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, in The New York Times. “They have reacted accordingly.
Jews, to no one’s surprise, appear to be an especially popular target.

The Washington Post reported that “current and former federal officials are warning that a surge in hate speech and disinformation about Jews on Twitter is uniting and popularizing some of the same extremists who have helped push people to engage in violent protests, including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress.

“The officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence in the months ahead, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for genocidal Nazis by celebrities with wide followings and the re-emergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists,” the Post report said.

The experts say that sure as night follows day, violence will follow the hate speech on social media.

Blakeman and other Republicans in Nassau may disagree with Trump’s rhetoric but believe saying so would alienate a significant portion of their electorate – something Democrats don’t have to worry about. They may disagree with Trump’s rhetoric but also see that as an acceptable trade-off for policies such as tax cuts, cutting government regulation and the nomination of conservatives to federal courts.

But if that was ever an acceptable justification, it no longer is. They will almost certainly have blood on their hands if they remain silent now.

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