Just a day after a gunman murdered 11 people and wounded six others at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Republican Rep. Steve Stivers, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee, went on TV to defend anti-Semitic ads his organization has been airing in a congressional race in southern Minnesota. The ads are laden with anti-Jewish tropes and portray philanthropist and Holocaust survivor George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jew, as a malign puppet-master of the left. Nevertheless, in an appearance on a Sunday talk show, Stivers repeatedly insisted the ads are "factual" and said they have "nothing to do with calling for violence."
Of course, that's exactly the point of dog-whistles like these: They give bigots the ability to deny they're spewing hatred while speaking in coded language that white supremacists hear clearly. But much of the traditional media takes these denials at face value, helping the right to fool lots of people.
We, however, are not fooled. Images of Soros surrounded by stacks of cash while a narrator claims he "owns" Democrat Dan Feehan are an entirely unsubtle invocation of the hoary and hateful conspiracy theory that wealthy Jews control politics behind the scenes.
It’s no surprise, though, that Stivers would stand behind this filth. Last week, just two days after Soros himself was the victim of an attempted mailbox bomb assassination, the NRCC began airing a second ad in Minnesota’s 1st District that, yet again, featured Soros as a bogeyman. This is where we are now: Neither terrorism nor mass shootings are enough to deter Republicans from their hate-filled rhetoric.
And the NRCC is no outlier here. Last week, the Congressional Leadership Fund began running what may be the first attack ad featuring the migrant caravan that is slowly walking toward the United States from Central America and is still 1,000 miles away. A histrionic narrator intones, "A caravan of illegal immigrants, marching toward America." (No, they are refugees fleeing from violence in their home countries.) "Over 7,000 strong," he continues, "the caravan is full of gang members and criminals." (There's zero evidence for this.)
"Who is tough enough to secure our borders?" he goes on. "Not Dan Feehan. In Washington, Feehan would vote with Pelosi for open borders and amnesty, putting Minnesota families at risk." Of course, "open borders" is literally not on the agenda of any member of Congress, but belching forth lies about Jews and Latinos is definitely on the GOP's.
And naturally enough, this second line of attack complements the first, because Republicans—including members of Congress—have been baselessly claiming that Soros has funded the caravan. The idea that Jews were responsible for the caravan percolated through the fever swamps of the right with alacrity: The Pittsburgh shooting suspect, Robert Bowers, posted shortly before his rampage that HIAS, the Jewish refugee agency, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people.”
It’s telling, though, that Republicans are resorting to such a desperate gambit. Minnesota’s 1st District swung sharply to Trump in 2016, and as an open seat, it’s one of the GOP’s top two pickup opportunities in what has otherwise shaped up to be a difficult election for them. Yet they’re still sinking to incredible depths just to capture a seat that they should be favored to win. The fact that Republicans themselves are acting like they don’t think so speaks volumes.