As has been mentioned, anti-Semitic attacks are at an all-time high. The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks these incidents, issued a report that was elaborated upon by the Washington Post as well as by Daily Kos’s own Hunter yesterday.
Donald Trump lashed out in tweets this week, calling Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “Soros-backed” (and an “animal”), but as Hunter detailed in-depth, this has been going on in the GOP for some time. Anti-Semitism: they’re soaking in it.
No, American anti-Semitism didn’t begin with Trump and it is, unfortunately, due to outlast him. But I did sit back and wonder where all of this vitriol came from in the last handful of years. What I came up with was the following:
The secrecy enabled by Citizens United is what powers these anti-Semitic George Soros memes, slogans, and catchphrases.
Through Citizens United v. FEC, rich donors to political campaigns are able to have their identities shielded, so we cannot know who is donating to which ultra-extremist lawmakers. Same goes for Democrats as Republicans; but there are fewer rich Democratic donors that splash into campaign funding via super PACs and the like. At least their influence differs. Wikipedia cites three different studies that have shown that Republicans have reaped the benefits of the controversial ruling:
One study by political scientists at University of Chicago, Columbia University and the London School of Economics found "that Citizens United increased the GOP's average seat share in the state legislature by five percentage points. That is a large effect—large enough that, were it applied to the past twelve Congresses, partisan control of the House would have switched eight times. In line with a previous study, we also find that the vote share of Republican candidates increased three to four points, on average." A 2016 study in The Journal of Law and Economics found "that Citizens United is associated with an increase in Republicans' election probabilities in state house races of approximately 4 percentage points overall and 10 or more percentage points in several states. We link these estimates to on-the-ground evidence of significant spending by corporations through channels enabled by Citizens United." According to a 2020 study, the ruling boosted the electoral success of Republican candidates.
Soros was well-known before Citizens United was even decided. His name has strong recognition (which is only reinforced the more these GOP operatives invoke him to launch these paranoid broadsides—they don’t allow the man’s name to recede into background of other everyday facts).
So, without Citizens United, we’d be able to point to those on the conservative / ultra-rightwing side as not necessarily mirroring Soros’ donations (a right-wing replica) but perhaps as even more financially influential than Soros himself, thus having more weight upon the political scale. But we can’t, because these donors can screen their identities through the filter of super PACS. Because this information is concealed, not only are these counterexamples not available for public comparison, but Soros’ publicity makes him seem singularly outsized, a veritable juggernaut of funding.
We can’t see these GOP donors, so it is as though they do not exist. Thus Soros, enjoying such name recognition even before the ruling, remains the most visible Democratic donor outside of the political class. Thus he stands out with no comparable conservative to serve as contrast. The public, especially those who consume rightwing media, are left to view the philathropist as a thumb on the scale. He fulfills the stereotypes and tropes of the Octopus, an entity with one head but multiple arms enacting its will; the puppet-master, forcing a district attorney to do his bidding.
Again, this is beyond what critics leveled at Citizen United at the time of its ruling. Then, people worried more about how the reversal of decades of settled law might upset normal channels of influence. Wikipedia notes that
The New York Times stated in an editorial, "The Supreme Court has handed lobbyists a new weapon. A lobbyist can now tell any elected official: if you vote wrong, my company, labor union or interest group will spend unlimited sums explicitly advertising against your re-election."
What I point out does not necessarily have to do with this dynamic, of negative extortion, if you will. No one need stand over any one of the extreme GOP House members or Senators to tell them that if they do not participate in this anti-Semitic rollout that they will see their funding siphoned off. That type of conspiracy is not required. All that is needed is the obscuring of the donors’ identities, which permits Mr. Soros to stand apparently apart and alone in his influence. This is a distortion of perception made possible by the structures of the ruling itself and its aftermath.
So what we’re seeing now? It’s powered by the opacity created and given life by that monumental overturning of stare decisis. By the resultant appearance of lopsidedness, with Mr. Soros in the constant spotlight as he is made the everpresent bogeyman, the tropes are renewed over and over. Anti-Semitism, like water, seeks the lowest level, and that’s where it settles in our discourse.