If elected, Bernie Sanders would become America's first Jewish president. He's been consistently polling among the nation's top Democratic presidential contenders since he announced his second run for the Oval Office last year, but Politico yesterday published a piece saying establishment Democrats are increasingly concerned that Sanders, a democratic socialist, might really win.
With that in mind, Sanders' critics — including many within his own party — have launched bizarre, sometimes outlandish insults at him in order to knock down his candidacy. The latest comes from Miami Democratic campaign consultant and lobbyist Evan Ross, who received heaps of criticism from other Florida Democrats yesterday after comparing Sanders to Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
"He is not 'our own' any more than David Duke is the Christian community's 'own,'" Ross, who is also Jewish, wrote in a Facebook post about Sanders.
Prominent Sanders supporters in Miami immediately called the comparison vile. Numerous local Democrats say they were outraged that Ross, the former chair of the Miami-Dade Young Democrats, would seemingly compare Sanders to a Klansman.
Former chair of @youngdems Miami & @MikeBloomberg supporter, @MrEvanRoss, says Bernie is no more part of the Jewish community than David Duke is part of the Christian community.— Geoff Campbell (MiamiGator) (@GeoffMiami) December 26, 2019
This vile commentary needs to be condemned by @FlaDems @MiamiDadeDems @TheDemocrats! #NotMeUs pic.twitter.com/a0z9B3BNNj
While I can't speak for the @MiamiDadeDems, as a leader of that organization it is absolutely repellant to me that a professional Democrat like @MrEvanRoss would compare Bernie Sanders--who has ALWAYS worked on behalf of the poor and marginalized--to a klansman. https://t.co/ObrguQBgln— William Byatt (@wm_byatt) December 26, 2019
In a since-deleted post, the chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Steve Simeonidis, told Ross his comments were out of line.
"@MrEvanRoss your initial comment directly compares a lifelong advocate of civil rights & a leader for the nomination to challenge an actual white supremacist to a former leader of the KKK," Simeonidis wrote. "You should delete it. You know it's inaccurate. You know it's intentionally inflammatory."
Reached by phone, Simeonidis said Ross agreed to delete his comments if Simeonidis also agreed to delete his tweet condemning them. But Simeonidis said he stands by his words.
By then Ross — who previously made waves after posting online that he would gladly murder WikiLeaks operator Julian Assange — had chimed in to defend himself online, and he didn't exactly take back the comparison.
Ross claimed that because Sanders has at times allied himself with Women's March founder Linda Sarsour — a Palestinian-American critic of Israel who has been criticized for comments some have labeled anti-Semitic — his actions are as bad as theoretically allying with Holocaust denier and notorious anti-Semite David Duke, who has claimed Jews control the media and international banks.
First, your screenshot completely eliminates all context and a long thread. Second, putting antisemites like Linda Sarsour on stage with a microphone is as vile as putting David Duke on stage with a mic. They’re both hateful people. My values are consistent. Hate is unacceptable.— Evan Ross (@MrEvanRoss) December 26, 2019
Reached via Twitter, Ross claimed he was not comparing Sanders to Duke and was instead responding to a thread asking why some of Sanders' Jewish critics were "trying to take down their own."
"That was taken out of context in a long thread," Ross wrote. "I was saying that Bernie doesn't speak for Jews as a group any more than Duke speaks for Christians as a group." He claimed the person who originally posted the screenshot deliberately took the comment out of context.
Earlier this month, Ross wrote an op-ed for Florida Politics claiming that Sanders, whose family members were killed in the Holocaust, "has repeatedly put anti-Semites front and center at his campaign events," though he appeared to link only to Sanders' association with Sarsour.
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"The suggestion that Jews were trying to take Bernie down and that he was somehow immune to legitimate criticism because of his heritage bothered me," Ross elaborated to New Times. "We get enough of those kinds of conspiracy theories from the alt-right. They love to pretend Soros pays protesters and to use the Jews as 'responsible for [insert bad thing here] conspiracy theory.'
"Stephen Miller is a white supremacist. The fact that he comes from Jewish heritage doesn't change that. It doesn't excuse it. And it doesn't explain it. So the idea that Jewish people can't be critical of Jewish people who do bad things is insane."
Ross' comments typify a growing trend among Sanders' critics. In recent weeks, many of his opponents, including fellow Democrats, have claimed Sanders is supporting or turning a blind eye to anti-Semites in his own ranks. Evidence of this claim appears to be fairly thin — supporters of Israel say Sanders is harboring too many anti-Israeli activists in his midst, while left-wing Jews say the term "anti-Semite" is being misappropriated to smear any critics of Israeli policy as haters of Jewish people.
"Sanders' solidarity with Palestinians suffering under occupation is not an affront to Jews but to the right's propaganda that looking out for their best interest means a blanket, unquestioning support for whatever the Israeli government happens to be doing, which at the moment includes maintaining a brutal apartheid state," journalist Kate Aronoff wrote in the Guardian earlier this month.