Dangerous political hypocrisy and the American Dream
The disturbing mainstreaming of extremist rhetoric by#CTSen candidate Leora Levy
In my novel In Case You Missed It, the main character, Sammy, muses about disturbing comments her father made about his secretary, who is an immigrant to the US. Sammy finds her father’s “jokes” especially hypocritical given that her ancestors were immigrants to this country, too.
Is this the real American Dream? Everyone climbs the ladder of success and then pulls it up behind them so they can laugh, with all the other people who’ve made it, at those who are still jumping desperately to catch the bottom rung?
I thought of that passage as I listened to Leora Levy at the #CTSen candidate forum put on by Jewish Federation Association of CT (JFACT). In a moving introduction, Ms. Levy explained that she was named after her uncle Leo, whose death from diphtheria as a baby was the catalyst that caused her parents to leave Lithuania in 1940, thus saving the lives of her grandparents and her mother.
Levy explained: “After a perilous train trip through Germany they arrived in Genoa, Italy and were able to get on the last American ship to New York. Made it to Ellis Island, but then were turned away because there was a quota for Jews. They were not allowed into the country, they were going to be sent back to Europe to be murdered along with the rest of the family who didn’t escape. Luckily, they were able to get visas to Cuba, so in 1940 my mother and her parents arrived in Cuba.”
Levy was born in Cuba and talked about how in 1960 she and her family “escaped Castro’s communist revolution and were very blessed to be admitted to the United States. My life here has been an American Dream.”
An inspiring story, one shared by many of our families.
But when she turned to economics she started to lose me, because she spoke as if none of us had ever taken an economics course - or studied the history of income inequality in America.
Saying that she was running for office because she wants to ensure that her children and their children and our children and grandchildren “have the same opportunity to live whatever their American dream is” she went on to the main GOP talking points high inflation, with absolutely no acknowledgement of how the previous president’s delayed and inadequate response to the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to where we are today, or the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Or that after decades of being treated badly by employers (such as deliberately being kept just below 40 hours a week so the employer doesn’t have to pay benefits, having to contribute ever more to their healthcare expenses, etc) and watching how the supply-side tax cuts Republicans have been pushing since Reagan have increased income inequality levels the pandemic has finally given workers a chance to reclaim some negotiating power.
Still, it was at 3:14 that I was completely horrified.
“We have an invasion at our border. It’s not immigration, it’s an invasion,” Levy said.
A 1921 political cartoon portrays America’s new immigration quotas, influenced by popular anti-immigrant and nativist sentiment stemming from World War I conflict. Source: Library of Congress.
She went on to list all the things that this “invasion” resulted in: fentanyl, human trafficking, crime, and terrorism, to name a few.
Given Levy’s use of her own family’s story of being turned away at Ellis Island in her introduction, it seems odd that she doesn’t seem to have any concept of the history of this loaded language in US immigration debate, or how by using this rhetoric is is serving as a conduit for mainstreaming extremist views that are at their essence antisemitic. Having spent the last several years immersed in extremism to write my novel Some Kind of Hate I recognize the talking points that have originated in far-right extremist spaces. For a Jewish Senate candidate to engage in this rhetoric immediately after telling her own family’s escape from the Holocaust story must require some serious cognitive dissonance.
I also note that despite claiming to be active in fight against antisemitism, Levy has remained silent on the former president’s recent statement and his embrace of white and Christian nationalist groups, not to mention his attempts to overturn the results of a democratic election. Indeed, she was proud to flaunt his endorsement, and to admonish other Jews for not supporting him.
Add in her tendency to emulate his terrible role modeling by engaging in kindergarten taunts about her opponent, I sincerely hope that #CT voters have more sense than to vote for Levy.