At the Democratic National Convention in 2016, Larry Sanders stood to announce the majority of delegates from the Democrats Abroad delegation would be awarded to his brother, "Bernard." But first, Larry remembered their time growing up together in Brooklyn, and how much their parents, Eli and Dorothy, loved the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and how proud they would be to see their son renewing that legacy. It was a beautiful moment and a reminder that when someone runs for president, it has monumental consequences for all of us, but also for their family as they watch one of their own set out to lead the world. It was also a reminder that Bernie is, at the end of the day, a Jewish kid from Brooklyn.
It's easy to lose sight of that in the rough-and-tumble of a national campaign, and when some try to erase his Jewishness because they feel he has the wrong views on the policies of the Israeli government. But regardless of what Sanders thinks of Benjamin Netanyahu, he would indeed be the first Jewish president in this nation's history. He would be the first non-Christian president in 250 years of presidenting. It would be a monumental development, not unlike John F. Kennedy's election as the first non-Protestant, with ripple effects throughout our politics and our culture.
At a Sanders rally in Phoenix, Arizona, Thursday night, we received proof of the most despicable kind that certain people have taken note.
A man brought a literal Nazi flag to the rally of a Jewish Socialist candidate for President— Siddak Ahuja (@SiddakAhuja) March 6, 2020
He was escorted out by security forcespic.twitter.com/KOLhyJJFxZ
It was less than three years ago that white nationalists, including outright neo-Nazis, marched through the streets of an American city wielding weapons and torches, attacking antiracist protesters, and chanting "Jews will not replace us." This was a spasm of the racial terrorism bubbling beneath the surface in America since its founding. Two years earlier, a white supremacist shot nine parishioners at the Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, hoping to ignite a race war. In the years since, the threat from these domestic terrorists has only grown.
We would be foolish to ignore that those marchers in Charlottesville also chanted the president's name. "Hail Trump," some shouted, while performing a Nazi salute. For some reason, white supremacists believe the president represents them. Are they mistaken? Do they have a bad read on him? Or do they process his hate campaigns against Muslims and Hispanic immigrants as a renewed declaration that America is a country for white, Christian people, and everyone else should just be happy to be here?
Sanders represents the opposite. While he has struggled to gain the support of the black voters who are the keystone of Joe Biden's coalition—and, indeed, the Democratic Party's—his movement is a push for genuine multiracial democracy. It's not just that he himself is Jewish, it's that his politics would offer anyone a seat at the table in America if they subscribe to a set of human values that transcend ethnic and religious divides. Of course, that's also what they told you in school about America. It is no man's castle, but every man's refuge. Or at least, that's one of the questions at the heart of this election, even if it's not Sanders but Biden who is named the nominee at the next Democratic National Convention.
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