Our leaders must end the hate before they burn America down

We are in the “Age of Anti,” a time of overflowing anger and resentment towards institutions and establishments, while shrill and ugly voices froth at the top. The latest example is a report that Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan recently proclaimed that “the powerful Jews are my enemy.”

He also said that “when you want something in this world, the Jew holds the door,” and that “white folks are going down, and Satan is going down, and Farrakhan by God’s grace has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I’m here to say, your time is up.”

{mosads}After the decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to that country’s capital of Jerusalem, several Muslim imams called for violence against Jews during their sermons at their places of worship — right here in the United States.

Meanwhile, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) debased the Holocaust by comparing it to a gun-control debate. And, of course, President Trump infamously noted late last summer that there were “fine people on both sides” of a neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., during which the marchers chanted “blood and soil.” Each outrage is followed with the usual partisan maneuvering. Each party demands that the other denounce the hatred in its ranks. It becomes a bidding war of bigots.

I saw it for myself at a recent gathering of pro-Israel activists in Washington. An otherwise respectful, substantive discussion veered when an audience member attempted a filibuster over why Democrats didn’t condemn other Democrats for certain views. What followed was a raising of the “Anti Ante.” How about Republicans and David Duke? What about Democrats and Louis Farrakhan? I’ll see you and raise you with Richard Spencer. What about President Trump’s “fine people on both sides” remark?

Instead of acting as Americans united against the expression of hatred everywhere, it became a team sport of who has the most losers. This “Age of Anti” is actually one of the gravest social trends in the world, consuming liberal democratic (small “l”, small “d”) movements with populist frenzy. We are in a dangerous new “game” of globalization, automation, migration, and empowerment of nonstate actors who can wreak havoc with social media. In this environment, hatred is an algorithm, resentments breed and go viral.

This is why it is critical that both of America’s major political parties stop trying to score partisan points on hatred and, instead, seek common ground against it. Anti-semitism, racism, Islamophobia and other strains are not the monopolies of one political party, but the condemnation should be shared by both — loudly, completely and instantly.

We are playing with fire when we use hatred in our midst as a partisan strategy to score points. It is not to be exploited but to be excoriated. We are not each other’s enemies. The haters are enemies of us all. When we debase bigotry into an exercise of Republicans versus Democrats, we make it just another political issue that numbs the minds of too many people.

We can cling to our partisan disagreements on budgets, health care, trade, climate and other issues. But hatred? That’s not just another issue, fodder for the partisans and pundits, grist for a press release. It’s hatred. It’s ignorant. It’s dangerous. And it tends to consume societies, starting with their political parties.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years and chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. His next novel, “Big Guns,” will be published in April.

Tags Americans Democrats Discrimination Don Young Donald Trump Louis Farrakhan Politics Racism Religion Republicans Steve Israel United States

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