Opinion | Mastriano’s coded antisemitic language against Shapiro is dangerous
Doug Mastriano, the Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, has not shied away from his Christian nationalist beliefs. He was a part of the Jan. 6 insurrection group that prayed to keep former president Donald Trump in office, he wants a complete ban on abortion and believes that church and state should not be separated.
His opponent Josh Shapiro is a Jewish man who has also used his faith to guide his politicspoliticshowever, he doesn’t force these beliefs on anyone. He frequently cites the importance of Jewish ethics and has been very vocal about going to a Jewish day school as a young man.
While on the campaign trail, Mastriano called Shapiro’s Jewish day school “privileged, exclusive [and] elite.” This language uses antisemitic dog whistles hearkening back to tropes that Jewish people “control” the world through secretive means. This is not the first time Mastriano has used antisemitic language and it appears it won’t be the last. This kind of language is extremely dangerous. As hate crimes against Jews have risen and influential people continually spew antisemitic rhetoric, it is more important than ever that candidates do not lean into this hatred.
This instance is not the first time Mastriano was called out for his antisemitism. The candidate has close associations with Andrew Torbathe founder of the far-right social media platform Gab, and even paid Torba $5,000 for “consulting” services. Gab is a platform rife with antisemitic rhetoric. The shooter who killed 11 people in the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh, used Gab frequently and even posted on the site before committing the atrocity.
Torba himself has called Shapiro the “antichrist,” a statement harkening back to common antisemitic tropes that Jews use Christian blood for sacrifices or are demonic. While Mastriano said he has cut ties with Torba and Gab, Torba donated $500which the Mastriano campaign accepted and refused to answer questions about it. Mastriano seems to have only made the claim that he cut ties with Torba because he was getting criticism for his close contact with Gab and Torba. However, behind the scenes it appears that he still harbors the same ideology as Torba and is willing to accept help from this antisemitic lie spreader.
On the campaign trail and online, Mastriano frequently spread lies about George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who is often referenced in antisemitic conspiracy theories. He said Soros helped Nazis during World War II. While not a direct attack against his opponent, this kind of disgusting antisemitic rhetoric that Mastriano throws around recklessly online and on the trail does real harm and stokes hatred against Shapiro’s Jewish faith. This kind of language and the spreading of very false and harmful antisemitic conspiracy theories creates an environment where antisemitism is tolerated by his base and weaponized against Shapiro.
When Mastriano is called out for using antisemitic tropes and microaggressions, he calls the criticism unfounded. When he called Shapiro’s Jewish day school elitist and was called out for it, he dismissed the criticisms as opponents of school choice making him out to be a “racist.” Microaggressions and coded language create an environment that emboldens already-antisemitic members of his base to spread hatred against Jews. While Mastriano’s hateful attacks are harmful to Shapiro, they are even more harmful to Jewish Pennsylvanians who fear that his base will feel more comfortable spewing antisemitism like Mastriano. If Mastriano wins the governor’s seat, it could embolden these antisemites further as someone in power agrees with them.
This election is extremely important to keep out hateful people like Mastriano. Shapiro stands for religious freedom and he understands the extremism that Mastriano would bring to Pennsylvania if he wins. As Shapiro put itMastriano “courts white supremacists and racists and antisemites,” and with him in power, his base will continue to push the rising trend of antisemitism and white supremacy to even further and more terrifying heights. There have been 53 reported antisemitic incidents from 2020-22 according to the Anti-Defamation League — a number that is terrifying as it is, but could potentially increase with Mastriano in power.
Hateful language and antisemitic microaggressions have no place in Pennsylvania, or anywhere, for that matter. The prospect of having Mastriano as my governor as a Jewish woman in Pennsylvania is terrifying. I am already constantly worried about my safety because of the shocking statistics around hate crimes and I shouldn’t have to worry about antisemitism from my representatives too.
Rachel Soloff writes primarily about the entertainment industry and how lame antisemites are. Write to her at [email protected].