The Low Cost of Fearmongering

Fear tactics in the New York governor’s race cheapen the danger of anti-Semitism

By Jacob Siegel|September 12, 2018 10:00 AM

Do not levy the charge of anti-Semitism frivolously or as a campaign strategy. The world is complicated but this rule is straightforward and it was broken in the New York governor’s race just before tomorrow’s vote for the Democratic Party nominee.

Two Saturdays ago, a reported 7,000 households in New York received a letter in the mail informing them that Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon “won’t stand strong for our Jewish communities.”

Clearly aimed at Jewish voters, the flyer included a bullet-point list of presumed Jewish concerns. Nixon, it wrongly asserted, is for BDS; against Yeshivas; silent on anti-Semitism. On the flip side, the mailer contained a message about sitting governor Andrew Cuomo: He is STANDING UP (in bold red letters) for New York’s Jewish community. The mailer was paid for by the New York State Democratic Committee, which Cuomo controls.

“I didn’t know about the mailer,” Gov. Cuomo said last week after the flyers were made public, further calling their language “inappropriate.” The party has said it will make this up to Nixon somehow, but given Rosh Hashanah and the closeness of the election, it’s not clear how.

Geoff Berman, executive director of the state Democratic Party, which paid for the flyers, called them “a mistake and completely inappropriate,” in a statement on Monday. But Berman, too, denied any responsibility for sending the flyers out, blaming them on “constituency outreach,” a euphemism, apparently, for ethnic-anxiety peddlers and fearmongers who, it’s safe to say, weren’t spending five figures on a mailing without someone’s OK.

Notably, neither Cuomo nor any of the Democrats in his orbit has explained why the mailers were “completely inappropriate.”

Nixon isn’t Jewish but spent Sunday at Rosh Hashanah services with her children who are. The rabbi at her synagogue, Sharon Kleinbaum of Manhattan’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, issued a statement calling the charges a “baseless lie.”

The New York Times [9] put the cost of the flyers at $11,000. That’s out of the more than $21.4 million, the Cuomo campaign has spent so far and in the midst of a final blitz in which spending is approaching half-a-million dollars a day. In other words, the money spent on insinuating Nixon will be bad for the Jews by falsely labeling her a BDS supporter was a drop in the bucket, not very expensive and not even very dirty by the standards of Albany and New York state politics. And for what?

Calling any political race a sure thing is a good way to look foolish these days, but by every measure, including the most recent polls [10], Cuomo is way ahead with little to gain from stoking the fears of a few Jewish voters with a last-ditch, low-cost scare ad.

It’s a sign of not taking anti-Semitism very seriously, frankly, to cook up the threat of it like a shot of panic and send it out through the postal system just to get a few more votes.

Find this story online: