Andrew Smith (57), a Republican from Columbus, OH, grew up in Maine where he was raised Conservative, “because that’s pretty much all we had up there.” He is a long-time Republican who can’t stand Trump, and he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. When he married Lavea Brachman, a Democrat, who is also being interviewed for this project, he went to work in his in-laws’ paint and resin business in Columbus. He is now CEO.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
How concerned are you about the rise of anti-Semitism in this country?
It’s become a bigger concern ever since the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh. There’s always been an element of anti-Semitism involving young kids doing things like spray painting swastikas. I don’t know if it’s about following an ideology toward Jews or just trying to get attention. There are white nationalist groups that have felt a little more empowered recently. Everything I hear about them is they’re actually relatively small, but that doesn’t reduce their threat. So, I am definitely more concerned than I was. It’s a time of heightened scrutiny and anxiety in the Jewish world.
Do you think the problem is being addressed adequately by the presidential candidates?
In general, when politicians talk about anti-Semitism, they mix it up with this greater concept of overall hatred and bigotry. Anti-Semitism has always been a unique and pernicious disease. It is not the same thing as discriminating against Muslims or African Americans. It’s its own unique thing. And too often politicians conflate all of these unacceptable attitudes without singling out a hatred (toward Jews), which is and always has been a special pathology of the human condition.
Do any of the Democratic or Republican candidates stand out for you as particularly strong or weak on this issue?
Trump has a Jewish daughter and Jewish grandchildren. And there’s been no greater friend of Israel in the White House. Those are all pluses. But he’s got other problems. Of the Democrats, Bernie Sanders does hate this country. And I think he would admit it, if you asked him. And he also hates Israel. I don’t think that’s true of Elizabeth Warren. She wants to change it. Bernie wants to blow it up. I’ve heard Joe Biden speak about his view of anti-Semitism and Israel in particular. This is a guy who feels it in his bones. It’s the way he was raised by his family. It’s part of his nature. Respect for Jews and Israel is in his DNA.
What do you see as the primary causes of rising anti-Semitism?
I see anti-Semitism as like a boiling pot of water and every once in a while, you take the lid off and steam escapes. It’s gotten a lot better in the last 50 years. There are no longer quotas for colleges, and there are almost no exclusions at country clubs. People are inter-marrying right and left. That said, this violent anti-Semitism is really by a small group of people and I think they’ve become emboldened recently. Probably some of that is Trump. Actually, I think Trump has missed some opportunities to take positions and go public with stronger denunciations. I’m not sure why. I can’t make excuses for him.
Is there anything else you’d like to say on this topic?
I didn’t believe this 10 years ago, but I now believe that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. That’s a position that more and more pro-Israel Americans are coming to hold. It is the nation state of the Jewish people, so it’s very hard to hate Israel and say you don’t hate the Jewish people.