Statement on the remarks of Rep. Steve Israel (NY-3), chairman of the DCCC

One of the reasons I’m running for Congress is to stop the pattern of divisive, partisan politics that too many Washington politicians follow.
An example of that pattern is the offensive claim that offering criticism to Democrats is “racist.”  Rep. Steve Israel (NY-3), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, peddled this falsehood over the weekend. When asked by CNN whether his Republican colleagues are racist for opposing the Democrats’ immigration bill, Rep. Israel merely responded, “Not all of them,” and added that, “to a significant extent, the Republican base does have elements that are animated by racism.”
Criticism of political parties and their ideas is a fundamental right and tradition of democracy. Congress cannot call itself a legislature of the people if it seeks to incriminate popular dissent. Yet that is exactly what Rep. Israel and his colleagues are trying to do. Couching Republicans as “racist” and all Latinos and other minorities as Democratic pushovers is derogatory and cheap. I know first-hand that Latinos , regardless of party affiliation, do not want their intelligence and integrity insulted. They are tired of being used as pawns by race-baiting politicians looking for election-day votes.
Democratic union leaders were once the primary opponents of undocumented migrants, seeing them as a threat to labor. Would Rep. Israel have tolerated the accusation that those union leaders were racists? Rep. Israel was once a member of the J Street Gala hosting committee. Would he have tolerated the accusation that all congressmen affiliated with J Street are anti-Semitic? My guess is he would be offended by any claim that having a different opinion makes one a simple bigot.
In 2008, President Obama posed a challenge. He said, “We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle,” or, we can “talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag.”
I am saddened to see Steve Israel use Latinos and other minorities as tools for his political ambitions. I am running for Congress to treat Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Jews and all other minorities as equal constituents, not as tokens on election day.
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