I am endlessly fascinated by the role social media messaging plays in our national politics. There are Bloomberg’s memes, found everywhere from @fuckjerry to @kalesalad, which sparked a national conversation. There are the viral videos of Elizabeth Warren calling her supporters. There was the #YangGang.
Of course, the candidates’ policies and visions are the most important thing to consider when choosing who you want to run the country, but their use of social media is an undeniable factor in both how they are perceived, and what information they want to quickly get across to a wider audience. As I worked on Alma’s guide to the 2020 democratic candidates, I was particularly struck by how the candidates used Twitter to respond to particular tragedies, like acts of violence and mass shootings. The platform allows them to be quick, succinct, and puts them on the record immediately. I wondered: What do their tweets about anti-Semitism say? What message are they trying to convey? I tried to find out.
A quick note on methodology: I only searched the main profiles of the four remaining candidates: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Mike Bloomberg, and Joe Biden. I searched their tweets for mentions of “anti-Semitism” and “anti-Semitic.” (Anti-Semitism also brought up results for “antisemitism.”) These tweets are all as of February 24, 2020.
In order of most tweets to least…
Bernie Sanders’ tweets about anti-Semitism fall into three categories: (1) personal statements; (2) commentary on hate crimes; (3) part of a wider message on fighting bigotry.
Sanders, one of two Jewish candidates in the race, often speaks on his Jewish identity and the personal impact of anti-Semitism. Sanders was born and raised in Brooklyn — his father immigrated from Poland. In his speech declaring his run for presidency, he talked about how his father escaped widespread anti-Semitism. Here’s the first tweet on his account about anti-Semitism:
My father came to this country from Poland at 17, without a nickel in his pocket. He came to escape the crushing poverty that existed in his community, and to escape widespread anti-Semitism. Virtually his entire family there was wiped out by Nazi barbarism. #BernieInBrooklyn
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) March 2, 2019
Often, he tweets about how “Anti-Semitism is not some abstract idea to me. It is very personal.”
The second category of Sanders’ tweets: condemning anti-Semitic hate crimes. He tweeted a story of an Ohio man making threats to a JCC; on the anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh; on the shooting in a Jersey City kosher supermarket; on the attack in Monsey; and on the vandalism of three Jewish schools in LA.
Today marks one year since the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. We mourn for the eleven victims, and we remain committed to fighting white supremacist violence as the national security threat that it is.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 27, 2019
I’m outraged by the knife attack in Monsey. We must confront this surge of anti-Semitic violence, prioritize the fight against bigotry, and bring people together – instead of dividing people up.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 29, 2019
Lastly, Sanders’ tweets on anti-Semitism seem to be part of his larger message on fighting against bigotry and racism of all forms.
We're seeing a rise in anti-Semitism and hate crimes.
We saw a child run over for being Latina.
We've seen people stabbed because they're Jewish.
We've seen people assaulted because they're Muslim.
If there was ever a time to unite against bigotry and racism, now is the time.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 30, 2019
Together, we will build a movement to reject divisiveness and all forms of racism and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 11, 2019
Oh, and he tweeted on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
@BernieSanders total tweets: 13
Elizabeth Warren’s tweets about anti-Semitism nearly all focus on anti-Semitic hate crimes. She often begins these messages with “I’m heartsick…” and sometimes links to a news report on what has happened.
I'm heartsick for the victims and their loved ones. We have to fight the rise of anti-Semitic bigotry and violence—and we have to end the gun violence epidemic that makes these attacks so deadly. https://t.co/hyAdQglZBn
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 11, 2019
I'm heartsick for the victims of today's horrific attack at the Chabad of Poway and their families. No one should ever have to face hatred and violence in a place of worship. It's on all of us to stand up to the rising threat of anti-semitism, racism, and hate.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 27, 2019
Warren was the only candidate to tweet about the Halle synagogue shooting in Germany. She wrote that she and her husband were “keeping the congregation in our hearts”:
Yet again, a synagogue has been attacked during a Jewish holiday. I'm heartsick for the victims of this cruel attack, and Bruce and I are keeping the congregation in our hearts. We must all fight against the global rise of anti-Semitic violence. https://t.co/8Q21oW363u
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 9, 2019
She also links anti-Semitism to white supremacy, as well as to Donald Trump,and gun violence.
Imagine how you could thrive if America was safe for everyone. If you lived in a community without fear—without fear of oppression, of violence, of anti-semitism, white supremacy, and police brutality—how would you live your life? #Warren2020
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) December 31, 2019
And, after the anti-Semitic Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in October 2018, Warren attended Shabbat services at Temple Emanuel in Newton as a part of the #ShowUpForShabbat campaign organized by the American Jewish Committee (AJC). She tweeted about this, again, on the one year anniversary:
One year ago today, eleven people were killed at the Tree of Life synagogue. They were observing Shabbat at a place that should have been a sanctuary. We have to end gun violence—and we have to speak up against hate, bigotry, and antisemitism. #ShowUpForShabbat
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 27, 2019
Like Sanders, Warren also shared a message on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
@ewarren total tweets: 11
Joe Biden’s tweets about anti-Semitism are a continuation of his campaign theme, in which he argues that the 2020 election is a “battle for the soul of our nation.”
I stand in solidarity with those marching in New York against the rise of anti-Semitism. This is what the battle for the soul of our nation looks like — and it's up to all of us to reject intolerance in all its forms and give hate no safe harbor. https://t.co/XyTOdFhpKM
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 6, 2020
.@DrBiden and I are keeping those affected by this hate-filled attack in our hearts. We cannot be silent in the face of anti-Semitism. We are in a battle for the soul of this nation — and it's up to all of us to stand up to bigotry and to give hate no safe harbor. https://t.co/4I4AKvXFxp
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) December 11, 2019
Biden also tweeted about anti-Semitism in response to the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand, in relation to the rise of “violent hate.”
Silence is complicity. Our children are listening. The time to speak out is now.
— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) March 15, 2019
@JoeBiden total tweets: 4
In last: Mike Bloomberg.
Here are the Jewish candidate’s two tweets about anti-Semitism. The first, a dig at Trump and a statement of action:
The perpetrators of anti-Semitism and hate have been given a presidential megaphone through Trump’s refusal to condemn violent extremist groups.
As president, I will call these groups for what they are – domestic terrorists – and work with the FBI and DOJ to crack down on them. pic.twitter.com/3yvRHp9iR0
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) January 26, 2020
The second, in response to the Monsey stabbing:
As an American, a New Yorker, & a Jew I am shocked and saddened by last night’s attack — and horrified by the rise of anti-Semitism in this country.
America was founded to be a place where people of all religions could worship safely & free from persecution. And it can be again.
— Mike Bloomberg (@MikeBloomberg) December 29, 2019
Unlike Bernie Sanders, the other Jewish candidate, his tweets about his own Jewish identity focus on tikkun olam and how he was raised, not anti-Semitism.
@MikeBloomberg total tweets: 2
There are four remaining candidates in the race, and half are Jewish. This is unprecedented! However, those two candidates – Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg — are taking dramatically different approaches to discussing what is arguably the most explicitly Jewish issue of 2020: anti-Semitism.
Sanders leans into his Jewish identity, talking about how relatives of his were killed in the Holocaust and how he has seen the impact of anti-Semitism firsthand. He links anti-Semitism to a rise in other hate crimes.
Bloomberg, on the other hand, has rarely tweeted about anti-Semitism. We can give him the benefit of the doubt and say it’s because he entered the race much later, but his only two tweets on anti-Semitism are related to an anti-Semitic attack, and the rise of anti-Semitism under Trump. Only one of those brings in his identity as a Jewish person. Bloomberg more frequently discusses his Jewish identity with regard to Jewish values, not anti-Semitism.
Biden and Warren, neither of whom are Jewish — although Biden has many Jewish relatives, fun fact — have been consistent in their messaging on anti-Semitism.
Will any of this matter? Who knows.