We’re used to racism in Virginia’s bigoted Republican Party. So, sadly, is its antisemitism. GOP house Delegate candidate Harold Pyon approved a hateful anti-Jewish mailing, paid for the state Party, to slur first-term lawmaker Dan Helmer. That’s an insult to a veteran who served this nation in Afghanistan and Iraq and also teaches at West Point.
As the Editorial Board of The Washington Post reported Wednesday:
The antisemitism conveyed by Mr. Pyon’s campaign mailer is classic and blatant. To claim that it was unintentional is to assert blind ignorance of history. Nonetheless, that is the position of the Pyon campaign, whose spokesman told us that antisemitic stereotyping “was not in anyone’s mind” when the mailer was designed.
Mr. Helmer is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and the only current member of the military in Virginia’s legislature. He is also the descendant of Holocaust survivors. One of them, Edith Shapiro, now 86, his maternal grandmother, spoke movingly at his 2020 swearing-in about having come through trauma as a child in wartime Poland — she and her family were hidden from the Nazis by good Samaritans — to see her grandson elected to public office in the United States.
There is no doubt that his noxious mailer is an affront to decency. It also fits a recent pattern among Virginia Republican candidates in this fall’s legislative elections. One, Hahns Copeland, running in Norfolk, responded to a photo of state House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) by tweeting, “I was surprised to see a pair of eyes and a mouth with that NOSE.” Another, Julie Perry, running for a seat in Northern Virginia, made light of the Holocaust by comparing the experience of conservative teachers to the plight of German Jews in Nazi Germany.
Mr. Helmer has displayed guts, independence and intelligence as a freshman lawmaker, including by backing a bipartisan redistricting commission — a reform overwhelmingly approved by Virginia voters — even when members of his own party reversed themselves to oppose it. He is the better choice in the race.
Sadly, we’ve seen the same disgusting tactics in our area. Former GOP Congressman Virgil Goode of Franklin County introduced attempted to legislation to bar a new member of the House of Representatives when he used the Koran, the holy book of Muslims, for his swearing in.
In 2006, Goode went into what most responsible media called “a state of xenophobic delirium” over the searing in of Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who became the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison, born in Detroit, converted to Islam in college.
“This country’s history is rife with instances of uncivil, hateful and violent behavior toward newcomers, be they Jewish, Irish, Italian or plenty of others whose ethnicities did not jibe with some pinched view of what it means to be American.,” The Post editorialized. “Mr. Goode’s dimwitted outburst of nativism is nothing new.”
Goode’s racism and bigotry finally got to be too much, even for the residents of Franklin County, who tossed him out in 2008 but Floyd County Republicans still brought him in as their featured speaker for one of their confabs afterwards, where he shared his racial slurs and religious lies.
Goode’s bigotry began as a kid who grew up as a Democrat. He later became an independent before finding his eventual home among Republicans who shared his hate and bigotry. He embellished his racism in a failed campaign for President in 2012.
Thankfully, Goode has faded from political view, but the party that backed him and his homophobia is still a pathetic racist and antisemitic force in the Old Dominion. We saw it this month when Floyd Town Council member David Whitaker warned the county board of supervisors about the “threat” he claimed that Afghan refugees, who helped American soldiers in their 20-year war against that nation, as they come into our nation as political refugees seeking a better life.
He was joined by fellow Republican Bob Smith, a former party chairman, in a series of tirades against Afghans during the public comment of the county board.
Such hate and bigotry should have no place in our county, our Commonwealth or our nation.