Bombs sent to my father, George Soros, and to former President Obama and Hillary Clinton are a result of our politics of demonizing opponents.
By Alexander Soros | NY Times
On Monday afternoon an explosive device was delivered to my father’s home north of New York City. An alert member of our staff recognized the threat and called the police. Fortunately, the authorities were able to detonate the device safely. On Wednesday, the Secret Service said it had intercepted similar devices sent to the offices of former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
We are all grateful that no one was injured, and grateful to those who kept us safe. But the incident was profoundly disturbing — as a threat not just to the safety of our family, neighbors, colleagues and friends, but also to the future of American democracy.
My family is no stranger to the hostilities of those who reject our philosophy, our politics and our very identity. My father grew up in the shadow of the Nazi regime in Hungary. My grandfather secured papers with false names so that they could survive the onslaught against Budapest’s Jews; he helped many others do the same. After the war, as the Communists took power, my father escaped to London, where he studied at the London School of Economics before embarking on what ultimately became a hugely successful career in finance.
But the lessons of his early life never left him. His biggest philanthropic endeavor, the Open Society Foundations, played a leading role in supporting the transition from Communism to more democratic societies in parts of the former Soviet Union and then expanded to protect democratic practices in existing democracies. My father acknowledges that his philanthropic work, while nonpartisan, is “political” in a broad sense: It seeks to support those who promote societies where everyone has a voice.
There is a long list of people who find that proposition unacceptable, and my father has faced plenty of attacks along the way, many dripping with the poison of anti-Semitism.
But something changed in 2016. Before that, the vitriol he faced was largely confined to the extremist fringes, among white supremacists and nationalists who sought to undermine the very foundations of democracy.
But with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, things got worse. White supremacists and anti-Semites like David Duke endorsed his campaign. Mr. Trump’s final TV ad famously featured my father; Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve; and Lloyd Blankfein, chairman of Goldman Sachs — all of them Jewish — amid dog-whistle language about “special interests” and “global special interests.” A genie was let out of the bottle, which may take generations to put back in, and it wasn’t confined to the United States.
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán launched an anti-Semitic poster campaign falsely accusing my father of wanting to flood Hungary with migrants. This included plastering my father’s face onto the floor of trams in Budapest so that people would walk on it, all to serve Mr. Orbán’s political agenda.
Now we have attempted bomb attacks. While the responsibility lies with the individual or individuals who sent these lethal devices to my family home and Mr. Obama’s and Ms. Clinton’s offices, I cannot see it divorced from the new normal of political demonization that plagues us today.
I am under no illusion that the hatred directed at us is unique. There are too many people in the United States and around the world who have felt the force of this malign spirit. It is now all too “normal” that people who speak their minds are routinely subjected to personal hostility, hateful messages on social media and death threats.
It is also all too normal that organizations doing important pro-democracy work face existential threats simply because they accept support from the foundations my father started. And all too normal that political leaders who swear an oath of office to protect all citizens instead pursue politics of division and hate.
We are far removed from the days when Senator John McCain rebuffed his own supporters during the 2008 election to patriotically defend his opponent, Mr. Obama — all because he believed that the health of our democracy was more important than his personal political gain.
We must find our way to a new political discourse that shuns the demonization of all political opponents. A first step would be to cast our ballots to reject those politicians cynically responsible for undermining the institutions of our democracy. And we must do it now, before it is too late.