Emhoff, Jewish Second Gentleman, Talks Democracy And Jewishness In Push For DFL Votes

Shortly after the conservative majority of the Supreme Court eliminated the federal right to abortion in June, Doug Emhoff – the first second gentleman of the United States and the first Jewish spouse of a vice president – got a text from his 23-year-old daughter.

“Dad, you need to do something about this,” the message read. Five minutes later, he received the same text from his mother, who in her youth marched for abortion rights.

“An 81-year-old woman will have somehow had more reproductive freedom than a 23-year-old,” Emhoff said. “It’s not just reproductive freedom. Same-sex marriage, right to contraception. All these other rights that are based on a fundamental right to privacy are” at similar risk of being taken away.

Emhoff spoke about fighting antisemitism, his Jewish values, and the stakes of the upcoming midterm elections on Tuesday night at a get-out-the-vote rally at the St. Louis Park campus of the Minnesota JCC. Roughly 100 people attended.

In an effort to inspire voters and boost support for Democratic candidates in tight state-level races, Emhoff appeared alongside Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon and Attorney General Keith Ellison, both of whom are tied with Republican challengers in pre-election polls. The theme of the night: Democracy is under attack.

“You’ve got candidates in state after state who are running for elected office, and still cannot accept the fact that Donald Trump lost [the 2020] election,” Emhoff said. “This is going to be the front lines. We need to have people in office in the states who believe in our democracy.”

Several other Democratic-Farmer-Labor party leaders spoke at the rally, including state Rep. Frank Hornstein and Amy Klobuchar, the senior senator from Minnesota. Both recalled the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died 20 years ago in a plane crash and left an influential legacy in the DFL.

“When Paul campaigned, remember how we used to always run back and forth in that incredible green bus?” Klobuchar said. “That’s passion. That’s a torch that he passed on to us…that we must pass on in this election.”

With just two weeks until elections conclude, and polls showing likely Republican wins at local and state levels across the country, speakers highlighted their slim polling margins and their view of the state’s prospects if the DFL loses in the midterms. “Every race is close,” said Minnesota DFL chair Ken Martin.

Further erosion of abortion rights, public safety, and social justice were emphasized as a likely result of Republican victories. Any talk of price inflation, perhaps the Democrats’ most significant electoral weakness, was avoided. But speakers did reference Liz Truss – the British prime minister who served only 49 days before resigning due to economic chaos from her conservative policies – when attacking Republican economic goals.

Alongside Wellstone, another Jewish anniversary shadowed the rally: This Shabbat will mark four years since the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, where 11 Jews were murdered by a white supremacist in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history.

The attack has been far from the only example of rising antisemitism over the past several years. Most recently, Ye, the prolific rapper formerly known as Kanye West, sparked a wave of public condemnations, as well as widespread support from white supremacists, for antisemitic comments online and in interviews.

“We know what can happen, we know what has happened,” Emhoff said, referencing the Tree of Life shooting. “So it is imperative for us to, right now, not only as Jews, but for all of us, to stand united and speak up and speak out about this epidemic of hate.”

The Biden administration is serious about addressing antisemitism, Emhoff said, and pointed to his own role in that effort. Just recently, he held an interfaith Sukkot celebration at the White House, together with antisemitism monitor Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, where they invited ambassadors from Muslim countries to discuss fighting hate.

“This administration and myself and all the leaders that I speak to, we’re not going to just take [antisemitism] sitting down,” Emhoff said. “We’re going to stand up and we’re going to fight and push back on this.”

Emhoff said he is inspired by the Jewish concept of tzedek, or justice, to stand up for people and fight injustice.

“That is what I’ve done as a lawyer,” he said. “And that’s what I’ll continue to do with this microphone on behalf of the American people, not only the Jewish community, but all of us.”