Tip O’Neill, the former congressman who grew up in Cambridge and went on to become the speaker of the U.S. House, was best known for reminding people that “all politics is local.” Years from now, when historians are researching the tumultuous election of 2020-21, that phrase will no doubt resonate with those researchers when they read more about this week’s Senate election in Georgia, when the Black son of a sharecropper and the Jewish grandson of a leatherworker were poised to become the state’s newest senators.
That leatherworker was Peabody native Hyman Ossoff, who founded Ossoff Leather in 1947 with his brother, Michael. He went on to raise his family in Marblehead and was an active member at the Jewish Community Center for 70 years. His grandson, Jon Ossoff, grew up in Georgia, and at press time he appears to be the winner of a close race against an opponent, Senator David Perdue, who ran an ad on social media this past summer that depicted Ossoff with a digitally enhanced exaggerated nose. It also featured Senator Chuck Schumer, the Jewish representative from New York, with the phrase “Democrats are trying to buy Georgia!”
Just a decade ago, a Jewish politician might have ignored this – not wanting to draw attention, especially in a state with a long history of anti-Semitism. But times have changed in Georgia. In a debate last fall, Ossoff called out Perdue, for the alleged anti-Semitic tropes about Jews and money, accusing his opponent of “lengthening my nose in attack ads to remind everybody that I’m Jewish.”
The American Dream continues to evolve. It is an imperfect concept, and at the whim of residents who can change society for good or bad and decide the future of democracy. While the Journal does not endorse candidates or political parties, it can observe this American Dream this week, where voters have changed cultural norms in a state known for being the birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan, and where one of the most vicious anti-Semitic murders took place when Jewish superintendent Leo Frank was strung up on a tree and murdered in 1915.
At press time, it appears that Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have changed history and will become the first Black and Jewish senators from Georgia. If anything, it signals just how important it is for Americans to make their voice heard, and vote.