Anna Paulina Luna shows that US identity politics is now a Red pursuit too

In modern Republican politics, you can recover from lying about being Jewish, but not from having been a registered Democrat

February 16, 2023 15:04

Anna Paulina Luna is a 33-year-old Congresswoman from Florida. She is the first Mexican American to represent a Florida district. To win her seat, which is centred on the city of St. Petersburg on Florida’s west coast, Luna ran against Eric Lynn. He is a moderate Democrat. He served in the Department of Defence under Barack Obama. He is Jewish. He lost.

In November, when Luna was running for her House seat, she told the Jewish Insider website that her father had raised her as a Messianic Jew, which is to say, a Christian, and that she was “also a small fraction Ashkenazi”.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that Luna’s paternal grandfather had been conscripted into the Wehrmacht in the Second World War, and that when he left Germany in 1954 for Canada, his immigration papers describe him as a Catholic.

Cue jokes about putting the Nazi into Ashkenazi. Cue also Luna’s insistence that the Post’s report, rather than being a rare instance of actual journalism, was a hit job because a “conservative minority” had dared to speak out against “leftist control”. You have to admire Luna’s display of what her grandfather might, albeit in a whisper, have called chutzpah.

Luna and her team denied everything, of course. The really dangerous claim in the Post’s report was that Luna, who was endorsed by Marjorie Taylor ‘Rothschild space laser’ Greene, had once registered as a Democrat. You can recover from confusing your ancestry in today’s Republican Party. You can, like Greene, recover your seat on House committees despite the ‘Rothschild space laser’ stuff. But you cannot recover from once having once been a Democrat.

Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor who is tipped as a possible Republican nominee for president in 2024, endorsed Luna’s run. So did Donald Trump, who has sort-of declared himself as a candidate in 2024, hence him calling DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious”. But the Jewish organisations in Luna’s district kept their distance from her campaign.

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) did not endorse Luna. Greene endorsed her, and the RJC wants to expel Greene from Congress. AIPAC did not endorse Luna, either, though some of its local activists threw her a fundraiser. More importantly, AIPAC’s recently created United Democracy Project, which has poured money into the campaigns of pro-Israel candidates, some of them on the nutty right of the Republican Party, also stayed out.

The materials of family history are notoriously flexible in the telling, and identity politics incentivizes further misrepresentation. Consider Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose small fraction of Native American ancestry shrank to infinitesimal fractionhood under examination. Modern American politics, which apply the morality of the Salem witch trials to the mob-mentality of WWE wrestling, rewards extravagant and cynical claims, and attracts the kind of people willing to make them with the appearance of conviction.

The Luna case shows that identity politics now cuts both ways in America. The Republicans are flipping the Democrats’ script. Florida has growing Latin and Jewish populations, and it’s trending ever rightwards. So Luna emphasized her Mexican ancestry and her Ashkenazi “fraction”.

The Luna case follows the fiasco of George Santos, another first-time MAGA Congressional rep who claims of Jewish ancestry dissolved under examination. Santos’ backstory seems to include entire passages of fiction, as well as a complex financial history. The debate about Luna’s backstory, so far at least, is less extreme and more typical.

Luna’s story seems closer to that of her fellow Floridian Julia Salazar. In 2018, Salazar ran for the New York State Senate. She “identifies” as Jewish, and claimed some Sephardic ancestry on her father’s side. Her brothers said they hadn’t heard anything about it, just as Luna’s extended family disputed her story about her father’s Messianic Judaism and Ashkenazi fraction. But Salazar’s mother backed up her daughter’s story, just as Luna’s mother backed hers.

Meanwhile in reality, an American Jewish Committee survey reported this week that 40 per cent of Jewish Americans feel less secure in 2022 than they did in 2021, when 30 per cent felt less secure than they had in 2020. Only 22 per cent approve of Congress’s response. These fractions, mostly Ashkenazi, are much more significant.

February 16, 2023 15:04

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