Hannah Rosenthal (WI): ‘What We Need Now, Urgently, is Leadership, Competence, and Empathy’

Hannah Rosenthal

Hannah Rosenthal (68), a Democrat from Madison, WI, originally thought she would follow her father, a 16th-generation rabbi, into the family business. Instead, she became a “professional Jew” and a “professional feminist.” Rosenthal has held a range of political and government roles, including Midwest regional director at the Department of Health and Human Services (Clinton administration) and the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism (Obama administration).

We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.

What are your reactions to the protests occurring across the country? The protests are inspirational. The fact that we can see them around the world is incredible. We, the United States of America, challenge other countries to commit to civil rights, and yet we have such flagrant abuses. This is profound. I think that what is unfolding right now is serious and hopefully will be the beginning of major changes in how we police, how we treat people, and how we hold everyone accountable for abuse.

What are your reactions to the looting, curfews and the police response of pepper spray, rubber bullets and arrests? The right-wing vigilantes who instigated the looting and troublemaking were thugs. That our government tried to blame these actions on peaceful protesters, on people fighting for civil rights and liberties, is shameful. Our government’s FBI identified the thugs as right-wing white supremacists and activists posing as ‘Antifa,’ and yet our government (i.e. Trump and Barr) blames the left.

What do you think about the call to “defund” police departments? Obviously, I do not think police departments should be completely defunded. I do think that at this moment we have opportunities to study how we are spending taxpayer money to make violence and desperation less common, especially among vulnerable populations. I support investing in community building and think policing has an important role with other community groups, schools, health care clinics, etc.

Have you participated in any demonstrations? Please tell us about your experience. In the past I have been part of many protests: Anti-war (Vietnam), Soviet Jewry, women’s rights, and LGBT rights. I did not participate this year because I am social distancing due to COVID-19. If the pandemic were not occurring, I would have been there.

How do you think the president has handled this crisis? The president’s handling of both COVID-19 and the civil rights activities has been an embarrassment—around the world. He has sought to divide our country, has continued to lie and to pretend to be a bold and tough guy. We have grown to expect our leaders to be healers and compassionate voices, until this president. The past several weeks have made the need for change even more urgent.

Have the events that have taken place over the last week changed your views on the upcoming presidential election? My views on this administration have not been changed by Trump’s actions recently. He is a failed leader. He lacks empathy and is incapable of inspiring our nation to come together, mourn, and heal. I do want to add that when I saw the military police in DC gas and hit peaceful protesters, I cried. I found myself in a new place. I am very scared for my children and grandchildren and the land they will grow up in. The new feelings are a realization that we have a very unstable man-child who may get another four years – and god only knows where we will be as a nation if that happens.

Do you think recent events will push people to one candidate or the other? As to pushing people to change their support for a presidential candidate – probably not. I think most people in our country have already decided who to support. However, I think the president’s behavior of late has urged more people to be public in their opposition to him. I think we have seen this from the many generals who have spoken out about the danger Trump poses to our constitution and our rights as Americans. People are already in their corners – but opposition to Trump will continue to be more vocal.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us? As we have watched anti-Semitism grow, racism flourish and hatred honored with ‘both sides have good people’ (show me a good Nazi), we are seeing total chaos, from COVID-19 to rule of law. What we need now, urgently, is leadership, competence, and empathy – because there is so much work to do to bring our country together and improve our lives, all our lives, to make American great for all people.

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