Josh Gottheimer is wading into a debate about hate groups and the Sussex County Board of Commissioners.
The issue dominated at least three recent, and sometimes contentious, meetings that were punctuated by cries that the board was “censoring” opponents.
The initial proposal, which was backed by many Democrats – an outnumbered breed in Sussex – was for the all-Republican board to formally condemn neo-Nazi groups and white supremacy.
Condemning the Nazis would seem to be an easy call, but in today’s volatile political climate, the commissioners proposed a substitute – condemning all forms and types of hate, including the Holocaust and genocide in Cambodia and Rwanda. That was tabled.
In the end, the commissioners adopted a so-called pro-respect resolution essentially calling on people to treat each other with, … well, respect. That was on March 10.
Today, Gottheimer, whose 5th District includes most of Sussex County, released a letter he sent to the county commissioners on March 22.
In case, the commissioners have any doubt about the specter of white supremacy, the Democratic congressman is ready to help. His letter invites the commissioners “to join me and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness for a briefing on the latest domestic terror threats in our state.”
It then notes that for the first time the state’s Homeland Security Office has raised the threat level posed by white supremacists to “high,” putting them in a class with “ISIS-inspired terrorists.”
Gottheimer adds that three far-right groups in particular – the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers and Three Percenters – are active in Sussex County.
That’s an interesting point.
As the debate raged over the hate-related resolutions, some speakers said condemning extremism is needed, because of the presence in the county of those very groups. Commissioners, as is their apparent custom, didn’t respond to the speakers’ point.
When the issue of political violence from the right is raised – as it has been many times since Jan. 6 – some Republicans point out violence caused by the far left.
So, Gottheimer’s letter also mentions “individuals inspired by antifa ideology.”
But make no mistake. The congressman’s main point is about the dangers of right wing extremism. And in Sussex County.