I can’t quite explain my obsession with writing about Josh Mandel. And I do acknowledge that my fixation on this Ohio U.S. Senate candidate is an obsession. My theories for my deep and unhealthy interest:
- Here in 2022, Mandel is ardently and unabashedly antigay and transphobic, employing the lowest attacks almost daily. And yet he is leading Republicans in the latest polls in our very Republican-voting state of Ohio .
- On paper, we share a Judaic faith. That said, I was raised to believe Judaism means that we fight to help support voices that are not being heard and Mandel interprets Judaism to mean calling Black people thugs. And yet he is leading Republicans in the latest polls in our very Republican-voting state of Ohio.
- I am on a mission to get people to take him seriously. Not because his stances should be taken seriously, but because his strategies are actually working here in Ohio. As evidenced by…yes…the fact that he is leading Republicans in the latest polls in our very Republican-voting state of Ohio.
Thus I couldn’t pass up my first opportunity to see Mandel in real life right here in Cleveland last night during the second “debate” between Mandel and Morgan Harper, a candidate vying for the Democratic nomination who previously served as Senior Advisor at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Director of Policy & Advocacy at the American Economic Liberties Project. The event was held at the City-God Baptist Fellowship, a Black church on the east side of Cleveland.
Disclaimer: I will barely be mentioning Morgan Harper in this piece, but not because she shouldn’t be covered. I will be interviewing her separately about her thoughts on making Ohio safer and more accessible for LGBTQ+ individuals and promise to give her the due attention she deserves.
But this piece is about Mandel and the awfulness I thought he might bring in person. And to be clear: he brought every ounce of the awfulness. Some expected Mandel Bingo highlights came true right before my eyes:
- Mandel’s very first sentence name-checked “radical leftists,” saying that Harper has a place besides “AOC, Sherrod Brown, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden who are trying to take down our country.”
- Mandel mentioned waitresses repeatedly, giving further credence to his epic infatuation with waitresses who he somehow finds a way to put his arm around for a Twitter pic with clockwork regularity, even sick ones who he praises for coming in to work.
- Mandel praised Trump incessantly. Truly: incessantly. He explained how…let’s say “determined” he is to get Trump’s endorsement, highlighting that only he, Josh Mandel, stood by Trump after the Access Hollywood tapes, a PR debacle that I was surprised a Trump devotee would invoke.
- Three separate times, Mandel told the audience that he had been at Town Hall earlier in the day, repeatedly referencing the restaurant notorious in Cleveland for hosting conservative events.
- He found 4 different ways to say the 2020 election was stolen and proudly declared that he was the only candidate to travel to Maricopa County in Arizona to witness the election audit…that resulted in an increase to Biden’s vote. (Eliciting laughter from the audience, Harper hilariously retorted, “Who in Ohio asked you to go there?”)
- His closing remarks featured the line, “We have to stop this Transgender craziness being pushed on our kids.” It was the only LGBTQ+ shout-out of the night. I was almost worried he wouldn’t get a transphobic line in there, but he snuck in the expected transphobia right under the buzzer.
But, whatever, right? It’s Josh Mandel. Spewing conservative, pandering rhetoric is just what he does.
Only, that’s not all Mandel did last night:
- 5 times — FIVE SEPARATE TIMES — Josh Mandel called Morgan Harper, a Black woman, “angry.” He kept asking her why she was angry and then he graduated to just labeling her angry. All in a Black church.
- Twice, Josh Mandel said the phrase, “Morgan Harper is just like AOC. Only smarter.” And then he changed the line and said, “Morgan Harper is just like AOC. Only dumber.” About a Black woman. In a Black church.
- Josh Mandel repeatedly said that he doesn’t think about race when he wakes up in the morning, a statement from a white candidate that surprised no one in attendance. Y’know, there in the Black church.
- Josh Mandel openly and forcefully argued with Black attendees in the audience there in the Black church.
- At one point, Josh Mandel asked, “Morgan, do you know the only country on the whole planet where Africans were not brought as slaves?” He then took a cringe-inducing, eternity-feeling, 4-second pause, before turning to the audience to declare, “the Jewish state of Israel.” The audience in a Black church.
- Josh Mandel quoted Martin Luther King, Jr., becoming the latest to completely distort Dr. King’s words about “content of character,” which Mandel did not hesitate to mangle and misappropriate. Yup. In a Black church.
Look, you can either believe Josh Mandel is a clueless moron who doesn’t understand what he is doing. Or you can believe that Josh Mandel knows exactly what he is doing but — swaddled in his privilege — feels entitled to completely disrespect the Black woman in front of him, the Black attendees who came to listen, and the Black church that welcomed him into their space tonight.
No matter what you believe Josh Mandel is leading Republicans in the latest polls in our very Republican-voting state of Ohio. You dismiss him at Ohio’s — and the LGBTQ+ community’s — own peril. 🔥