How 'Soros-backed' became the right’s go-to trope — and what it really means
Liberal investor George Soros (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Flickr)

The American right has found a quick and easy way to push back against critics. When the going gets tough, they’re turning to what’s become their go-to trope: “Soros-backed.”

Manhattan District Alvin Bragg, who is investigating former President Donald Trump over alleged hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, is now at the center of GOP efforts to link Holocaust survivor and progressive Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros, who is Jewish, to an accusation tied to a litany of conspiracy theories and historic antisemitic canards.

But he's not the only one.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was quick to play the played the “Soros-backed” card last year in an announcement that he was suspending state attorney Andrew Warren over his views on abortion and trans youth. The likely 2024 presidential candidate disparaged Warren as a “Soros-backed state attorney.”

The Washington Post’s Philip Bump, in a column Monday titled “What it means to be ‘Soros-backed," said that “it’s worth reflecting on what earned Bragg and Warren this appellation — and why it’s become so useful for Republicans and others on the right to deploy it,” noting that the term’s vagueness makes it particularly useful.

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“There’s no reason to think that Bragg is targeting Trump or the Trump Organization because he was indirectly backed by Soros or because he is unusually left-wing,” Bump argues.

“On the other hand, it’s quite obvious that the phrase ‘Soros-backed’ is meant, as with Warren, to cast each as illegitimate and biased.”

The “Soros-backed” trope is not unique to American politics, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

“In far-right circles worldwide, Soros’ philanthropy often is recast as fodder for outsized conspiracy theories, including claims that he masterminds specific global plots or manipulates particular events to further his goals,” the ADL’s website says.

“In the United States, Soros long has been a favored target of the so-called alt right and other right-wing extremists. Their online echo chambers reverberate with conspiracies about Soros, accusing him of attempting to perpetrate “white genocide” and push his own malevolent agenda. In a report published earlier this year that analyzed antisemitic speech on Twitter, ADL found that Soros figured prominently in a significant number of antisemitic tweets.

“One noteworthy allegation claimed that Soros was responsible for the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in August 2017 in Charlottesville, Va. Other tweets referred to his Jewish heritage in pejorative terms and claimed that he’s trying to undermine all of Western civilization.”

The trope has become “useful shorthand” for the right, according to Bump.

“The real reason Bragg and Warren are dismissed as ‘Soros-backed,’” Bump writes, “of course, is that it’s a useful shorthand for several of the right’s favorite targets.”

Added Bump: “Saying 'Soros-backed' simply means 'unacceptably left-wing' with no further delineation required.”

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