Donald Trump personally is not antisemitic we are told over and over again. I accept that statement, I suppose – but George Wallace wasn’t a racist personally and yet he conjured up racist anger not just in Alabama but eventually throughout the nation. The result of Wallace’s rhetoric was violence and disharmony, and Trump is very consciously doing the same using other groups in addition to African-Americans as the bogeymen. His inspiration is the Nixon Administration who might have completed its goal of weakening the media and organized left if not for Watergate. Trump’s ennoblement of antisemitic and racially divisive forces around the country have very clearly been acted upon in the most damaging way possible.
While Democrats playing the identity politics game have felt the need to push Trump’s perceived racism toward Hispanics and African-Americans to the forefront of their critiques of him, he is in fact much more consistent with his antisemitic dog whistles. His racism against non-whites appears every few days or weeks. Meanwhile, his speaking in antisemitic code, be it on Twitter or on the stump is almost a daily occurrence. We’ve seen the tragic consequences of this rhetoric in recent days. I don’t care that his son-in-law is Jewish, Trump’s rhetoric reeks of classic antisemitic code.
Populist demagogues have a long history of using race, religion and ethnicity here in Florida and around the country. Trump’s political base as he showed time and again as President beginning right here in Melbourne last February, wants red meat about the establishment. Like so many previous demagogues on the right or left, Trump has mixed a subtle but unmistakable antisemitism into greater anti-establishment appeals. Make no mistake about it – historical attacks against the media and specifically The New York Times have an antisemitic ring to them – and are designed to ring the ears of antisemitic people.
Richard Nixon’s similar attacks were interpreted by many at the time as antisemitic and Trump’s rhetoric doesn’t sound that different than Father Coughlin’s in 1930’s on so many scores. The conspiracy theories which mirror many of the antisemitic ones of the 1930’s advocated by Coughlin, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee (whose rhetoric on foreign affairs Trump also has mimicked) and media attacks by Trump are carefully designed antisemitic hits – given Trump overwhelmingly lost the Jewish vote in 2016 his political advisers probably see little risk in what is subtle to many but naked overt antisemitism to those who are students of history. What they do see is an opportunity to build an electoral coalition to maintain Trumpism beyond his administration by using racial fear and demagoguery along with antisemitism to win the day.
Yet oddly against this backdrop, GOP Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis is firing shots at his opponent Andrew Gillum on a charge of antisemitism. DeSantis who needs to peel away Jewish votes from the Democratic nominee is now on the defensive thanks to recent, tragic events. DeSantis’ main talking point is the support the Dream Defenders have given Gillum. In a piece largely written before the events in Pittsburgh (but published after because yes here at TFS we often to schedule our posts to maximize traffic/eyeballs) we called out the Dream Defenders as fanning antisemitism.
The Dream Defenders reflect a growing, dangerous trend on the far left to discount the contributions of Jewish-Americans to causes of social justice throughout our history and to blame Israel for the sorts of human rights violations the same groups of people are unwilling to hold nations in the Arab world, China, India or African nations to. But to somehow conflate their views with that of Andrew Gillum, who has worked closely with more Jewish-Americans in his career than DeSantis has probably even bumped elbows with is a major leap of faith and one I cannot subscribe to. The reality is Ron DeSantis probably has more antisemitic supporters than Andrew Gillum, most of whom have found great encouragement in President Trump’s dog whistles .
The rhetoric Trump uses is very deliberate and conscious – whether formulated directly by him or by former advisers like Steve Bannon, no mistake can be made about its intent. The result is widespread anger among the white working class toward “others” and the establishment – the interpretation of an elite media as controlled by Jews , similar to the type of rhetoric Richard Nixon would spew privately but carefully cloak publicly (though those who Nixon sought to appeal to read between the lines and got his drift). Unlike Trump, Nixon very well might have been antisemitic personally, but that isn’t what’s at issue here. What we are discussing is the reality that Trump’s rhetoric is fanning antisemitism around the country and enabling white nationalists who see the plight of the working class as the product of an international Jewish-controlled plot to keep them down while empowering racial minorities. This was demonstrated in Pittsburgh, where the terrorist had interpreted the migrant caravan as some sort of Jewish plot to undermine America.
To me it’s no coincidence that some of Trump’s most forceful and articulate critics on the right are coming from Jewish intellectuals – the likes of David Frum), Weekly Standard founder William Kristol (who this week on CNN said he would NOT welcome Trump, whom he considers antisemitic to his synagogue),Commentary’s John Podheretz and Jonah Goldberg of the The National Review, and the late Charles Krauthaumer among others.
It’s perhaps that these writers, already more intellectually consistent and honest than most conservatives in the media are liberated or worse yet outraged by Trump’s rhetoric and the type of anger he is conjuring up around the country. (As a point of personal privilege, I will admit even as a liberal I have always followed Frum. I read him extensively as a young politico in the late 1990’s and dubbed him my favorite conservative at the time – I was disappointed when he became so close to the George W. Bush administration and coined ideas like the “Axis of Evil.” But to me he has always been a responsible writer and analyst with the exception of those few confusing and paranoid years right after 9/11.)
Trump’s anti-media and anti-Hollywood crusade which is tied into his antisemitic rhetoric (including naming those with obvious Jewish surnames regularly in his tweets and public comments) has gone the way of Nixon’s, fueling paranoia and initiating efforts to rough up media companies. Nixon used the power of the FCC to try and crush the media, something Trump might do soon. Nixon failed only because of his own personal paranoia and illegalities – but if Trump were able to avoid falling into the traps Nixon did, he could very well pull off what Nixon and his “Berlin Wall” of advisers John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman as well as his demagogic Vice President Spiro Agnew were unable to – a reigning of the media and the rising of “the silent majority (actually a minority of voters even more so today than in the 1970’s)” to long-term power in the country.
Critics have underestimated Trump time and again and have to understand what the long game might be here, using the Nixonian model. Nixon also came in as a President elected with a minority of voters – 43% actually though his proponents would point to the 13% George Wallace got as almost certainly supporting Nixon if Wallace hadn’t run (political scientists can tell you votes for third party candidates almost never completely transfer to that of a major party one) . What Nixon did in the next four years was define the media, protesters and racial minorities as his enemies. His administration would adroitly use Jewish surnames as examples when describing the left and his enemies – Hoffman, Rubin, Ellsberg, Sulzberger, Rosenberg, etc. It was a tactic that Pat Buchanan, who advised Nixon in those days (and probably influenced these ideas) would continue to use throughout his career as a commentator and politician. It’s a tactic Trump has emulated to a tee – emphasizing Jewish sounding surnames in so many of his critiques of the media or left.
The long-term goal of white nationalists has been to re-conjure up the anger on the right and in middle America that was present during the 1960’s. In Trump, they have a willing vehicle to create this sort of race and religious-based discord around the country. Don’t be fooled by the use of the media or establishment as bogeymen – it is all historically tested, racial and ethnic driven code for “dark-skinned minorities,” or “Jews.”
President Trump’s constant use of the media or Hollywood as bogeymen have clear antisemitic undertones. Don’t be fooled by his son-in-law being Jewish or his support for the Likud vision of Israel. Trump’s antisemitism puts Florida’s Jewish community at personal risk – something unthinkable even a few years ago. Andrew Gillum, on the other hand while having some undesirable supporters like any Democratic candidate that courts the far left these days, presents no public safety risk to Florida’s Jewish community. Those in the Jewish community advocating Ron DeSantis must ask him directly, does he agree with Trump’s rhetoric on Jews? Chances are he doesn’t, but having not made himself clear enough on the issue, it’s stunning some would fall for his diversionary attacks on Gillum, an imperfect candidate, but one who isn’t antisemitic by any means.