And these are his people.
Trump defenders bristle at such accusations, noting that Trump’s own daughter, son-in-law and some of his grandchildren are Jewish and he is a staunch friend of Israel. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem, they say. What about the “accords of Abraham”, they say. But Trumpism (and Trump himself) has given oxygen to the resurgent anti-Semitism that has been introduced and normalized – through social media, celebrities and politicians – to a new audience that is impossible to quantify but can count in the millions. A 2020 survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that a majority of Americans “agree with at least one common stereotype about Jews.” While overt anti-Semitism has declined over the past half-century, the report found that 11% of Americans — or more than 28 million Americans — believe in six or more of the 11 anti-Jewish stereotypes tested.
This resurgent anti-Semitism – a mixture of old-fashioned anti-Jewish sentiment, extreme versions of Christian/evangelical nationalism and a deep investment in conspiracy – is of course nothing new. But it is arguably more widespread, more vocal and closer to the political mainstream than at any time in recent history. The past few years have been a masterclass in how millions of Americans are willing to believe the myths, lies, and dark theories about cosmopolitan cabals that threaten the fabric of American life. Attacks on George Soros and the “globalists” are now standard lines of attack from the American right. Inevitably, however, a worldview obsessed with malevolent global elites will choose Jews as a prime target.
The result has been a disturbing upsurge in violence and hatred.
In 2021, anti-Semitic incidents jumped 34%, the highest number since the Anti-Defamation League began tracking anti-Jewish violence. Meanwhile, social media platforms have opened the doors to an alarming explosion of attacks against Jews and Judaism. In the two weeks since Elon Musk took over Twitter, anti-Semitic posts increased by more than 61%.
“Elon Musk sent the Bat Signal to all types of racists, misogynists and homophobes that Twitter was open for business,” said Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The New York Times. “They reacted accordingly.”
In the midst of it all, Trump had dinner with a prominent neo-Nazi and Holocaust denier, and a famous billionaire rapper who sees “good things in Hitler.”
While Republicans eventually called out bigotry — even when they couldn’t bring themselves to nominate Trump himself — the former president refused to disavow it. That, too, has been a constant pattern, dating back to long before his embrace of “fine people” who chanted “Jews won’t replace us” in Charlottesville.
As usual, it’s unclear whether Trump, a man of few ideas and little or no introspection, actually holds anti-Semitic views. But that’s not the point: he thinks they’re his people and he’s not going to abandon them. As Philip Bump of The Washington Post notes, “Trump has always been desperate to send signals to his support base that he agrees with them and likes them.”
There is a long and tangled history behind this current moment. And it’s worth revisiting because this story is so relatively recent that it barely qualifies as past.
The leading far-right Catholic demagogue of the 1930s, Father Charles Coughlin, was a notorious and outspoken anti-Semite, who “denounced the Jews in language that could have been taken from Der Stürmer.” Besides his popular radio show, Coughlin ran a weekly magazine called “Social Justice”, which had a circulation of one million. The publication occasionally published excerpts from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the infamous forged document that claimed to reveal an international Jewish conspiracy and was known for its “pure and pure Jewish bait”.
Although Coughlin was downgraded and disgraced, the conservative coalition would continue to marinate in a toxic stew of conspiracy theories. By the mid-1950s, William F. Buckley Jr. was so convinced that exorcising the demon of anti-Semitism was so critical that he declared National exam magazine “disclaimed any association with anti-Semites.” And he acted aggressively to purge the ranks.
Years later, he would ban writer Joseph Sobran from his magazine and challenge and horrify many of his right-wing allies by exposing Pat Buchanan’s anti-Semitism.
But Buckley’s success was only partial and temporary.
In 1991, one of the leading figures of the evangelical movement, Pat Robertson, published “The New World Order”, an anthology of paranoid fever dreams. In the book, one reviewer noted, Robertson purported to reveal “a worldwide conspiracy, dating back centuries and funded by Jewish bankers, all aimed at the formation of a world dictatorship.” Like Coughlin before him, Robertson also cited the false and debunked Protocols to plead his case.
Despite overtones of anti-Semitism, Robertson’s book became a huge best-seller among Christian conservatives, suggesting the persistence of anti-Jewish sentiment among the evangelical base, though the evidence was often mixed.
A 1987 study of conservative Christians found that few “consciously use their deep Christian faith and conviction to justify anti-Semitic views about Jews.” But, diving deeper, there were troubling signs. The survey found that 49% of those aged 18 to 34 agreed with at least one anti-Semitic characterization, compared to 34% of those aged 55 and over.
More recent surveys of the general public have shown the persistence of stereotypes despite the decline in general anti-Semitic sentiment. A 2020 study by the Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews found that:
- More than a quarter of Americans believe the Jews killed Christ.
- One in 10 Americans share the white nationalist view that Jews weaken American culture by supporting expanded immigration.
- Nearly one in five Americans think “Jews still talk too much” about the Holocaust.
- Twenty-four percent of Americans agree with the statement “Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America.”
Despite this, evangelical support for Israel – considered necessary for the fulfillment of Bible prophecy on the second coming – remains strong. And Trump has exploited the contradictions, staying close to Israel while trafficking in old anti-Semitic tropes.
In 2016, eight out of 10 born-again/evangelical white Christians voted for Trump, giving him his margin of victory. Nothing that happened after that would drive a wedge between them. In 2020, 81% of white evangelical Protestant voters opted for Trump, according to the AP VoteCast survey. Trump’s message was connected.
As a candidate and as president, Trump has repeatedly undermined both the anti-Semitism stigma and Buckley’s safeguards.
Shortly before the 2016 election, Trump exposed his theory of a vast globalist conspiracy involving Hillary Clinton secretly meeting with “international banks to plot the destruction of American sovereignty.”
Time The magazine called it its “great unified campaign conspiracy theory” which relied on “conspiracy theories that have been fed for years by far-right media outlets” like Alex Jones’ InfoWars.
The ADL also expressed concern when Trump retweeted an image of a “corrupt” Clinton and a Star of David. “We have been troubled by anti-Semites and racists during this political season,” the ADL said in a statement, “and we have seen a number of so-called Trump supporters peddling some of the worst stereotypes throughout. throughout this year.”
The Jewish group was particularly concerned that Trump “has not spoken out forcefully against these people. It is outrageous to think that the candidate is sourcing from some of the worst elements in our society.
But the pattern was fixed.
He was slow to denounce former KKK leader David Duke and refused to push back against a wave of anti-Semitic hatred directed at Jewish journalists and critics.
During the 2016 campaign, Andrew Anglin, the founder of the neo-nazi The Daily Stormer website ran an article titled: “Empress Melania Attacked by Filthy Russian K–e Julia Ioffe in GQ,” with a photo of Ioffe wearing a Nazi-era yellow star with the word “ Jude” and a call to action from Anglin: “Please go ahead and tweet him and let him know what you think of his dirty trick. Be sure to tag him as a Jewess working against white interests, or send her the photo with Jude’s star at the top of this article.
When Trump was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the anti-Semitic attacks and death threats, the future president refused to condemn them, saying, “I don’t have a message for the fans. A woman wrote an article that was inaccurate.
Trump’s refusal to speak out against the outpouring of hate was met with glee by Anglin, who immediately posted, “Glorious Leader Donald Trump refuses to speak out against the Stormer Troll Army.” (Last week, Musk restored Anglin’s Twitter account.)
After decades of fending off crackpots, crackpots and anti-Semites, the alt-right had brought them back into political blood with the GOP nominee’s acquiescence.
And then came Charlottesville.
And Marjorie Taylor Greene and “Jewish space lasers.”
Meanwhile, Fox News began mainstreaming the “great replacement theory” and whitewashing the anti-Semitism of Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, by removing his anti-Jewish comments.
In October, when Trump complained about ungrateful Jews, there was little to no reaction from Republicans.
After Ye tweeted that he was “going to kill Jews”, the former president invited him to dinner. He came with a notorious neo-Nazi.
And, again, Trump offered no apologies. He doesn’t think he should, because his base doesn’t care. These are his people. And he needs it.