Essentially no one not directly connected to Donald Trump, by blood or paycheck, has defended his use of a star of David against a backdrop of piles of money in a meme that called Hillary Clinton the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” But that hasn’t stopped Trump supporters from claiming that he isn’t personally anti-semitic or racist. I say: So what? His campaign speaks for itself.
The implication of the image, originally posted on a popular alt-right internet message board, is that Clinton is beholden to Jewish elites, and it’s a common trope. Donald Trump has posted similarly racist and anti-semitic images on his Twitter feed, including made-up crime statistics alleging that black-on-black crime was the most significant chunk of crime in America (not true, by a lot). In January, an analysis by the social media metrics company LittleBird found that 62 percent of users Trump retweeted in a given week “followed at least three people [who] used hashtag #WhiteGenocide lately.”
As we’ve pointed out again and again in The National Memo, Trump’s blatant amplifying of the messages and profiles of white nationalists, white supremacists, nativists, anti-semites, and plain racists is seemingly one of the central strategies of his campaign. If “political correctness” describes speech and opinion backed by the weight of real political power, Donald Trump has created his own safe spaces for the most vile corners of American life.
And yet, here we are once again, defending the man without examining the effects of his actions. Take the criticism of Dana Schwartz, an entertainment writer for the New York Observer who penned an open letter to her boss, the paper’s publisher and Donald Trump’s son-in-law and protégé of sorts, Jared Kushner (emphasis mine):
Mr. Kushner, you are allowing this. Your father-in-law’s repeated accidental winks to the white supremacist community is perhaps a savvy political strategy if the neo-Nazis are considered a sizable voting block—I confess, I haven’t done my research on that front. But when you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law, you’re giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval. Because maybe Donald Trump isn’t anti-Semitic. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think he is. But I know many of his supporters are, and they believe for whatever reason that Trump is the candidate for them.
This is why the question of whether Trump is personally racist doesn’t matter: Trump has done more to amplify the voices of racists, and to make their message mainstream, than any political candidate in decades. Trump has changed the tone of American politics.
Of course, Trump’s allies at the Observer, notably Kushner and the paper’s editor, Ken Kurson, who told Politico:
I disagree with Dana’s criticism. All presidential candidates attract people whose support makes them uncomfortable. I think the effort to paint Donald Trump as an anti-semite because some of his supporters are is like saying that Bernie Sanders hates the US because some of his supporters spit on American flags at his rallies.
Kurson also said “I’ve seen this guy hold his grandsons at a bris,” seemingly as proof that he “was no Jew-hater.”
Trump’s son-in-law took a similar line in his response to Schwartz, assuring her that “The fact is that my father in law is an incredibly loving and tolerant person who has embraced my family and our Judaism since I began dating my wife.”
Fine. But calling Donald Trump out for his open appeals to anti-semites, and racists of all stripes, need not negate the fact that he is personally pleasant to Jews and people of color in his life. As many have pointed out, Trump himself often points to all the Black and Muslim “friends” he has — always conspicuously unnamed — who support his actions and tell him he’s right. What a coincidence.
Trump responded to the whole thing the way he normally does, by blaming the corrupt media. He also mentioned his daughter’s conversion to Judaism and his Jewish grandkids.
We can pretend that Donald Trump’s Jewish grandkids, whom he mentions often to certain crowds, absolve him from the role he has played in making his campaign a meeting ground for the most vile ideas in politics. Trump can talk about how his tactic of repeated appeals to white supremacists, and much more importantly, his refusal to distance himself from them, is all in the minds of his detractors.
But when this is all said and done — God willing, after Point and Laugh at Trump Tower day goes off without a hitch — Trump will be remembered as the politician that compensated for his own enormous shortcomings by courting voices and ideologies that ought to be excluded altogether from public life. Trump won’t be remembered for his Black friends, he will be remembered for his propaganda.
Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S., July 5, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts