Take a moment to look at this closing ad from Donald Trump.
From a technical and thematic perspective it’s a well made ad. It’s also packed with anti-Semitic dog whistles, anti-Semitic tropes and anti-Semitic vocabulary. I’m not even sure whether it makes sense to call them dog whistles. The four readily identifiable American bad guys in the ad are Hillary Clinton, George Soros (Jewish financier), Janet Yellen (Jewish Fed Chair) and Lloyd Blankfein (Jewish Goldman Sachs CEO).
The Trump narration immediately preceding Soros and Yellin proceeds as follows: “The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. For those who control the levers of power in Washington [start Soros] and for the global [start Yellen] special interests [stop Yellen]. They partner with these people [start Clinton] who don’t have your good in mind.”
For Blankfein: “It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the [start Blankein] pockets of a handful of large corporations [stop Blankfein] and political entities.”
These are standard anti-Semitic themes and storylines, using established anti-Semitic vocabulary lined up with high profile Jews as the only Americans other than Clinton who are apparently relevant to the story. As you can see by my transcription, the Jews come up to punctuate specific key phrases. Soros: “those who control the levers of power in Washington”; Yellen “global special interests”; Blankfein “put money into the pockets of handful of large corporations.”
This is an anti-Semitic ad every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms ‘white hands’ ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic. You could even argue that it’s more so, given certain linguistic similarities with anti-Semitic propaganda from the 1930s. But it’s not a contest. This is an ad intended to appeal to anti-Semites and spread anti-Semitic ideas. That’s the only standard that really matters.
This is intentional and by design. It is no accident.
Trump has electrified anti-Semites and racist groups across the country. His own campaign has repeatedly found itself speaking to anti-Semites, tweeting their anti-Semitic memes, retweeting anti-Semites. His campaign manager, Steven Bannon, is an anti-Semite. The Breitbart News site he ran and will continue running after the campaign has become increasingly open in the last year with anti-Semitic attacks and politics.
Beyond that, this shouldn’t surprise us for a broader reason. Authoritarian, xenophobic political movements, which the Trump campaign unquestionably is, are driven by tribalism and ‘us vs them’ exclusion of outsiders. This may begin with other groups – Mexican immigrants, African-Americans, Muslims. It almost always comes around to Jews.
It’s true there is son-in-law Jared Kushner, a Jew and Ivanka, who converted to Judaism. But this isn’t terribly surprising. Kushner appears to be conscienceless. And as I noted here, there is a storied history of anti-Semites being happy to distinguish between good Jews and bad Jews.
There’s been a lot of discussion of anti-Semitism and the Trump campaign but a fierce resistance to coming to grips with the fact that anti-Semitism is a key driving force of the Trump campaign, that the campaign itself is an anti-Semitic one even though the great majority of Trump’s supporters are not anti-Semites. When he closes out his campaign with a blatantly anti-Semitic ad, it’s time to rethink that resistance.