Donald Trump didn’t invent bigotry, but he has buffed it and polished to a nice new legitimate shine. His supporters no longer have to hide their various prejudices—not when their candidate shrieks those views daily—all under the guise of some Republican platform he abandoned long ago.
Mexicans? √ He got them a year ago—murderers and rapists he called them. Remember when we thought that was shocking? We were so young.
Muslims? √ Islamic extremists threatened our very lives and they would have to be disallowed from entering the country. Remember? Some thought that such a blatant attack on religious freedom—such a slap at the very words of the Constitution—would be a deal breaker. We were so young.
During the past week, tired of pretending to apologize for sexually assaulting scores of women, he dabbled in anti-Semitism by assailing the media and the bankers. One would think that the trope about Jews controlling all the financial institutions and Wall Street would have exhausted itself by now. But to the new alt-right, ignorant of facts as well as history, such an accusation fits very neatly into their nascent view of the world—anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. It’s a trifecta of hatred and it’s working: last week in Florida a crowd cheered Trump’s attack on the media and the banks. Many in the audience were Jewish, and some of them said afterwards they were insulted—not by Trump, but by his critics’ assertions that the candidate was the least bit anti-Semitic.
Trump has a Jewish son-in-law as well as a daughter who has converted to Judaism, and in fact he may not himself harbor any ill will toward Jews; but to stir up the ignorant masses makes him complicit. And in a way this approach is even more insidious than his attacks on Mexicans, et al. This is more subtle—this requires no direct statement, only a dog whistle to his supporters that there is yet another group eroding America and keeping it from becoming great again. He’s not saying—he doesn’t have to.
Donald Trump didn’t invent bigotry—Sacco and Vanzetti were executed long before the man was born, and the Scottsboro Boys imprisoned in the thirties. He may remember the Rosenberg trial, but it’s doubtful he paid any attention. He did not invent it, but he promotes it and gives it voice and the respectability of a candidate for President of the United States. There’s irony here: his money and the mainstream media—the institutions he claims are conspiring to defeat him—are the same two that created him. At other times such a realization might be funny. These are not other times.