All year long I've felt (and voiced privately, because it's a bit salty to put it out there in public even by my standards) that Trump has been taking it strangely easy on The Jews.
Hold on. Don't make angry comments yet.
I'm not saying that Trump or anyone else SHOULD be blasting The Jews for any particular reason. It is merely that given the campaign's regular recourse to racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and in general the basest kinds of bigotry, it was unexpected and somewhat surprising that anti-Semitism would not be present as well. I hope that makes sense. I'm not advocating anti-Semitism; it merely struck me as bizarre that we were seeing far less anti-Semitism from him than one would expect given his neolithic attitudes toward every other group defined as The Other by white protestant male America.
It turned out, as it so often has throughout this campaign, that I only had to be patient and that with time things would indeed get Much Worse. When Trump announced on Oct. 13 (in PALM BEACH of all places, I mean what the hell, maybe he can book the Apollo Theater in Harlem and rip on black people for an hour) that "international bankers" were to blame for many of the ills, real or imagined, that his supporters bemoan, I realized that he had merely been keeping anti-Semitism in reserve as kind of a closing act. Jew-bashing would be to Trump 2016 what Beyonce and Jay-Z would be to a long music festival: the big finish. The crescendo. The climax.
There is not a sentient adult who fails to recognize references to Bankers, particularly of the International variety, as a crystal clear euphemism for Jews dating back to the Renaissance. It is almost literally the oldest trick in the book. The wink is implied. In his inaugural address, even FDR – a friend of Jews in general and reliant upon dozens of Jewish individuals in his administration – sunk to the level of telling Americans that "wicked moneylenders" and "bankers" were responsible in dark but unspecified ways for the Great Depression. True, the banking system as a whole was at its heart; nonetheless the choice of language is a clear appeal to baser attitudes.
The more I thought about Trump's remarks of Oct. 13 it became apparent that in the modern era, anti-Semitism is the final stage of the growth cycle of demagoguery. It used to come earlier in the process of Idiot Mitosis because it used to be more socially acceptable and Jews were generally a powerless underclass in any society they inhabited in numbers. Today Jews have more social and political power as a group and thus the first stages of bigoted demagoguery focus on groups against whom prejudice is more socially acceptable: blacks, Hispanics, immigrants in general, and so on. So it makes sense to start there. It is not until a group or individual has made peace with dwelling on the fringes and has accepted marginalization that he or they embrace good old fashioned Jew-bashing. An unsettling percentage of Americans don't much mind politicians dumping all over blacks (referenced by any number of dog-whistle euphemisms), immigrants, the poor, and people identifiably "foreign" living among us. Anti-Semitism, once as popular among the upper crust as among the lowest classes, is now too obviously gauche, too lower class to be accepted in Ivy League schools and corporate board rooms. This is not to suggest that anti-Semitism no longer exists, but that it is today more likely to be frowned upon in the same settings in which slanders against "thugs" and "welfare queens" and "the Mexicans" would still receive an approving nod.
When someone goes after The Jews in 2016, that is a person preparing for a life beyond the fringes of respectability in polite society. It is the difference between Ben Carson and Alex Jones; the former lives on the fringes of range of acceptable opinions, the latter is comfortably beyond them. Embracing the language and theories of The Protocols and Henry Ford (callback to Monday's post!) is a signal that post-Election 2016 Donald Trump is not going to be a figure welcome anywhere in polite society. He is about to be shunned as if he is toxic and he knows it, so like a smart, savvy self-promoting narcissist he is ensuring that the path is clear between his current place on the fringes and his future pandering to neo-Nazis and selling books and media programming to white nationalists.