Prejudice in America Has Re-Awakened Anti-Semitism
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
There is an underlying tension which has filled America since the 2016 presidential campaign but has been present since at least the 2008 election of Barack Obama. The long, ugly history of American racism has reappeared and grown. As some analysts have observed, much of the not articulated opposition to Obama emanated from deep-seated hostility towards African Americans or rejection of the thought of a Black American president. What the Trump campaign did was to exploit this pent-up anti-Black feeling among many Americans. (Trump also buttressed this same group’s belief that America should not be governed by a woman.)
In Donald Trump these Americans had a candidate and then a President who saw America as they did; a country that was becoming too Black and too Brown. It is not only Trump’s style and bullying to which they gravitated, but it is also his pro-white message. These basic prejudices which are part of American history were blatantly and brilliantly exposed on television in the 1970’s by Archie Bunker and All in the Family. Trump successfully brought back all this ugliness in America, that had been latent for an entire generation. It gave his supporters license to express their feelings.
In addition to these prejudices, plus sexism and homophobia, the past 18 months have seen a normalization in America of anti-Semitism which had not been present for decades. The proliferation of candidates for office who have espoused anti-Semitism keeps increasing. Only last week, in a race for the Missouri State House, Steve West was selected as the Republican nominee. In discussing Jews on his radio show last year West had stated that: “Looking back in history, unfortunately, Hitler was right about what was taking place in Germany.” The State Republican Party has disassociated themselves from him and his views, but West won the nomination handily.
Most of the major television and cable channels have carried stories on the growing anti-Semitism in this mid-term election cycle. The problem, however, is two-fold. First, it confirms that the anti-Semites have re-emerged along with the other prejudices. There is clearly an audience and a market for these candidates. Together with all the other hatred and bigotry that has been present over the past few years, being anti-Semitic once again is acceptable to many people.
Second, there are already anti-Semitic candidates on the ballot in the November elections. While these candidates are largely Republicans, it is unlikely that any party would tell its supporters to vote for the candidate of the other party. They may repudiate the candidate, but they will not take the step to prevent their candidate from a possible victory.
In addition, it is important to recognize that state and county parties recruit and cultivate candidates to run for electoral office. It ought to be the mandate of all parties to prevent any candidates who espouse prejudices and biases to be nominated. They clearly should be opposed by all parties party in such an effective manner –including with funding–that they are unable to win a nomination.
Finally, with the growth of anti-Semitism which has been manifested in this year’s mid-terms, there is a segment of the American people who accept and even encourage it. Anti-Semitism like other prejudices has risen up again. This is dangerous and scary, and will not end well.