It’s been almost three years since the day that I left the USA with no plans to return, almost three years since I got on a plane knowing that I no longer owned a home or a car or a business in America. I had already grown estranged from my liberal Jewish community before then, as I found myself becoming more and more politically conservative, and more and more unhappy with its failure to understand what seemed blindingly obvious to me: that the survival of the Jewish people depended on the state of Israel. The liberal institutions – like the Obama Administration, the Democratic Party, NPR, the NY Times and the Reform Movement – that were so important to them were on the wrong side of what was the most important issue of all to me. The “progressive” organizations that they belonged to and supported were far worse, like the local Pacifica radio affiliate and the various “peace” and “social justice” groups, which were unabashedly anti-Israel.
But they were my friends and I kept in touch with them and my former home town. I continued to read the American press and interact with my old friends and new ones on social media. And then the presidential campaign arrived.
At first it seemed like other campaigns – the parade of obvious losers presented by the Republicans and the massively unappealing although solidly preordained Democratic candidate. In the beginning it appeared that the Democrats were pulling for Trump to get the Republican nomination, because they perceived him as the biggest clown of all, someone they could laugh at and humiliate on the way to another Democratic landslide like Johnson vs. Goldwater.
He did get the nomination, but at some point their joy turned to trepidation. We’ve analyzed their attack, sir, and there is a danger. The clown could actually win.
He did, and the political and media establishments went into panic mode. Call for recounts! Stop him in the electoral college! What if he and VP Pence are both assassinated (CNN actually speculated on this)? What if nobody comes to his inauguration?
Now he has been inaugurated (the number of people present is in dispute), and the reaction from the media and various celebrities has been remarkably harsh. But what about my liberal friends?
The strength of their reactions surprised me. One, who was born in Canada, quite seriously considered moving to Canada. Others also talked half-seriously about leaving the country. It seems to me that there were two main reasons for their extreme rejection of Trump.
One is what I will call moral repulsion. Since the 1960s, it has become an almost religious principle for liberals that the worst possible sin that a person can commit is the sin of “bigotry,” which has come to mean far more than its original meaning of negative discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, or other characteristics. Today it has broadened and strengthened to the point that even telling a mild joke based on a racial or other stereotype can mark a person as an unredeemable “bigot.”
Trump is guilty of seriously politically incorrect speech and countless microaggressions; not only that, but some of his ideas like vetting potential Muslim immigrants and sealing the borders are not acceptable in today’s liberal idea space, not even as matters for discussion, because they involve treating people unequally or “profiling” on the basis of characteristics that are not allowed to matter. This is enough to place him outside the pale of legitimacy.
There is no doubt that the true racists and bigots in the American population have chosen to support Trump. But this doesn’t imply that Trump himself is biased against blacks, Jews, Muslims or any of the myriad gender/sexual minorities that have been nursing grievances in recent years. Indeed Trump, as a secular New Yorker, is more socially liberal than most if not all of the other contenders for the Republican nomination. He is a serious violator of political correctness, but that’s all.
But it doesn’t matter. The media and the liberal establishment have been battering him for his “bigotry” since day one and have succeeded in labeling him. Even before any discussion of his intended policies takes place, my friends ask: how can you support this racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic hatemonger? They are morally repelled by the picture that the media have created. But objectively he isn’t more biased than the average person on the American street.
The other reason liberals hate Trump wasn’t obvious to me until recently. Its source is the same as the accusations of bigotry – the media, both news- and social-. In a word, it is fear. Deep, gut-loosening, physical fear. They are afraid that the economy will crater, that the US will become entangled in wars (although why liberals who mostly don’t serve in the military should fear this isn’t clear), and – especially – that he will unleash dark forces in the country that have so far been held in check. My Jewish friends fear neo-Nazi Jew-hatred (although the threat of Muslim anti-Semitism somehow doesn’t seem to be on their radar). I have seriously been told that under Trump, it is very possible that Jews, uppity blacks, and others will be placed in concentration camps!
While Israelis certainly know the meaning of fear, they tend to be afraid of more concrete threats – like terrorism and Iranian nukes. I suppose because of this I didn’t understand why my liberal friends were so agitated, until the inauguration when they started to express their fears more explicitly. They are scared to death of Trump, or I should say they have been scared to death of him by the media (and I definitely include social media).
What can I tell them? Only to try to look at the facts and determine which sources are trustworthy and which are trying to manipulate them. Trump will be more pro- big business than they will like, but will he rip up the fabric of American society? I doubt it.
Let me close by describing what it looks like from here, from an Israeli viewpoint. During the Obama years, the average Israeli understood that Obama was not on our side. They understood that we were being driven in a direction that we had learned by very bitter experience would lead to more terrorism and possibly war. They understood that Obama was doing his best to push Israel back to boundaries that would bring terrorism to their doorsteps. They understood that when Israel defended herself from a shower of rockets from Gaza, Obama was listening to the complaints of Hamas, not to us. Above all, his actions to strengthen Iran, to help her finance terror against us, and to legitimize her nuclear weapons program, directly threatened our existence. Obama’s parting shot, his orchestration of an anti-Israel Security Council resolution, confirmed it all.
So what we felt when Donald Trump was inaugurated was relief. The pressure from Obama and his people – the poisonous Ben Rhodes, the partisan of Palestine Robert Malley, the doggedly stupid John Kerry and others – was released. Trump might or might not move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and there are many issues on which his positions are presently unknown. But based on what has been learned so far – his appointment of David Friedman as Ambassador to Israel, for example – at least we can be sure that he isn’t trying to get us all killed.