The worst thing about the aftermath of Donald Trump’s repast last month with two open anti-Semites—Kanye West and Nick Fuentes—was not the predictable liberal outrage and conservative cowardice, but how the incident has been accepted as part of normal discourse.
In an era where even the slightest deviation from the received norm on gender or race issues engenders immediate invective and cancellation, antisemitism, the oldest and most persistent of racial prejudices, is increasingly being normalized. The intolerable is becoming tolerated, just another part of the cacophony that has replace the once more civil tones of American politics.
This legitimization of what was once outrageous is evident in the GOP response to Trump’s bizarre dinner guests. To say the least, the conservative response has not exactly been met with a GOP profile in courage. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, former vice president Pence, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, Louisiana’s Senator Bill Cassidy and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie—as well as the remaining Jewish Trump supporters—specifically said that antisemitism has no place in the Republican Party, but most GOP members seem to be unable to bring themselves to denounce the latest outrage.
Some, like North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, simply expressed exasperation for what seems sloppy staff work. Most of the party still cowers from the glare of the former president. Pivotal figures like incoming House speaker Kevin McCarthy and Florida’s Ron DeSantis have muted their objections for political reasons, in large part not to offend the remaining Trumpista base.
To be sure, the progressives—the White House seems anxious to use Trump’s dinner as a way to put a progressive spin on antisemitism—are not exactly covering themselves with glory. Even Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has a history, as a spokesperson for MoveOn, of anti-Israel sentiments, and other nominees also have a record of attacking Jewish “money and influence.” Democrat-dominated groups like the Anti-Defamation League of course rail against right-wing hate groups but seem reluctant to take on liberal anti-Semites like Al Sharpton and Ilhan Omar. As the Jewish magazine Tablet suggests, their mission to combat anti-Semitism continues to be shape by their predictably progressive bias.
Three Faces of Antisemitism
Rather than be exiled to the lunatic fringe, antisemitism is becoming just another, normalized meme in our increasingly ugly politics. It even has taken on three distinct forms. The first, and most heavily covered by the media, comes from militant white racists, still largely unchallenged by Republican leaders.
The second, largely ignored, comes from the Left. The progressives and their media allies have had a field day with Trump’s nauseating repast but they are far less interested in combating anti-Semitism from progressives. This was evident in 2020, when the ADL and many mainstream Jewish groups openly embraced the anti-Israel Black Lives Matter, even while CEO Jonathan Greenblatt acknowledged the hateful views of many of BLMs supporters. Greenblatt, like most Democrats, has genuflected towards Al Sharpton, a past dealer in anti-Semitic calumnies.
The third and perhaps the most disturbing face of antisemitism is neither left or right, but essentially black. This reflects the recrudescence of a dormant but persistent hostility that has characterized a century of relations between two prominent minority groups. African American communities, according to surveys, are the least admiring of Jews of all ethnic groups while many of their most prominent leaders—Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton—have all embraced, without much criticism, antisemitic tropes more recently adopted by such high-profile black celebrities as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. West, styling himself now as “Ye,” has now gone beyond the standard viciousness of typical antisemitic rhetoric, openly enthusing over Hitler and the Nazis, insisting that the Holocaust didn’t happen, demanding that Jews labor for Christians, and announcing that he refuses to judge individual Jews on a neutral basis, separate from the devilry he ascribes to Jewry as a whole.
The rise of the new antisemitism brings us back to uglier times, notably the 1930s when conspiracy theories about Jewish power gained enormous sway across the political spectrum. Historian Eric Weitz traces the acceptance of antisemitism to what he calls the “proletarianization of the middle class,” the drop in status and security among ordinary Europeans. As in the thirties, a persistently weak economy and the shrinkage of the middle class engendered a racialist populism not only in Germany but also in European countries from Spain to the United Kingdom. It also surfaced in America with the rise of figures like Father Coughlin, the original “America Firsters” who rallied behind Charles Lindbergh, and the ferociously anti-Jewish tycoon Henry Ford.
Read the rest of this piece at American Mind.
Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.