Nearly three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reintegration of the former Communist countries into the capitalist world economy, rightwing populism with authoritarian if not Fascist aspects, is thriving not just in Eastern and Western Europe but most notably in the US that presents itself to the world as a democratic society. An eclectic ideology that embraces ethnocentrism, militarism and law and order state, capitalism and anti-elitism invariably aimed at traditional political, financial, and social elites that favor a bourgeois consensus, rightwing populism is shaped by each country’s history, institutions and culture, but projects the illusion that it favors the “common citizen”. To some extent, populism is a reaction to globalization and neoliberal policies that have accounted for massive capital concentration in the top ten percent of the population at the expense of the middle class and workers.
With the election of a rightwing populist president strongly appealing to racist, xenophobic, and misogynist elements in society, it is hardly surprising that anti-Semitism episodes flared up right after Donald Trump was elected in 2016. The rise of anti-Semitic episodes as a result of “Trumpism” political wave within the Republican Party was to be expected, just as the rise in Islamophobia, xenophobia, and racism were encouraged. Considering the measures that the White House, Congress and Justice Department have proposed impacting minorities in every domain from the criminal justice system to health, housing and education, social justice is suffering further setbacks.
Appealing to disgruntled whites, especially workers who have suffered chronically lower living standards, Trump promised economic nationalism as the panacea to socioeconomic problems. Reverting to Ronald Reagan’s nationalism, militarism, law and order regime and anti-intellectualism to the degree that science is subordinated to the “opinion” or “alternative facts” as Trump officials call it, the new populist president projected a business-style solution to government to fix all that was wrong with society. After all, if he was able to become a billionaire why would it be that difficult to turn the entire nation into a success story simply following the “Art of the Deal” method applied to government?
Like many in the Republican Party with a popular base among cultural conservatives and especially Christian fundamentalists, Trump and his team of billionaires and military officials reject cultural relativism and embrace “Nativism” deeply rooted in American history where racism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia have been an integral part of the political landscape. Resting on the populist wing of the Republican Party with roots in the early Cold War culture of political conformity, Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan and Tea Party populists, “Trumpism” has become the mainstream reflecting the direction of America’s political future deeply ingrained into the ideological frame and institutional structure. Even if Trump is impeached and the Democrats recapture Congress in the next elections, rightwing populism will become more ingrained in society because the structural causes that gave rise to it will remain.
Appealing to a wide range of people frustrated by chronic downward socioeconomic mobility since the 1980s and lack of prospects for their children achieving the middle class American Dream in a world of massive capital concentration in the hands of a few billionaires has led some of the more adventurist Trumpism devotees to lash out at everyone from Jews and Muslims to Mexican immigrants and gays. American Jews identified with the coastal socioeconomic liberal elites are on the radar of many within the Republican rightwing popular base, but not with the Republican establishment. While anti-Semitism has a unique history in Europe, in the US it has always been a part of the immigrant culture in which the media and politicians were and remain strongly committed to breaking class solidarity by accentuating differences of people along ethnic, religious and racial lines.
To explain the rise of populism that has taken hold as a reaction to globalization and neoliberal policies that helped to hasten downward socioeconomic mobility, many politicians, academics, and media analysts focus on the cult of personality that Trump cultivated and on certain high-profile and controversial individuals within his circle. The multidimensional structural causes of the rightist political orientation are rarely if ever mentioned, especially the neoliberal structure that accounts for such immense inequality becoming worse as time passes. If one focuses on policies, it becomes very clear that there is wide consensus among Republicans no matter the populist rhetoric by Trump intended to distract and confuse the mass base of the party. Those policies negatively impact the very popular base that the Republicans claim to represent. To distract from that reality, not just Republicans, but Democrats, with few exceptions, and the media focus instead on personalities, procedural issues, and militarist policies where there is bipartisan consensus.
Deliberately ignoring structural factors suggests that the political, economic and social structures are not pertinent because the discussion would necessarily lead to framing the debate along the lines of class struggle. The media and analysts frame the debate and all issues as though only individuals in political leadership matter – cult of personality – as though those individuals operate above and separately from the institutional structure which they serve. By employing anti-elite, anti-immigrant and anti-establishment rhetoric, the populists capture that segment of the working and middle class, primarily white, that places all hope on politicians who deliver both the promise of better living standards and strong law and order regime that would give preferential treatment to whites instead of minorities and immigrants.
A cornerstone of populism, economic nationalism projects the illusion that capitalism can benefit the white and non-white middle class and workers if only the state adopted protectionist and “America First” policies. The contradictions of neoliberal and corporate welfare policies in the age of globalization and their negative impact on the middle and working class living standards, combined with the desperation of the conservative elites to retain a popular political base leads toward rightwing populism. Just as there was a rise of rightwing mass movements during the interwar era amid serious structural economic problems, similarly the downward socioeconomic spiral of the US and the West has reinforced rightwing political movements, including the popular base on which Trumpism is based. Considering that the neoliberal establishment under both the Republican and the Democrat party is narrowly focused on identity politics that deliberately refuses to address structural issues such as the decline of the middle class and working class living standards, a mass populist movement with a rightwing nationalist tilt was as inevitable as the rise in social discrimination.
As it becomes increasingly apparent that the populist billionaire business “Messiah” behind the mask of the “Trumpism” cult is merely in power to “Make America Great Again” by transferring even more wealth from the lower and middle classes to the top 1% of wealthiest Americans, the politics of rightwing extremism will intensify and even greater sociopolitical division is inevitable. Billionaires and millionaires behind rightwing populism represent a desperate effort to save the privileges that capitalists enjoy by driving a segment of society ideologically and politically to the extreme right even if this entails embracing even more austere police state methods, especially surveillance, than currently exist.
The Justice Department under Trump introduced harsher measures for petty crimes, loosening any safety net protections of minorities from police abuse, while easing up on regulations affecting white collar crime. Along with racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny, anti-Semitism is in the broader mix that characterizes a segment of Trump supporters that the Republican Party mobilizes. For the Republican Party to continue catering to the establishment while claiming to be anti-establishment, populism is a useful vehicle as it breaks the solidarity of the working class by advancing the policies of social discrimination.
The neoliberal establishment would have achieved the same goals of capital concentration with a Democrat president in power. This was the case under both Bill Clinton and Barak Obama catering to a different popular base distinguished by traditional Democrat identity politics – feminists, gay rights, and greater integration of minorities into the capitalist mainstream. While Republican rhetoric and policies project false hope to rightwing elements from Reagan Democrats, Evangelicals to neo-Nazis that the social contract will be anti-elite and focused on the white majority feeling threatened by identity politics, Democrats remain focused on reviving the old Cold War with Russia and catering to Wall Street, while promoting cultural and lifestyle issues with a greater commitment to balance the welfare state with corporate welfare. Ironically, Democrat identity politics is actually just as divisive because it refuses to address issues along structural lines, thus leaving many among the masses to be duped by the promises of populist rhetoric.
Trumpism’s Contradictions and American Jews, and Islamophobia
Although anti-Semitism has a long and ugly history, no minority group in US history has suffered greater discrimination and institutionalized racism than African-Americans. The white Anglo-Saxon majority has historically categorized ethnic immigrants in a hierarchy based on skin color, ethnic origin, and religion. American Jews were not exempt from ethnocentrism, remaining a favorite target of the KKK among other rightwing groups. Because class in some cases transcends ethnicity, race and religion, Jews that became capitalists or moved into middle class professions benefited from assimilation into the institutional mainstream much more than those of the same faith in the lower middle class and working class.
By the early 21st century, American Jews were well integrated into the mainstream, reflecting society’s diversity ideologically, politically, and socioeconomically. From 2000 until 2016, Jewish voting patterns indicate that between two-thirds and three-fourths supported the Democrat presidential candidates. Although these percentages are very similar to Hispanic Catholic voting trends, stereotypes deeply ingrained in society remain just below the thin façade of political correctness where saying the right thing in public is the only thing that matters. Many within the rightwing populist movement accept the stereotypes that Jews are in control of everything from Wall Street to the media, the political arena, higher education, and the entertainment industry.
Interestingly, it never even occurs to anti-Semites to ask why so many of the elites are Anglo-Saxon Protestant. This is indicative that American racists believe it is natural to be Anglo-Saxon protestant and be among the elites because national identity rests with this category of people since the republic was founded. While it is true that Jews are in every sector of society, just as are Christians, a larger percentage of Jews is integrated into the capitalist class in comparison to other minorities especially blacks and Hispanics. However, it is blatantly false that Jews control the entire institutional structure and use it to advance some amorphous “Jewish agenda”, as neo-Nazi and other conspiracy theorists propagate. On the contrary, throughout European and US history Jews have proved more loyal and more conformist to the institutional structure than any other minority.
Conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the institutional structure are the basis of anti-Semitism that has declined since the interwar era as much in the US as in Western Europe, though the same does not hold true for Eastern Europe. With the rise of populism in American politics during the presidential campaign of 2016, anti-Semitism assumed the spotlight once again, despite the fact that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is Jewish with business and personal connections to Israel. Moreover, top administration officials in control of financial, economic and trade policy are also Jewish linked to Wall Street and specifically the multinational financial syndicate Goldman Sachs.
While it is true that all US presidents cater to Wall Street, and all presidents since Ronald Reagan have relied on former Goldman Sachs executives who have been invariably Jewish to conduct fiscal, economic, trade and foreign policy, it is especially noteworthy that Trump has long-standing links to Jewish billionaires. This in itself would not be unusual except that his has been using populist anti-big business, anti-elite rhetoric to appeal to populist elements among them neo-Nazis, KKK, and other varieties of racists and anti-Semites. The glaring contradiction that cannot be reconciled is that Trumpism symbolizes and emboldens ethnocentrism while the administration includes millionaire and billionaire American Jews who are in the awkward position of accepting rightwing populism so that they can advance neoliberal policies.
It is hardly surprising that some emboldened Trump supporters have engaged in anti-Semitic activities, assuming that their leader really represents the extremist white Christian masses rather than the multi-ethnic, including Jewish, capitalist elites. In March 2017, prominent Jewish-American groups demanded that Trump denounce anti-Semitism in light of a rise in documented incidents in different parts of the country. The corporate media exposed this issue, but like Jewish organization the media did not frame it in its larger context of rightwing populism where anti-Semitism is but one of many aspects of racism. Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for his brand of populism giving rise to anti-Semitism was revealing and somewhat shocking to all people embracing pluralism but especially to Jews who assumed he would be friendlier because his daughter is married to Kushner.
Trump had no choice but to reject the suggestion that Trumpism entails anti-Semitism. Admitting that Trumpism leads to anti-Semitism would have forced the president to accept that his ideological/political movement is politically and culturally racist at its core and that his administration is driven by the politics of exclusion rather than integration in a pluralistic society. Even more alarming, the entire Republican establishment with few exceptions refused to denounce the racist core of Trumpism, thus demonstrating that the party clings to the rightwing populist base even when some within that base are neo-Nazis.
Contrary to how the media and many analysts who focused on the cult of personality see Trumpism, this phenomenon did not fall to earth from space. It has deep roots in both parties, but especially in the Republican Party going as far back as the 1920s. Despite “Trumpism” as an integral part of the Republican Party and American society, anti-Semitism has actually remained relatively low in comparison with Western Europe and especially Eastern Europe where it is only exceeded by Islamic countries. Of course, opinion polls and hate crime reports cannot possibly measure with any degree of accuracy the level of anti-Semitism across society. People conceal their attitudes toward Jews as they do toward Muslims and blacks because in a pluralistic society where political correctness takes precedence overt racism is unacceptable – politically incorrect and bad for business given that the American consumer base is multi-ethnic.
Some analysts were encouraged that anti-Semitism has been on the decline in the last two decades because of the rise of Islamophobia, a form of religious discrimination that spiked after the Iranian Revolution and assumed astronomical proportions after 9/11. However, the rise of rightwing populism, which includes Christians driven by prejudice against other faiths, has emboldened anti-Semitism as much in the US and across Europe in the past two decades when the neoliberal elites celebrated the triumph of globalization. Neoliberalism is the catalyst in the rise of globalization, the rise of rightwing populism and the rise of Islamophobia in the last two decades.
Combined with a persistently anti-Islam bias in the media that has been reinforcing Islamophobia and the rise of rightwing populism aimed at Islam in general and Muslim immigrants specifically, the war on terror has been a catalytic factor in the change of mass attitudes from anti-Semitism to Islamophobia. The fact that Israel has been pursuing apartheid policies toward Palestinians and pursuing a militarist approach to foreign policy has worked in its favor when it comes to attracting mainstream conservative and Cold War liberal elements across the US and Western Europe, thus transferring the historic focus of prejudice from Jews to Muslims.
France’s National Front under Marine Le Pen is a good example of a political party that has been focusing more on the Muslim enemy where all bourgeois political parties also focused rather than clinging to anti-Semitism that carries a political and social stigma. In an interview in June 2014, she stated: “I do not stop repeating it to French Jews. … Not only is the National Front not your enemy, but it is without a doubt the best shield to protect you. It stands at your side for the defense of our freedoms of thought and of religion against the only real enemy, Islamist fundamentalism.” https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/04/marine-le-pen-national-front-jews-muslims/523302/
Ironically, the rising tide of populism across Western and Eastern Europe as well as Trump’s America has reinvigorated racists of all sorts, despite the official policies of governments to support Israeli apartheid policies and militarism while keeping Islamophobia in the forefront of the political dialogue. The fact that the US claims to support the war on terror while remaining a major arms supplier to countries like Saudi Arabia where most jihadists have originated and where the regime has been supplying jihadist rebels with weapons in both Syria and Yemen does not seem to register any more with liberals than with conservatives. While the US and EU arms manufacturers make billions in profits selling weapons to countries with a history of supporting jihadists, the Western media and governments continue to promote the myth about strengthening national security against Islamic terrorism, thus promoting Islamophobia and xenophobia.
Although anti-Semitism has deep roots throughout the Western World as does Islamophobia, many Christians learned anti-Semitism from their families while they learned about Islamophobia from mainstream media and politicians since the Iranian Revolution. Overt or subtle hiding behind political correctness, religious prejudice is convenient for opportunistic bourgeois politicians, for the media and pundits when there are serious structural problems in the economy as in 2008 great recession. Racists default the rise in unemployment, stagnant wages, and political polarization following 2008 to Jewish elites and immigrant workers rather than the political economy predicated on socioeconomic inequality and political marginalization.
The neoliberal system that creates greater socioeconomic inequality thrives on racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia because it distracts focus from the root causes of structural problems in society. Rightwing populism in the US and Europe finds a popular response from angry middle class and working class that are unable to discern the structural inequality that the political economy creates. Blaming Jews, Arabs, Hispanics, Blacks, and other minorities because the system does not integrate the “native majority” into the upward trajectory of the mainstream is simple and convenient because it also fulfills an emotional need to vent. Adolph Hitler’s belief that people need someone to hate rather than abstract systems and institutions beyond their comprehension works just as well today as it did in the turbulent 1930s.
Is Antisemitism on the rise?
In January 2017 there were 40 to 68 bomb threats (depending on the source) against Jewish community centers in 27 states, with Jewish cemeteries the most well publicized targets. When we consider that the number of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses in 2015 were twice as many as in 2014, it appears that anti-Semitism had been rising under the Obama administration pursuing neoliberal policies. Statistics from public opinion polls indicate that anti-Semitic incidents rose immediately after Trump won the presidency, something that hardly surprised many critics who had been warning that such is the price of appealing to extreme rightwing elements for political support.
FBI statistics on hate crimes indicate that there have not been significant changes since the presidential election of 2012, but threats against Jewish centers and Jewish journalists did experience a spike in threats once Trump won the election. It is noteworthy that the reporting of anti-Semitic incidents is more accurate and prevalent than the reporting of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice of other groups that the media routinely overlooks both at the local but especially the national level. Hate crimes motivated by religion have targeted Jews and Muslims since Trump’s election, although Islamophobia spiked sharply since 9/11 and it is under-reported in comparison with anti-Semitic incidents. While institutional anti-Semitism is very low partly because of the cordial US-Israeli ties but also because Jews are more thoroughly integrated in society, the same is not the case for institutional racism aimed at Muslims and blacks.
Because Trump won with a populist appeal, it was inevitable that xenophobia aimed at Muslims and Latin Americans as main targets, racism, sexism, homophobia, and chauvinism as main cultural traits would become even more acceptable driven by the politics of division. In very subtle ways, rightwing news organizations that have been supporting Trump have been promoting social discrimination; some daring to cross the line to attack Jews backing liberal causes and the Democrat Party. Although anti-Semitism finds no expression in public policy as does Islamophobia, America’s ideological orientation has become so rightwing than the Democrats find it necessary to attack the Republican president by reviving Cold War anti-Russia propaganda. Instead of remaining focused on specific allegations of corruption, collusion, money laundering, and above all Republican policies that worsen inequality and weaken the middle class and workers, Democrats committed to neoliberal policies are just as guilty as Republicans for avoiding the key issue of social justice.
Anti-Semitism among Liberals and Conservatives
Anti-Semitism is subtle even among those liberal elements that cling to political correctness often used to conceal real intentions. Leftist critics of Israel are driven by the apartheid conditions and Israel’s militarist approach to foreign policy and by the neoliberal orientation of the entire Western World that the Israeli business and political elites support. Critics are concerned that the Israeli government, not people, has come a very long way in emulating the Third Reich’s racism when it comes to treatment of Palestinians. This does not mean that all leftists are free of anti-Semitism and they are not using Israel’s horrific policies to justify racism. Because it is true that anti-Zionism can lead to legitimizing anti-Semitism, it is essential to denounce any form of discrimination and differentiate between government policy and ethnic or religious prejudice. Labeling any critic of Israeli anti-Semite merely for supporting peace in the Middle East is propaganda and a sign of using the pretext of anti-Semitism to suppress dissent.
Rightwing elements are more comfortable in anti-Semitism because it is an integral part of their ideological orientation. Besides the KKK, neo-Nazi groups and some new elements that emerged with the explosion of rightwing media, anti-Semitism as an integral part of the ideological rightwing has historical roots among Christian business and political elites that looked the other way during the 1930s when the Third Reich was systematically persecuting Jews. Anti-Semitism from the right has found expression from a number of social media outlets where the white nationalist ALT-RIGHT among others has increased their anti-Semitic attacks with hate speech. The anti-Defamation League reported 2.6 million tweets aimed at Jewish journalists in 12 months, summer 2015 to summer 2016. Although Trump does not use anti-Semitic rhetoric and he has long-standing ties to Jewish millionaires and billionaires, many of his working class Christian supporters assume he is talking about Jews in the liberal “fake” media when he speaks of ‘enemies of the people’. https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/adl-task-force-issues-report-detailing-widespread-anti-semitic-harassment-of
As the latest layer building on existing ones of American rightwing populism, Trumpism is indicative of an ideological, political and cultural orientation, but also a reflection of one’s values as well as aspirations and illusions about what a populist regime led by a Messiah businessman can deliver to its middle and working class base. Deeply imbedded in Trumpism is anti-Semitism from the extreme right that has gained legitimacy because Trump is president, no matter his ties to Jewish business elites. While the liberal left as represented by Senator Bernie Sanders, the son of Jewish immigrants, has also criticized the financial and media elites that include Jews, there is hardly a comparison between the Sanders movement to pursue social justice for all people and the politics of hate and division that Trump and his Republican propagandists promoted.
Evangelical Christians: Friends of Israel, Enemies of secular American-Jews?
Ever since the preeminence of neoconservatives in the Reagan decade of the eighties, there has been a strange alliance between American Jews and Evangelicals. Besides their common distaste for Muslims, their common Cold War militarist foreign policy and their common conservative social values that brought these two groups closer together they seem like natural allies, using religious dogmatism to justify imperialist foreign policies and social inequality. Evangelicals have consistently remained in a military-solution mode when it came to foreign policy hotspots and viewed Israel as defender of the Christian West against the Muslims becoming radicalized after the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
The alliance between American Jews and Evangelicals began showing cracks in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012, but especially in 2016 when many Jews backed Hillary Clinton while Evangelicals sided with Trump who promised them Reagan-style social and judicial conservatism, along with jobs and economic nationalism intended to “make American great again”, partly implying the integration of white Christians into the mainstream from which they had been excluded under the neoliberal regime of Bill Clinton and Obama. Besides the Evangelicals vote for Trump and the American secular Jews largely backing Clinton in 2016, the rift between Evangelicals and Jews was evident in the “liberal” vs. the populist rightwing media wars over the Trump administration’s policies and personalities such as Steve Bannon, former Goldman Sachs banker and Breitbart news executive and no stranger to racism, white nationalism, and anti-Semitism.
Israeli neoliberal and militarist elites continue to hope that they can have Evangelicals supporting Israel, just as they supported Trump win the election. The Israeli-Evangelical alliance appears on firm ground, but it is becoming increasingly problematic because Trumpism not only entails xenophobia, ethnocentrism and nationalism, but anti-Semitism among many of its voters, even some younger Evangelicals. The Republicans and the rightwing media have tried to identify liberal Jews as the enemy, but such rhetoric only reinforces anti-Semitism. Evangelicals and rightwing media have hammered at the close identification of the Democrats with Jewish billionaires like George Soros famous for his support of liberal causes. This association has reinforced anti-Semitism among the rightwing populists, largely because the rightwing media and politicians keep at it.
Ironically, the same criticism of Jewish billionaires and their liberal causes is also made across much of Europe, especially in Eastern Europe where the commitment to diversity and pluralism is a pale imitation of what exists in Scandinavian countries. The same criticism is never leveled against liberal Anglo-Saxon billionaires like Warren Buffet or others, projecting the impression that Jewish money somehow corrupts the political process more than Protestant money. The obvious hypocrisy on the part of right wingers including Evangelicals regarding Jewish money vs. Protestant money influencing the political arena extends to Israel treated as a friendly militarist state while Muslim militarist states are deserving of condemnation.
What would happen to Jews in America and the relationship with Israel if they lost support from evangelical Christians?
Neoliberals from the Clinton and neoconservative leftovers from the Reagan decade have cultivated close ties between American Evangelicals and Israel but the relationship is showing signs of deterioration largely because the younger Evangelicals question the wisdom of one-sided US foreign policy. Although public opinion polls indicate that American Jews largely mistrust Evangelicals, Evangelical organizations remain committed to support of Israel as a frontline state against the Arabs and radical Islam. This ideological commitment is largely based on money pouring into Evangelical churches and their affiliate NGOs that are tools of recruitment and indoctrination. The highly organized Evangelical groups using the media, educational centers and Christian media remain a political force that helped to elect Trump while keeping the populist wing of the Republican Party strong.
The irony of Evangelical support for Israel is that some of its members are anti-Semitic. Ever since the Reagan administration, rightwing Christian fundamentalist elements, which American Jews and the Israeli lobby have been trying to mobilize, are not just anti-Muslim but some are anti-Semitic as well. While the war on terror shifted the focus of American Evangelicals to the imminent Muslim threat as they understand it, this does not mean that anti-Semitism disappeared. On the contrary, as socioeconomic conditions deteriorate, and as a segment of the population perceives that Jewish elites from Wall Street to media and Hollywood are to partly blame for the elusive American Dream not trickling down to the masses, anti-Semitism will rise and support for Israel will diminish. Trump’s ‘America First’ economic nationalism and slashing foreign aid as part of neo-isolationism will eventually impact Israel, especially as the administration will drive budgetary deficits and the public debt to record levels because of corporate tax cuts and more corporate welfare at the expense of health and social programs.
Regardless of who is in the White House, the US will always support Israel diplomatically because both political parties have done so since 1948 and they will continue to do so for many reasons. This is not only because of the very powerful Israeli lobby, but also the fact that Israel serves the convenient role of perpetuating destabilization in the Middle East that helps the defense industry of the US. Despite the apartheid conditions toward the Palestinians, Israel will remain a key US ally even if younger Evangelicals question US support and even if a segment of the rightwing Republican popular base becomes more anti-Semitic.
The political correctness rhetoric of liberals and conservatives alike notwithstanding, the socioeconomic effects of neoliberal policies on society gives rise to ultra-rightwing ideological and political movements. Through the media, the political and socioeconomic elites help to indoctrinate and mobilize the masses into the rightwing camp using it as the popular base of the Republican Party that caters to Wall Street, as much as the Democrats use identity politics to mobilize their popular base while also catering to Wall Street. Given that the two-party system represents the interests of the same elites despite ideological and political affiliations among the elites, the masses merely follow instead of breaking away to create a class-based grassroots movement that would bring social justice through systemic change. Rightwing populism becomes the grassroots movement and its followers are convinced that it is the vehicle to the fulfillment of the social contract; an illusion that conservative politicians, media and pundits constantly reinforce.
Mobilizing the remnants of the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party, Trumpism gained momentum because neoliberal policies exacerbated socioeconomic polarization under Obama. Although Trumpism will fade away along with Trump at some point, its imprint on society will remain as did that of Reaganism that helped to bring a segment of the population father to the rightwing ideological domain where discrimination assumes an unspoken legitimacy just below the surface of political correctness. The rightwing orientation of society as an integral part of deradicalization of the masses is essential to maintaining the political economy of inequality, although it comes at the cost of the absence of social justice and social discrimination.
The bourgeois value system is based on individualism, but bourgeois institutions and policies have historically promoted discrimination on the basis of group identity disregarding the merits of the individual. Like all forms of prejudice rooted in ignorance, fear and social conditioning, anti-Semitism is no different. It is futile to assume that anti-Semitism can be mitigated in isolation of all other forms of prejudice separate from the larger issue of a socially just society. All social, economic and political indicators point not to greater social discrimination and prejudice in a society where the mass concentration of wealth at the expense of the middle and working classes has resulted in the search for enemies to blame, whether Muslims, Jews, Mexicans, etc.
As the US slowly creeps down the road of more authoritarianism and a surveillance state, becoming less tolerant of differences and diversity amid its inevitable decline as the world’s preeminent economic power, it will have a much weaker middle class and a working class with lower living standards. A segment of the population whose identity rests with the flag and the cross will become more open to the idea of a police militarized state that enforces conformity through constant surveillance and stricter laws that punish petty criminals while allowing the legalized corporate thieves to enjoy a privileged status in society.
In the absence of embracing human rights and social justice there cannot possibly be an end to anti-Semitism any more than any other form of prejudice. If the political economy feed a culture of prejudice because it has an interest in maintaining the institutional structure, then it is hardly surprising that prejudice would be widespread. Under neoliberalism thriving under Trumpist populism, various forms of prejudice will manifest themselves once the promise of “Make America Great Again” never filters down to the masses.
Jon V. Kofas, Ph.D. – Retired university professor of history – author of ten academic books and two dozens scholarly articles. Specializing in International Political economy, Kofas has taught courses and written on US diplomatic history, and the roles of the World Bank and IMF in the world.