One of the fantasies of anti-Semites is that Jews somehow gather each day to plot how best to take over power. I once met a reputable social scientist who actually believed this. Jews, only 2% of the population in the U.S., should be powerless, they think. Instead, they are visible in every phase of public life, from entertainment to politics, and particularly in the Democratic party. In the American House of Representatives, 32 of the 34 Jewish members belong to that party.
In their paranoid fantasy, anti-Semites cannot see any other explanation than plotting and conspiracy for this presence and influence. For the anti-Semite, the Jew is a threat, usurping a place in American society that should be theirs.
Jews are entitled to their own fantasies. Let us pretend, for example, that anti-Semites have gained influence in the highest sectors of American political life, having the ear of an elected president. Let’s pretend that the anti-Semites want to reassure his reelection, and see Jewish influence in political life as an obstacle along that path. In this fantasy, Jews can imagine that there is actually a playbook that guides the anti-Semites in planning a 2020 victory at the polls, and that the president will play a key role in executing the plays. In this fantasy playbook, the game will be played with four rules.
The first rule for the anti-Semites will be to keep Jews on the defensive. Make them feel vulnerable and alien. Stress that they are loyal to a foreign power and cannot have the same loyalty to their country as other Americans. The president, for example, could refer to the prime minister of Israel as their prime minister.
The second rule is to make cause with white nationalists. This keeps the Jews on the defensive because white nationalists actually threaten their lives, as the Jews of Pittsburgh know well. The president, for example, could go to a street clash where the nationalists club nonviolent demonstrators and declare that there are good people on both sides.
The third rule would be to make a tight alliance with the political right in Israel, particularly its prime minister. The alliance would be mutually beneficial. The president could support territorial aims of the prime minister before an election, giving him an electoral edge. In return, the prime minister would be expected to mute his criticism of anti-Semitism in America, leaving the president free to court the white nationalists. The effect would be to leave the American Jew feeling abandoned and vulnerable, a goal of the anti-Semite. This political alliance would not be difficult because there are certainly more evangelical Christians in the U.S. who support Israel, right or wrong, than there are American Jews of any persuasion.
The fourth rule is to attack the Democratic party as soft on anti-Semites. This has the effect of denying the party’s role in defending human rights and setting up the president as the arbiter and definer of what is anti-Semitism. To do this, the president would pick two of the newly elected Democratic members of Congress who have defended Palestinian rights and focus on them as representatives of the Democratic party as a whole. It will be an easier fight if these two could be cast as the political face of the 235 Democrats in the House.
This is, of course, a fantasy. None of this could actually happen. Any resemblance to what has happened is purely coincidental. Just to be safe, however, I strongly recommend going to the polls on Nov. 3, 2020. pjc
Dan Resnick is professor emeritus of history at Carnegie Mellon University.