Archive for the ‘U.S. Domestic Affairs’ Category
A Dilemma For the Intelligence Agencies – An Analysis (25 April 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Dilemma
Government intelligence agencies, particularly those in the United States, have a problem. Its nature was spelled out by the retired British diplomat Alastair Crooke in an article entitled “Trump’s 59-Tomahawk Tweet,” appearing 8 April 2017. As the title suggests, Crooke was reacting to President Trump’s precipitous attack on a Syrian government airbase, following the chemical weapons episode of 4 April 2017 at the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun.
Crooke notes that U.S. intelligence had raised doubts as to the Syrian government’s responsibility for the release of poison gas. It seems likely that the Russians had alerted U.S. forces that the Syrian air force was going to attack a rebel warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun that was allegedly full of explosives and weapons. Unbeknownst to the Russians, the Syrians, and the Americans, the warehouse also held a poisonous mix of organic phosphates and chlorine. There is also evidence suggesting that whatever released the poison gas came from an explosive device placed on the ground. Wherever the resulting gas cloud came from, and a Syrian government bomb is certainly not the only possibility, It spread over a local neighborhood and killed a number of exposed residents.
The American mass media nevertheless immediately blamed Damascus for an attack using chemical weapons. Trump, also immediately, believed the mass media. He is, after all, increasingly known as the Fox TV president. Taking his cue from the media, he paid insufficient heed to his own intelligence agencies’ doubts. As a result, as Crooke puts it, “the Tomahawks flew.”
All of this led Crooke to ask “whether Western intelligence agencies still retain an ability to speak-out to power.” Can they still, effectively, convince their governments not to assume that mainstream media information is accurate, but “rather to await careful investigation” before “rushing to judgment” on important issues?
If the answer to Crooke’s questions is No, then what is left of the integrity of the intelligence agencies? Are they now reduced to producing “politicized intelligence assessments” that validate predetermined government policies? Unfortunately, for the United States, this fate appears to threaten the government’s professional intelligence personnel. They seem impotent before a president who has never admitted to a serious mistake in his life – a man who believes that truth is nothing more or less than his own opinion. It might very well be that, facing a crumbling domestic situation produced by his own ill-advised behavior, President Trump sought to recover some credibility by “retaliating” against an alleged crime by Bashar al-Assad.
At least in the short run his maneuver appears to have worked. Trump got an embarrassing amount of positive press following this latest bellicose posturing, and too many editorialists and “talking heads” have asserted that his shooting off 59 Tomahawk missiles (only 39% of which hit their target), and thereby killing yet more Syrians, was a “beautiful” and “presidential” act. These commentators also are not known to admit to being wrong.
Part II – Historical Precedents
There are actually many historical precedents for this current dilemma of the intelligence agencies. It stands to reason that every once in a while people whose job it is to analyze world affairs will end up telling their national leaders what they don’t want to hear. And while some politicians can handle this better than others, many can’t handle it at all. Here are some examples of the latter. Documented descriptions of the first two examples can be found in my book America’s Palestine (University Press of Florida, 2001) and a documented description of the third example can be found in my book Foreign Policy Inc. (University Press of Kentucky, 2009).
— In 1918 the British War Cabinet, led by David Lloyd George and Alfred Balfour, was in the midst of negotiating what would become known as the Balfour Declaration with the World Zionist Organization (WZO). The British sought the support of world Jewry (which they mistakenly believed the WZO represented) for the Entente war effort in exchange for a British promise to support a “Jewish National Home” in Palestine if in fact the British were victorious.
Specifically, (a) the British believed the WZO could facilitate entrance of the United States into the war through its influence with President Woodrow Wilson. And indeed, American Zionists such as Louis Brandeis did have access to the president. However, Wilson was determined to bring the U.S. into the war quite independently of Zionist wishes. Then, (b) the British were convinced that the WZO could prevent the Russian government (by that time under Soviet control) from leaving the war. This was based on the fact that Leon Trotsky was a Jew. But the British intelligence post at their Petrograd embassy informed the leaders in London that Trotsky was hostile to Zionism, seeing it as a divisive nationalist movement. It is here that intelligence information was ignored by Lloyd George and Balfour in favor of political wishful thinking – their firm, if fallacious, belief in Jewish world power.
— If we move forward to 1947-1948 something similar occurred. This incident involved the U.S. president Harry Truman. Truman had been Vice President when, on 12 April 1945, Franklin Roosevelt died. Succeeding to the presidency in mid-term, he stood for election to that office on his own in 1947. It was a point of pride for him that he win the election, and like Lloyd George and Arthur Balfour thirty years earlier, he was convinced that the Zionists wielded enough influence with American Jews to help him achieve his goal. Now an informal deal was struck. The Zionists would help get Truman elected and Truman would help the Zionists get approval for the division of Palestine by the United Nations and subsequently grant diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel.
Taking a stand against this arrangement was the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (NEAA) of the State Department. Those in the NEAA were privy to a range of intelligence sources that Truman knew little of and cared less about. Thus, when members of the division informed Truman that pressure for partition at the United Nations and precipitous diplomatic recognition of Israel would all but destroy U.S. relations with the Muslim world, and thus harm America’s national interests, Truman refused to take this information seriously. Indeed, Clark Clifford, one of Truman’s chief political advisors, told a representative of the NEAA that Harry Truman’s election was the only “national interest” that counted.
— The Zionists have long been a particularly intrusive political lobby throughout much of the West. However, politicians do not need their outside influence to become so fixated that they will ignore their own intelligence services. Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 President George W. Bush became convinced that the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was involved in the attack. When the American intelligence services told him this was unlikely, he refused to believe them and sought to establish an independent “intelligence” operation in the Pentagon that would tell him what he wanted to hear – a list of alleged Iraqi transgressions that soon included the fallacious claim that Saddam possessed “weapons of mass destruction.” None of Bush’s convictions proved true, yet he launched an invasion of Iraq anyway, killing at least half-a-million Iraqis, destroying the country’s political and social infrastructure, and destabilizing the entire Middle East.
Part III – Conclusion
Intelligence agencies have many functions and we know that some of them can be downright criminal. But it can be argued that their main role is the gathering and analysis of information from around the world so that their respective governments can have an accurate idea of what is going on and make decisions accordingly. The suborning of that role almost always leads to very bad decisions.
There seems to be a correlation between this sort of corruption and national leadership that is egocentric, biased and pig-headed. Leaders who either think they know more about foreign matters than the experts (George W. Bush and Donald Trump), or believe that their own religious mythology and racial stereotypes count for more that than the rights of other peoples and nations (Lloyd George and Balfour), or are so consumed by their personal political ambitions (Harry Truman) that they will ignore fact-based intelligence information that complicates those aims.
Of course in the democratic West all such leaders are to some extent reflections of those who voted for them. So keep in mind the old cartoon adage: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Trump and the Anti-Semites – An Analysis (7 March 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – “A Rash of Anti-Semitism”
My local newspaper is the Philadelphia Inquirer, and when I looked at the front page (the part “above the fold”) for 28 February 2017, it read: “A Rash of Anti-Semitism – ‘Something Bad is Happening in Our Country.’” The attending article went on to report on several instances of Jewish cemetery desecrations and 21 bomb threats made on Monday 27 February to synagogues and Jewish community centers. Nationwide, there have been 90 such threats in 30 states and Canada in 2017.
The quote that “something bad is happening” came from one of the neighbors who had come to offer help at a local desecrated cemetery. He is quite right. Yet the Inquirer article and others were only descriptive while quoting the predictable reactions of various politicians and community leaders. The coverage did not go into why we are getting this spate of incidents now, nor did it contextualize the incidents more broadly by noting that they were taking place within a country that, on average, suffers 44 homicides per day.
The FBI and local police departments are all out there investigating these anti-Semitic incidents. I would be very surprised if, as a result of their search for the culprits, they found them among the American Muslim community which has strongly condemned these incidents, or Palestinians and their supporters here in the U.S., who typically use non-violent tactics to express their resistance to Israeli/Zionist racism, or the broader immigrant community, which is typically law-abiding and, in any case, is now being harassed by those charged with “making America great again.” No, if you knee-jerk in those directions, you are probably mistaken.
Part II – The Likely Offenders
So where should we look for the likely offenders of this latest outbreak of anti-Semitism? Well, there are a couple of possibilities. One is the disturbed individual who, for whatever motive, vents his anger in this fashion. This probably accounts for the St. Louis man recently arrested for making a relatively small number of these threats against Jewish sites. The other possibility is that these actions are expressions of the newly ascendent sense of power of white supremacists.
Many of these threatening calls turn out to be “unprecedented” in that they used “sophisticated voice masking technology.” They also warned of bombs made with specific types of explosives. Now, white supremacist organizations with military and security professionals among their members would, plausibly, have the technology and weapons experience used in these incidents. Of course, that does not prove they are responsible, but it does put them on what must be a rather short list of possibles.
In this regard, President Trump’s response to this affair is a curious one. In a recent press conference he vehemently declared that “I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. [And also] the least racist person.” Then, later, he suggested that recent anti-Semitic acts were “false flag” operations coming from his “political opponents.” In other words, Trump, and his close advisors too, are suggesting that the culprits are “Democrats” who are trying to make the president and his supporters “look bad.”
Part III – Donald Trump Liberates the Bad Guys
I don’t think that Donald Trump is playing games here. I think that he believes everything he says – convincing himself that his “false flag” theory is the truth even as he says it. It is part of a delusional pathology.
This means that he is incapable of understanding that, in the final analysis, he may well have triggered the present anti-Semitic acts. It is his threatening and demeaning rhetoric during the campaign and subsequently that has given license to potentially violent elements within American society.
Here is how law professor David Cohen, quoting an earlier source, explains what Trump is doing: he is using language “to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” The technical term for this behavior is “stochastic terrorism.” Stochastic refers to generating statistical probabilities. One of the possible consequences of this sort of rhetoric is explained by Tara Culp-Ressler, senior editor of ThinkProgress: “In this scenario, a lone wolf terrorist wouldn’t be explicitly instructed to commit their crimes, but they would be encouraged by rhetoric that appears to normalize that type of activity.”
It is unlikely that Donald Trump realizes what he is doing in these terms. He probably stereotypes his own behavior as necessary and correct just as he stereotypes the behavior of those who disagree or oppose him as wrongheaded and personal (rather than principled). Most likely, he behaves as he does in an almost instinctual way. He is a born-and-bred bully.
Finally, if we are to probably contextualize the consequences of President Trump’s rhetoric, we must also note that it not only plays to “lone wolves” and white supremacists, but also resonates with longstanding themes of conservative Republicans and American Christian Fundamentalists. Both of these large groups espouse a white mono-culture wherein Jews, among many others, are outsiders. Trump, for all his anti-racist protestations, seems to to draw these people to him and comfortably walk the same road as they do.
Part IV – Conclusion
In the first chapter of Plato’s masterpiece The Republic, there appears a character named Thrasymachus. Socrates engages this character in a debate about the nature of justice. Thrasymachus argues that justice is ultimately whatever the stronger party says it is, and he tries to bully Socrates into agreeing with him. He is uninterested in Socrates’ opinion or the logic of his argument while intent on dominating the conversation. When Thrasymachus is unable to get his way he becomes sullen and rude.
Plato’s effort to construct an ideal state, governed by so-called “philosopher kings” – that is, people who, in Plato’s opinion, have the ability to accurately understand the world – can be understood as a reaction to a world that has become governed by the likes of Thrasymachus.
Donald Trump provides us with this same sort of challenge for he is our modern day Thrasymachus: a self-centered bully uninterested in any other point of view but his own. In our case, such a man has indeed attained power and in doing so has also liberated the boorish element of the population who mimic his approach to the world. Thus it is you, Mr. President, who may well have set loose the anti-Semites.
Follow Up (Jerusalem Post 23 March 2017):
“A 19-year-old dual American Israeli living in Ashkelon has been arrested, suspected of being behind most of a series of bomb and other threats to Jewish communities in the US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand that date back around six months, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
As of Thursday, with a gag order on the probe being lifted by the Rishon Lezion Magistrate’s Court at the same time it extended his detention to March 30, sources indicate that most of the threats against the Diaspora communities and organizations led investigators back to Israel.”
Truth vs. Trump – An Analysis (27 February 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – A Grandiose Delusional Disorder
During the presidential campaign I often referred to Donald Trump as a congenital liar, but it is possible that in doing so I made a “category mistake.” By definition liars, even chronic ones, belong to a category of people who know that there is truth from which their lies deviate. I am not sure that accurately describes President Trump’s state of mind. Perhaps a more accurate way of describing Trump’s outlook is that it presents as a grandiose delusional disorder.
People with this sort of disorder seem not to be able to discern what is real from what they want to be real. Their beliefs do not have to be bizarre but can appear as persistent misrepresentations that are either false or gross exaggerations. One sort of delusional disorder is called “grandiose.” Here the person has “an over-inflated sense of worth, power, knowledge, or identity.” Trump seems to fit this description.
Here are a few of Trump’s misrepresentations and exaggerations that appear to underpin his alternate reality.
— According to the president, the nation was in deep trouble when he took over. He insists that he inherited “a mess.” No one challenged this description, although it is plainly an exaggeration. In truth the economy (including job production and employment rates) under his predecessor was doing well and no new foreign wars had been launched by Washington. Civil rights were being extended to more and more minority groups. Where there was dissension it was over such things as police violence (which Trump seems not to see as a problem).
To tackle this exaggerated “mess” Trump claims to have put together a “well oiled machine.” This is a misrepresentation. By all evidence his early administration is disorganized, amateurish and plagued by internal dissension. When the situation was reported in the press, Trump got very angry at this challenge to his preferred view of reality and declared that the media is the “enemy of the American people.”
— President Trump claims that a key to the safety of the nation is the imposition of his immigration ban blocking immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim nations. However, the statistical evidence showing a lack of violence on American soil by such immigrants makes Trump’s claim insupportable. Just so his grossly exaggerated assertion that immigrants generally hurt the economy by taking jobs away from citizens.
— He (along with that other deluded leader Benjamin Netanyahu) describes Iran as the greatest terror state in the world, even though, in practice, Iran has been a discreet ally of the U.S. in the “war on terror.”
— And, of course, Trump continues to insist on his overwhelming popularity, as exemplified by claims for his Electoral College numbers and an alleged record inauguration attendance, despite the fact that each claim can easily be shown to be a misrepresentation of reality. Trump’s real approval rate now hovers around 40%, lower than every other post-World War II president at this point in their term.
To these instances of misrepresentation and exaggeration can be added other evidence, such as the fact that just about all contrary views appearing in the media are now described by Trump as “fake news.” In his own opinion, nothing he says or does is ever wrong or mistaken. If something does go wrong it is because some other person or group has maliciously sabotaged his efforts, while twisting the truth he knows to exist into a maligning falsehood. This is why he can’t work with anyone who has previously criticized him or who is likely to do so to his face.
Part II – Bullshit
There is another way to understand what Trump is doing. This is explained in a 2005 book by Harry Frankfurt entitled On Bullshit. Actually, an older and less crude way of describing this is “humbug.” Whatever you call it, this way of relating to the world is, according to Frankfurt, worse than lying because it is “indifferent to the truth.” Those who consistently engage in bullshit “quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant.” You do this enough and you lose your capacity to tell what is true and what isn’t. Frankfurt believes that Trump does often lie, but even more often he just bullshits, and he really cares little about what is actually true. Perhaps he has reached the stage where truth is just whatever comes out of his mouth.
Part III – The Road to Power
How are we to understand the millions of Americans who respond to Donald Trump with uncritical enthusiasm – as if these large numbers are following a pied piper into a promised world. I think we have to see them as an archaic subset of any population. In the U.S. case, this is a largely white American subgroup which has been obsessively angry since the 1960s over both economic and cultural changes. In other words the progressive political and social reality that most Americans have created beginning with the Civil Rights movement is anathema to them. For these discontented people, the changes happening around them appeared unstoppable until now. However, Trump’s language, his attack on the political system per se, his choice of targets such as immigrants, have given voice and direction to the frustrations of this subgroup. Trump’s alternate reality is one that they are comfortable with. This situation is not unique to the U.S., nor is it unique to our historical period.
Even though there is no eliminating such a class of malcontents entirely, it is to be emphasized that, despite the publicity given emotional Trump rallies and the Tea Party movement, Trump devotees are a minority of the national population. If that is the case, how is it that Donald Trump occupies the White House? We can answer this question by accounting for the outlook of the rest of the adult U.S. population.
First, it is important to understand that a large percentage of American adults (perhaps 40 percent) don’t vote. In my opinion, most of them are just not interested in politics. It is not an important part of their local reality. Thus, they do not show an interest in, much less an understanding of, politically important issues beyond their own immediate locale. This accounts for the chronic low turnout for American elections both national and regional. The default position of this very large number of citizens is one of political passivity.
Second, during the past campaign season a large number of traditionally Democratic Party voters became disaffected. The party was essentially split by the Bernie Sanders challenge. When that proved of no avail against an entrenched leadership mindset more beholden to special interests then to the needs of the ordinary citizen, the party lost millions of votes. Some of these defectors probably became closet Trump supporters. Others voted for third party candidates or simply stayed home on election day.
You put all of this together with other voting variables such as gerrymandered voting districts, the usual barriers to minority group voting, and the distinct lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton as a candidate, and the mystery of Trump’s victory gets less mysterious.
Part IV – Conclusion
Actually, Donald Trump’s delusional worldview, and the reinforcing support given to it by his enthusiastic followers, does not prevent him from occasionally coming out with accurate observations. Unfortunately, these occur almost spontaneously, in what appears to spur-of-the-moment situations. For instance, in an interview with Bill O’Reilly aired just before the Superbowl, Trump responded to the assertion that Vladimir Putin was “a killer” by saying, “we’ve [the U.S.] got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?” This complemented his on-again – off-again desire to reach an accommodation with Moscow. Then, during Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, Trump questioned the continuing viability of the two-state solution (of course, without contextualizing the statement by pointing a finger at Israeli policies).
Yet these relatively rare public displays of reality-based insight are of little reassurance to the rest of us just because they are intermittent and apparently not characteristic of any disciplined analytical way of thinking. So, we are still left with guy who, for most of his waking hours, lives in his own world of “humbug.”
So what can we expect from this delusional, morally suspect personality who now occupies the White House? My guess is that as things get more contentious, Trump will retreat from the policy business of governing. He will turn that over (if he hasn’t already) to his accomplices: Stephen Bannon, Reince Priebus, and Vice President Pence. Having done so he will devote more and more time to his so-called reelection campaign where he can vent his spleen amongst the adoring crowds of supporters who serve, collectively, as a stimulus for the man’s immense ego.
Dysfunction In The White House – An Analysis (16 February 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Dysfunction
There is something both horrifying and fascinating about the behavior of President Trump, as we watch him fail to cope with – or perhaps even recognize – the differences between the no-holds-barred world he created for his campaign and the much more polite and temperate world expected of leaders of a constitutional government.
As a result, the present White House appears to be a dysfunctional place. Apparently neither President Trump, nor most of his staff, have considered that there are real differences, different rules of behavior, between private and public life. Maintaining the model of the abusive boss, the know-it-all CEO (Trump’s preferred modus operandi), has, in quick order, proved both inappropriate and self-defeating. Here then are some of the consequences:
— The president has refused to stop being the avaricious businessman and relinquish control of his assets. As a result he will soon be facing an increasing number of lawsuits brought by various ethics organizations charging that his refusal to place his holdings in a blind trust violates the “emoluments clause” of the Constitution. The contention is that this can only lead to “scandal, corruption and illegitimacy.”
— The rush to impose a ban on immigration into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries – imposed by executive order within ten days of inauguration – proved a sloppy piece of work. Trump simply assumed public opinion to be on his side and that that opinion could stand in for legal legitimacy. It didn’t work. The ban caused chaos and hardship, and quickly the courts temporarily set it aside as unconstitutional. The Justice Department lawyers, who had largely been kept out of the loop by the White House, did not have evidence that there was any real danger, historically or immediate, from immigrants of the countries cited in the ban. Pending a “total rewrite” or an appeal to the Supreme Court, Trump’s immigration ban is at a dead end.
— In the meantime, Trump has, in a manner that has become typical for him, attempted to delegitimize judicial opposition – opposition that anyone who is constitutionally savvy knows is solidly lawful. Thus his “so-called judge” statement. It may be an indication of the president’s enduring immaturity that he believes that anyone who stands in his way is a target for bullying and slander. And, indeed, in the private sphere where Donald Trump has been able to use his money to make his own rules, this tactic, apparently, did sometimes work. So, as if by habit, he has carried it over to the public sphere, where it is completely out of place and only makes him look like childish. Except to those adoring fans who were so visible on the campaign trail, his loose verbiage also makes Trump look like a “loser.” Trump’s own nominee for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, has described the president’s bad-mouthing the appeals court judge who suspended the immigration ban as “disheartening” and “discouraging.”
There is one other point that is to be made about this “so-called judge” episode. It has turned the judge involved, James Robart (who is himself a “mainstream” Republican), into a potential target for violence. Having used abusive language throughout his campaign and seen the emotions it aroused, Trump is very likely to be aware that he is risking incitement to violence.
— There are many other moments of Trumpian bluster, such as his yelling at the Australian Prime Minister during an official phone call, or his threatening to send troops across the Mexican border during a call to the president of Mexico. All of this might reinforce his image as a tough guy, but in the political and diplomatic world that now holds him in a spotlight, he starts to remind people of other past cases of bullies in power, most of whom happen to be fascists of the 1920s and ‘30s.
Part II – A Shift in Protest Personnel
As a result of Trump’s bravado, there has been a rapid shift in public activism from Right to what in the U.S. passes for the Left. Just as is the case with the populist Republicans, there is a segment of the Democratic Party base that feels disenfranchised. Some of them tried to do something about this by backing Bernie Sanders. But that was unsuccessful. However, with Trump’s victory, rightwing populism abated, and almost immediately, it was replaced by the inchoate mass of “Left” populists you see hitting the streets today. It is the Sanders folks plus a whole array of special interest groups who feel very threatened by an empowered Right. There is no reason to believe that the anti-Trump array is going to be intimidated and give up. Indeed, the Left activists’ challenge is to coalesce into a real united front.
That should be made easier if Trump stays true to form, lurching from one outrageous move to another. And all the signs point down that road. The “so-called president” has ratcheted up his deportation efforts, allowing individual immigration officials discretion to go after any immigrant without proper documentation no matter of what age or the length of time they have been here. This is the equivalent of giving an army open-ended marching orders, and it is bound to result in abuses of power. He has begun his wall project for the southern border – an effort modeled after Israel’s infamous and illegal “separation (aka apartheid) wall.” He has begun the gutting of environmental and consumer safety regulations, a move which will poison the air and water for the sake of greater corporate profit. He has started to deregulate the banks – a strategy that, historically, has always eventually led to economic crisis. And, of course, attacking abortion and LGBT rights is also on his agenda. There is enough here to keep millions agitated for at least the next four years.
Part III – Opportunities and Risks
Thus, even though we are still early in his administration, there is no sign that anyone can control the President’s addiction to gaffes. He is an immature, thin-skinned egotist, and in the end, this may well cost the Republicans dearly.
However, one does have to give President Trump his due. He has a really exceptional ability to stir up the American political scene. For progressives such agitation creates opportunities and risks. There is now an opportunity for a truly united front of progressives that can reform the Democratic Party and give us, in the near term, a viable alternative to the manic CEO and rightwing radicals now occupying the White House. On the other hand, there is the risk that the apparatchiks who now control the Democratic Party will misread their situation. They might well fail to understand the meaning of the Tea Party movement’s capture of the Republican Party, and resist meaningful reform of their own party. If they can get away with this, it will leave the progressives without a political home. That will make reclaiming a progressive future much harder and the reign of the Right much longer. We will have to wait and see.
Immigrant Irony – An Analysis (3 February 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Irony of Not Liking Immigrants
On 21 April 1938 Franklin Roosevelt delivered a speech to a very conservative organization named the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). He told them to “remember, remember always that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
FDR’s message confused and irritated his audience. On the one hand their being descended from America’s original European immigrants was the source of the DAR ladies’ pride and status. On the other hand, they saw most of the immigrants that came after their own ancestors as rabble. This was not a logical attitude; it was rather an emotional one suggesting that their self-image was built around an elitist in-group – out-group identification. Roosevelt could see past this. He understood that for Americans to turn their backs on immigrants was to turn their backs on themselves.
Despite the lack of logic, the attitude of the DAR ladies toward immigrants was typical of most American citizens throughout a good part of the 19th and 20th centuries. A consistent, if inaccurate, link was made between labor strife, political radicalism, crime and immigration. Many elected and appointed officials were just as wrapped up in this mindset as everyone else, and so the animus often found expression in the policies of the federal and state governments. The result was not only restrictive immigration laws, most often based on geographic origins, but also periodic deportations – not all of them legal.
Part II – Historical Ignorance
Not many of today’s Americans know this history. They do not realize that some of the feared immigrants managed to stay in the U.S. and become their own progenitors. The children of these “aliens” learned English and American ways, intermarried with the offspring of other immigrants, and settled down. Their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are as authentically American as members of the DAR, and thus they too can now get anxious and fearful over the present controversial round of alleged dangerous immigration.
Donald Trump and his cohort of xenophobes benefit from this historical ignorance. When you are caught up in the moment and told by politicians and other “talking heads” that Muslims from Yemen to Syria are heading your way with murderous intent, the instinctive reaction is to take a defensive position.
Who stops and puts things in perspective? Well, we might as well do just that: roughly 85,000 refugees and asylum seekers were admitted into the United States in 2016. About 10% of them were Muslims. Of those from the seven countries on Trump’s travel ban list, none of them has killed anyone on American soil. In 2017 an American citizen has a .00003% (roughly 1 in 3.6 million) chance of dying at the hands of a foreign-born terrorist. In the meantime 36 Americans per day die as the result of gun violence (this figure is from 2015 but nothing has happened to make it obsolete).
So Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration are not fact based. Therefore they are hardly likely to be effective. Indeed, if periodic violent incidents involving Muslims do occur in the U.S. it is the Muslim Americans who are most likely to be the victims. After all, many Americans are not only running around with heads full of frightening misinformation, but they are armed to the teeth. If Trump and his agents want to “protect the homeland,” they should start by reforming the gun laws.
Part III – Why Such Ignorance?
Why such prevailing historical ignorance and analytical impotence? Well, among other reasons, it is a fact that one can get a college degree in the U.S. without ever taking a history course, much less one in formal logic. Core curriculums have been gutted because students (now seen by educational administrators as “customers”) want vocational educations and don’t care much about what was once known as the “liberal arts.” Things are not much better in the grammar and high schools, where history tends to play a propagandistic role. The object here is to learn to love our country and respect its leaders.
Making us all learn the historical facts (real and not alternate) about what periodically ails us – like immigration, race, labor issues, unemployment, human and civil rights, etc. – would certainly help calm the waters and move citizens in the direction of rational awareness.
I would like to think that the million or so protesters who have hit the streets against President Trump’s actions know more, historically, about their causes than the average citizen. However, that is probably naive. The protesters are also wrapped up in the moment and emotionally moved. They are also probably more single issue-oriented than they appear.
Yet, they have a common enemy, and that lays the basis for a possible united front, which is a very good first step. That immigrants benefit from this collective action is only fitting because the United States is, as FDR said, a nation of immigrants. Finally, let’s hope that the grandchildren of those who today do manage to reach the “land of the free” remember the tribulations of their grandparents, and be willing to hit the streets with the next generation of protesters. Because these are struggles that never really go away.
American Zionists and the Issue of Immigrants – An Analysis (24 January 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Immigrant Issue
It is a strange story. American Jews (and I expect it is the case with other Jews too) act in solidarity with other discriminated groups only if they, the Jews, resist Zionist leadership. If they follow the Zionist lead, they usually do one of two things: passively support the discriminatory majority or stay silent. This behavior is particularly true when it comes to the issue of immigrants.
I can see the eye-rolling and disgust on the faces of the Zionists who might be reading this analysis. Their reaction is to be expected because it is based on a self-image built on ideology rather than on honest knowledge of their own history. When we look at that history, we see that U.S. Zionist organizations have always played to the prejudices of the power brokers. The results, in terms of ethics and values, have been deplorable.
Here is a telling historical example. In the years leading up to the U.S. entrance into World War II, there was a general consensus on the issue of immigration. Most of the U.S. population was opposed to letting immigrants, most of whom were refugees, into the country. David Schoenbaum tells us in his book The U.S. and the State of Israel that in 1938, the same year as the Nazi pogrom known as Kristallnacht, 83% of respondents of a U.S. poll said they opposed any adjustment of immigration laws to allow in more European refugees. A year later, a bill to admit 20,000 mostly Jewish refugee children, above the existing minimal quota, failed in both the House and the Senate.
In part, this anti-immigrant attitude was the result of a Great Depression-era frame of mind which assumed that, even as war loomed on the horizon, unemployment was a permanent problem. And, in addition, the opposition to immigration was a reflection of traditional racism against any peoples whose origins were not the same as the U.S. middle and upper classes – mostly English and northern European.
For American Jews, the immigration of refugees was a particularly important issue. After all, Hitler ruled Germany and he was imprisoning and killing all the Jews he could get his hands on. As a result, much of Europe’s Jewish population was scared and ready to leave. However, often the problem was not getting out of the country oppressing you, but finding a safer country to get into.
Under the circumstances, one would assume that American Zionist organizations and leaders would be strongly lobbying Congress for greater refugee access to the U.S. However, as Gulie Ne’eman Arad tells us in the book America, Its Jews, and the Rise of Nazism, they were not. Typical of their attitude was a statement made by the Zionist leader Rabbi Stephen Wise during a Congressional hearing in 1939: “I have heard no sane person propose any departure from the existing [immigration] law now in force.” A self-damning statement if there ever was one.
Along the same lines it is to be noted that a year earlier, in 1938, the Zionist leader in Palestine, David Ben Gurion, had, according to the historian Benny Morris in his book Righteous Victims, declared that “if I knew it was possible to save all [Jewish] children in Germany by their transfer to England and only half of them by transferring them to Eretz-Yisrael [Palestine], I would choose the latter.”
Why was this the Zionist attitude? The reason offered at the time by American Zionists like Rabbi Wise was that an influx of Jewish refugees would spark an upsurge in anti-Semitism in the U.S. – a pitiful excuse in the case of not allowing entry to an additional 20,000 Jewish children. However this assertion was really a cover for a more ideologically dictated position. The Zionists did not want Europe’s Jewish refugees coming to the U.S. They wanted them to go to British-controlled Palestine.
However, the British had severely limited immigration into Palestine so as to maintain the support of Arabs for the Allied war effort against Germany and Italy. So what did Wise and his fellow U.S. Zionists do? They refused to engage in any attempt to support American immigration reform, and instead agitated in Congress, and the press, for pressure on the British to change Palestine’s immigration restrictions. They did this even though it at once cut off a viable American refuge for European Jews and threatened to complicate the British war effort in the Middle East.
Part II – Zionists and the Immigration Issue Today
Fast-forwarding to the present, we see that immigration and refugees are again major issues for the U.S. Today it is not Europeans, Jews or otherwise, fleeing from fascist oppression. Rather, it is Mexican immigrants crossing the country’s southern border in an effort to escape the poverty and violence of their homeland. It is also peoples of Arab ethnicity fleeing from wars that were often started or prolonged by the United States.
In the U.S. we now have a president, Donald Trump, who was elected on an anti-immigrant platform reflecting a bigoted outlook reminiscent of the 1930s. Trump wants to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border as well as a ban entry into the country of people of certain religious and/or national backgrounds.
Reaction to Trump’s bigotry has divided the American Jewish community. Organizations of progressive Jewish activists such as If Not Now (which puts itself forward as a “Jewish resistance” movement) and the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom (which allies with local Muslims to oppose discrimination and hate), along with a number of Jewish Democratic politicians, have vocally rejected the president’s position on immigrants, refugees and Muslims. However, the reaction of the Zionist organizations has mostly been true to their history. For instance, Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, opposes the entrance of Syrian refugees “until we have a better vetting system.” One suspects this is an excuse because the present system is in fact, exhaustive. Now consider the more general position taken by the influential Abe Foxman, the “director emeritus” of the Anti-Defamation League. Foxman labels active resistance to Trump’s regressive policies, as well as any criticism of the positions taken by American Zionist organizations, as “nonsense.” Despite the fact that he, and other Jewish leaders, know that Trump “legitimized some of the ugliness,” Foxman wants to “enlist” the president in the fight against bigotry. He concludes that to “resist him and fight him is immature.” A similar position toward official bigotry was taken by Stephen Wise and the American Zionists in 1930s.
Part III – Conclusion
The safety and concerns of American Jews as regards bigotry and hate are not the primary interest of Zionist leaders like Klein and Foxman. Indeed, to the extent that such fears increase support for and dependence on Israel, these concerns are actually viewed as helpful. Nor do the Zionist organizations have any interest in opposing the U.S. government except on the command of the Israeli government. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has great regard for Donald Trump and high hopes that now the U.S. government will put a final seal of approval on Israel’s own bigoted treatment of the Palestinians and illegal absorption of the West Bank. So the American Zionist organizations are not going to actively oppose Trump and will pressure other Jews to either support him or to stay silent.
The truth is that the Zionists have been eroding away the humanistic aspects of Jewish values for decades – casting them aside in favor of worst sort of “identity politics.” As a consequence official Judaism, taking its marching orders from people like Wise and Foxman and Klein has remained stuck in an ethically deplorable rut.
A Future For The Democratic Party? – An Analysis (16 January 2017) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Democratic Party in Trouble
You would think that learning from experience is a common thing to do. But, for the Democratic Party’s leadership this seems not to be the case. After the landslide victory of Trump’s version of the Republican Party in the 2016 national election, it is fair to say that the Democratic Party is in big trouble. As Senator Bernie Sanders has observed, the party needs to reform. Among other things it needs to ensure that whoever is the head of the Democratic National Committee [DNC] is dedicated to growing the party in a pro-civil rights as well as populist way. The party also needs to break free of special interest money and do away with biased “super delegates” that subvert the nominating process. Sanders suggests a reform commission to look into implementing the necessary changes.
There are millions of local Democratic voters who agree with Sanders. I am sure that their local party officials have heard from a lot from them. However, to date none of this has transferred over to the party’s national scene. Indeed Democratic power brokers like Chuck Schumer in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi in the House, who should be discredited in the eyes of everyone who identifies themselves with the Democratic Party, are still in place calling the shots. And, it is almost certain that whoever becomes head of the DNC will be vetted by these obsolete leaders and will follow their lead. It is a formula for repeated political failure, but it has the sense of something inevitable nonetheless.
Part II – Contributing Factors
Why have things worked out this way? Here are some of the contributing factors:
— Both the Democratic and Republican Parties have evolved into bureaucratized organizations at once dependent upon the financial resources of special interests and mainly responsive to those interests’ needs. This has led both parties to pay more attention to the siren calls of powerful lobbies than the needs of local constituencies.
This fits with the fact that the United States is not a democracy of individuals so much as a democracy of competing interest groups. These interest groups range from conservative to liberal, and many play both sides of the ideological field by giving donations to both parties and their major political leaders.
— The concentration on special interests has been facilitated by the fact that, historically, many American citizens care little about politics. They know little or nothing about how the political system works, much less the issues and pressures to which it responds. Many do not vote. Those who do vote are only marginally more knowledgable than those who do not. This means the party system relies on relatively small populations of avid supporters
The entrenched nature of the party bureaucracies and the traditional indifference of a large part of the citizenry make the system very hard, but not impossible, to reform.
— It is the Republican Party’s structure, and not that of the Democrats, that has suffered the strongest assault over the past couple of years. This is so despite the fact the Republicans have paid more attention to capturing state governorships, legislatures and even town councils than have the Democrats. The assault has come from the so-called Tea Party, which has its own local and regional organizations imbued with a strong sense of mission. That mission is to minimize altogether government involvement in society. The Tea Party had grown disappointed and estranged from the traditional Republican leadership and structure.
— The basis for Donald Trump’s success was partially laid by the Tea Party’s willingness to abandon their traditional support for the Republicans and place their faith in Trump. Ultimately, what now survives of the formal Republican Party are those elements which are willing to ally with Trump.
— In contrast, the Democratic Party survives intact, having marginalized Bernie Sanders’s liberal effort to restructure it. Ironically, its structural survival is its greatest weakness. As a consequence it will just plod along, stuck in its rut. All things being equal this might condemn the Democrats to minority status for a long time.
— The only thing that might alter this fate is the catastrophic failure of Trump and his Republican allies – failure to such an extent that the Democratic party, at least temporarily, again appears as an acceptable alternative to a population scared for its future.
Part III – Republican Failure?
Actually, catastrophic failure on Trump’s part may occur.
This is because Trump, his Republican allies in the House and Senate, and the Tea Party are all determined to destroy a good part of the federal government’s social and environmental programs, as well as radically deregulate the economy. To this end the very first bill the Republicans rammed through Congress (it happened on 4 January 2017) was “one designed to roll back a range of environmental and consumer regulations.” The bill was appropriately named the “Midnight Rules Relief Act of 2017.” This bit of misguided legislation is only the beginning.
Regulations have a foundational reason for being, foundational because they serve as a check on the greed and larceny that, all too often, seem to lie at the heart of political and economic leaders. That does not mean that regulations should not be fair and efficient – carrying with them a minimum of red tape. However, to do away with them all altogether is, historically, stupid.
The economic and social history of 19th- and 20th-century American makes it abundantly clear that regulation is the sine qua non of modern societal stability. Don’t want discrimination based on race, religion, gender, and the like? Don’t want another economic depression? Don’t want adulterated food and drugs? Want safe transportation both on the ground and in the air? Want safe medical treatment? Want drinkable water and breathable air? Then you want, indeed you absolutely need, economic, environmental and social regulations.
Somehow President-Elect Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and their many rightwing associates are unaware of the historically established need for such action. In that part of their brains where the relevant historical facts should reside, these individuals have substituted neoliberal ideology – the same sort of outlook that brought you the 1929 Great Depression and other assorted woes. If our present crop of rightwing leaders get their way, then, sooner or later, we will be able to relive all that misery.
Then, without reforming themselves at all, the Democratic Party might once more win a national election — the hard way.
How to Destroy a Planet – An Analysis (23 December 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Planetary Destruction
There is more than one way to destroy the planet Earth. Enough nuclear explosions could do it, and rather quickly at that. But now that we are pals with Russia (and assuming president-elect Trump does not try to nuke China in defense of Taiwan) the potential for that level of carnage has lessened. Of course, the Pakistanis and Indians might go at it, but they only have the capacity to torch part of the planet.
There are other pathways to planetary destruction. The principal one, global warming, requires more time than a nuclear exchange for the consequences to be realized, but in the end, the planet would definitely become a disaster zone.
So, those critics of the next U.S. president who have been rightfully worrying about handing Mr. Trump the nation’s nuclear codes now have something else to worry about. The man is openly planning on leading us into a fatally overheated future.
Part II – Disarming in a Time of War
President-elect Donald Trump is ignorant of many things. Most of all he is ignorant of his own ignorance – a situation that often accompanies a grandiose estimation of oneself. One of the subjects on which Trump’s ignorance stands out is environmental protection – the rubric under which comes the effort to save the planet from global warming. This warming process is a scientific fact and the subject of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Under this agreement, 195 countries seek to reduce greenhouse gas emission levels. However, Mr. Trump, not to be deterred by either political or scientific consensus, has declared that global warming is “a hoax” perpetrated by environmentally friendly companies which seek to “make a lot of money.”
On the basis of this belief, the president-elect now prepares to institutionalize his ignorance. He will do so by radically cutting back the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, scrapping President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and deleting many other environmental regulations which Trump and his followers find “unnecessary.” Actually, taken as a whole, Donald Trump’s plans for the environment – that is, the planet’s environment and not just that of the United States – are the equivalent of disarming in a time war.
To lead this perverse disarmament effort Trump has chosen Myron Ebell, a “sound-bite artist” for tobacco, pesticide and fossil-fuel companies. Ebell has made a career out of undermining the regulations that get in the way of polluters “making a lot of money.” What does Ebell really know about global warming? Here is one of his learned judgments: “As for carbon dioxide it isn’t smog or smoke, it’s what we breathe out and plants breathe in. They call it pollution. We call it life.” It is a frivolous statement about a deadly serious subject. Of course, the excess CO2 that is in fact “pollution” does not come from your breath. It comes from the production practices of Mr. Ebell’s client industries.
Behind this flippancy stands a man who, in terms of the science, knows nothing about the subject but is driven by the conviction that regulation efforts in general are “just a pretext for expanding government” – a conventional conservative line.
Part III – Promoting Global Warming – A Crime against Humanity
The development of international law specific to crimes against humanity is ongoing. Today we commonly associate such crimes with acts of genocide, torture, enslavement, and so forth. However, the list of chargeable actions needs expansion.
In 1947 the United Nations gave an International Law Commission the task of “drafting a code of offenses against the peace and security of mankind.” The task was never definitively completed. However, given this wording, I think we can go beyond the usual notion of wartime horrors and genocides and consider harm to the planet as a whole.
A government that purposefully adopts policies that cause, among other things, (1) rising sea levels that will drown some island nations and destructively impact almost everyone living in low-lying costal areas (10% of the world’s population), (2) an increase in the rate and intensity of storms, floods and droughts, and (3) the jeopardizing of all those who do not have the ability to cope with consequences of extreme heat, is certainly a government that “endangers the peace and security of mankind.” It is a government whose leaders should be considered chargeable with crimes against humanity.
Part IV – Conclusion
The intent of Donald Trump, soon to be president of the United States, to cast off the 2015 Paris Agreement and purposefully pursue policies that ensure ever greater global warming is an assault on all of us. After all, given the long-range results of global warming mentioned above, Trump’s intent, carried through into action, is potentially more destructive in lives and property than the Holocaust, the civil wars of former Yugoslavia and the genocidal rampage in Rwanda.
Of course, global warming is a slower-moving catastrophe, the consequences of which can at present be ignored by most citizens whose concerns go little beyond their immediate economic desires. And by the time those consequences become too blatant to ignore, the criminals will either be dead, senile with age, or, perhaps, blaming their criminal behavior on “bad intelligence” as does George W. Bush in regards to his disastrous 2003 invasion of Iraq.
We can say with some certainty that those who voted for Trump never considered the criminal nature of promoting global warming. We can say with equal certainty that their grandchildren will have no choice but to do so.
Trump and the Jews – An Analysis (28 November 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Background
Before the year 1967 the political and social relationships of the American Jewish community were very different than today. Those relationships were based on simple and accurate logic. Jews in the United States were a minority. Their country of residence had other minorities as well, most notably the African Americans, who also had a long history of being discriminated against. Given these conditions, it made sense for the American Jews to make alliances with other U.S. minorities – a united front, so to speak – with the clear-sighted understanding that if one group’s rights were attacked, all of their rights stood in danger. The alliance proved beneficial, and many American Jews were involved in the the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
This era of mutually beneficial cooperation lasted until the year 1967. In that year the State of Israel, which had put forth the hubristic claim of being a “Jewish state” whose government had the right to speak for the world’s Jews, conquered territory from several of its neighboring states and then (1) refused to withdraw from most of that land, (2) began to move their own population into the conquered lands in violation of international law, and finally (3) began ethnically cleansing the conquered area of its non-Jewish population. This process was so blatantly illegal and racist in nature that almost all American minority groups protested against it (the only exception being right-wing Cuban Americans). Particularly strong protests came from African Americans.
At that point American Jews had an important decision to make. Should they maintain a principled anti-racist position which required standing apart from Israeli action and preserve their united front with other U.S. minority groups? Or should they abandon the united front strategy and cast their fortunes with their increasingly racist Israeli cousins?
Though it was predictably a tragic misjudgment, the American Jewish elite, and most of the Jews of the time who followed their lead, abandoned the anti-racist front, angrily turned away from those critical of Israeli behavior, and began supporting and rationalizing Israel’s war on the indigenous population (the Palestinians) of the lands they had conquered.
This situation has continued to the present day. And, during all this time, it seems never to have occurred to the American Jewish community that their bond with Israel has cost them exactly those domestic allies that they would need if hate groups – those who lump together Jews with other American minorities and detest them all – eventually found influence in Washington.
Part II – Enter Trump
And now that is what appears to be happening. Donald Trump is president-elect. An article in Haaretz describes Trump’s worldview as “reactionary, nativist, chauvinistic, anti-foreigner, anti-immigrant and mainly anti-Muslim.” This concoction is threatening to American Jews as well. One can see this by paying attention to some of the people Trump is now naming as advisors and cabinet appointees. People such as:
Steve Bannon – Trump’s “chief strategist.” Bannon is a leader in the so-called “white nationalist” movement and “the standard bearer” for racist, anti-immigrant positions. He is also an anti-Semite who, reportedly, does not want his children going to school with Jews.
Frank Gaffney – Trump is consulting with Gaffney on a range of national security appointments. The problem is that Gaffney’s view of the world is crazy. He is the founder of a think tank called the Center for Security Policy, which promotes such ideas as (1) president Obama is a “closet Muslim,” (2) the Muslim Brotherhood is “infiltrating the U.S. government at high levels,” and (3) Islamic religious law is “replacing American democracy.”
Jeff Sessions – Sessions is a senator from Alabama whom Trump wants to make Attorney General because, allegedly, he is “a world class legal mind.” He is also a known racist who, as a prosecuting attorney in Alabama, was denied a federal judgeship because of his racial insensitivity. What else can one expect from someone who thinks that “a white voting rights lawyer was a disgrace to his race.” The American Civil Liberties Union describes Sessions as “the senator with probably the most anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-child record in the Senate.”
Gaffney and Sessions might not be as obviously anti-Semitic as Bannon, but one has to understand that there is a threat of their acting so, or condoning such action, by virtue of their overall hostility to minorities.
Part III – Two Consequences
Trump’s election and choice of advisors have had two important consequences for Jews:
— The evolving social situation in the United States is now creating pressure on its Jewish community to move back to that pre-1967 position of a united front – the position that says an attack on the civil rights of one U.S. minority group is an attack on all of them. The need for such a position is so obvious that even the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, has responded to it. In a recent speech he declared, “We must stand with our fellow Americans who may be singled out for how they look, who they love, where they’re from or how they pray. … So I pledge to you … that if one day Muslim-Americans will be forced to register their identities, then that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.”
Unfortunately, Greenblatt’s position is not a unanimous one among American Jewish leaders. As the Jewish commentator Peter Beinart points out, “American Jewry’s two most influential groups [AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations] no longer take moral responsibility for the country in which their members live.” That is because they have chosen to become promoters of Israeli, and not American, interests. “The result is that America’s most powerful Jewish organizations … judge American politicians by one standard: Do they support the Israeli government no matter what?”
— The Israeli government and its settler supporters have come out in full support of present-elect Trump, thus revealing a willingness to, at the very least, turn a blind eye to the evolving anti-Semitic trends within the new administration. While this might seem crazy, there is in fact a method to this madness. Israeli journalist Yaron London explained this in a recent op-ed piece on Ynet: “a world view which supports white supremacy matches our [Israel’s] government’s interests.” Why so? Because “all forms of Zionism hold the perception that a certain extent of anti-Semitism benefits the Zionist enterprise. To put it more sharply, anti-Semitism is the generator and ally of Zionism. Masses of Jews leave their place of residence only when their economic situation and physical safety are undermined.”
Part IV – A Second Chance
American Jews now have a rare opportunity. They can realize where their real interests lie and act accordingly. And, as they always have, those interests lie in upholding the universal principles of civil and humanitarian rights. To not do so is to affirm their present alliance with a nation self-destructing on tribalism and racism.
The truth is that Zionism has turned out to be a tragic and potentially fatal mistake. Those who led the Jewish community to support Zionism tied the fate of the U.S. Jews to an apartheid political ideology that has isolated them from much that is decent and progressive in the world.
As problematic as it is, the ascendency of Donald Trump gives the American Jews a second chance to make the right choice, to join with their natural allies and fight for the equal rights of all groups. U.S. Jews should think long and hard about this, for it may well be that their second chance will also be their last chance.
Local Fear And Ignorance In The Rise of Donald Trump – An Analysis (19 November 2016) by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – The Thirty-Mile Phenomenon
The election of Donald Trump as president was motivated by a popular rejection of party politics as it had evolved over the decades. There was a rejection of politics that only responded to special interests and not to millions of increasingly disappointed and frustrated citizens. However, there was something else underlying this, and that was a prevailing despair as to how to change the system.
Most people who said they wanted change (with the possible exception of the Tea Party loyalists) apparently just sulked and waited for a “strong man” to come along and then, again apparently giving little thought to who this guy really was and what he really stood for, voted him into office. Why was there a passive acceptance of, first, a dissatisfying status quo and then, second, a very problematic agent of change?
One way of understanding this situation is to see it as a consequence, at least in part, of what I call the “thirty-mile phenomenon” – the fact that a majority of people, any people and not just Americans, can observe relatively accurately what is going on around them within a thirty-mile radius. This is where they live and work, where their friends are and the other people they interact with. If something unusual is going on within this zone, it is possible for an individual to “check things out” and make a more or less informed decision.
However, go beyond this thirty miles and things quickly get fuzzy. In this wider zone most people come close to “knowing nothing.” That does not mean they are stupid or incapable of understanding the outside world. It does mean that they are largely ignorant of it and therefore are dependent on various forms of media to inform them, perhaps reliably, perhaps not (Fox News comes to mind). As we have just found out, such dependence puts us all at great risk.
It may well be because of this ignorance that it took so long for anger at the status quo to build to a boil. That same ignorance can account for why Donald Trump was able to get elected while speaking nonsense, while presenting himself as someone who was literally the very opposite of who he really is, and while blatantly lying with shocking regularity.
Part II – Trumpian Misrepresentations
Edward Graydon Carter, a Canadian-born American journalist and editor of Vanity Fair has put together a list of Trumpian misrepresentations. I paraphrase some of them below. After each of Carter’s statements about Trump, I describe how it could be readily accepted by an ignorant public.
Carter: Only in America, a nation built on a history of immigration, could a man who married two immigrants—one of whom is alleged to have worked illegally when she first arrived—run on an anti-immigration platform.
— Trump can marry, and also employ, “his” immigrants as long as he promises to deport the millions of others who are the focus of local misconceived and irrational fears.
Carter: Only in America could a man with a legendary reputation for stiffing small-business owners and wage laborers be able to pass himself off as a champion of the little guy.
— Trump can “stiff small-business owners and wage laborers” in places like Atlantic City and Los Vegas, but this is largely unknown to the local voters in rural Iowa, Ohio and North Dakota. The result was that this particular bit of truth had almost no impact.
Carter: Only in America could a man who brags about groping and kissing women without their consent win 53 percent of the vote among white women.
— Trump can be an outspoken misogynist but that is not a significant drawback in areas where white women explain such action away by claiming that the “average” local white man behaves much like Trump. In other words, his behavior fits within their familiar understanding of the male world.
Certer: Only in America could a man who kept a volume of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside rule over the second-largest Jewish population in the world.
— That Trump has read, apparently uncritically, the speeches of Adolf Hitler should cause more alarm bells to go off than does his admiration of Vladimir Putin. But of course most locally oriented folks don’t care what their hero reads. The historical knowledge on this subject of those born after 1960 is probably too superficial to even allow a clear idea of what this choice of bedtime reading suggests.
Carter: Only in America could a man who thinks climate change is a hoax, and something invented by the Chinese, be put in charge of not only the Environmental Protection Agency but also our negotiations with other nations—at the most calamitous environmental period in the earth’s modern history.
— When it comes to global warming, it is very possible that, unless their local environment is noticeably impacted, most people shrug their shoulders and think that global warming is either untrue, exaggerated, or relevant to a future time that they can’t relate to. For, you see, localism operates in time as well as place. Most Americans see global warming as not relevant to their “now.” It is like the national debt – someone else’s future problem.
Part IV – Conclusion
Donald Trump has played to the average citizen’s fears of what is going on beyond their thirty-mile zone, and the feeling that whatever it is, it is bad and already irreparably invading their local neighborhood.
Specifically this translates into perceived threats to community self-identification, often tied to feelings of nationalism, and threats to economic well-being of people whose education and training cannot accommodate rapid technological development.
Political leadership not only did not seek to ameliorate the resulting unemployment, under-employment and fears of cultural change but rather, in the popular mind, the U.S. elites appeared to accept these problems as inevitable aspects of changing times. As a consequence, the local popular reaction, confused about real causes and real solutions, became open to exploitation.
Millions of Americans were obviously thrilled when Donald Trump appeared to acknowledge their fears and frustrations. Feeling that the worse is yet to come, they willingly ignored his Trumpian misrepresentations in the hope of salvation.