Donald Trump’s tumultuous campaign opened with an unrealistic and bigoted promise, devised to capitalize on American ethnic tension and middle class anger. For months, his only legitimate policy position was the deportation of Mexican illegal immigrants – immigrants who he deemed to be both rapists and murderers. Never mind the fact that from 2009-2014, there was a net loss of 140,000 Mexican immigrants and that illegal immigrants do not commit crimes at a higher rate than native-born Americans.
His second campaign promise was the “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Not only did this apply to incoming immigrants, but apparently, according to Hope Hicks, a campaign spokeswoman, it includes “everyone” – including Muslim-American citizens living overseas. Once again, Trump found a way to both galvanize angry white people and control the media cycle. This time, the promise wasn’t only offensive and racist, but wholly unconstitutional in nature.
Since June 2015, Trump’s campaign has been littered with rhetoric openly offensive to Mexicans, Muslims, veterans, Blacks, and women, among others. Trump looked to remove Judge Curiel, a man of Mexican descent, from his case, because he had “an absolute conflict” because he is “of Mexican heritage,” despite the fact that Mr. Curiel has lived his entire life in America. In response to John McCain’s harsh words, Trump lashed out, decrying his war hero status by stating that he only likes people “who weren’t captured.” Recently, Trump’s pitch to black voters included the comment that “you live in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs.” He concluded by asking “what the hell do you have to lose?” When a black protestor was beat at his rally, Trump argued “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up.” Finally, Trump, when speaking about women, explained that “you know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” And then came last Friday, and all the ugliness that’s followed.
Trump’s recent wave of offensiveness is only a small sampling of a vast ocean of bigotry. According to Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino President John R. O’Donnell, Trump once angrily claimed that “Laziness is a trait in blacks.” When asked about the book where the quote appeared, Trump relented and said, “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.” In a 1994 interview with ABC News, Trump claimed that “putting your wife to work is a very dangerous thing.” Never mind mind that Trump once exclaimed “black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.” Due to the insanity of a Trump candidacy, many of these facts and statements have been overlooked and forgotten by many, myself included. Despite the hatred and utter stupidity Trump spews, it took until now for me to truly be truly fearful of a Trump administration.
First he came for the Mexicans. I’m not Mexican, so I said nothing. Next he came for the Muslims. I, once again, am a not a Muslim, so I sulked and complained in silence. He proceeded to come for blacks and women. Once again, I said nothing. Next, he and his supporters came for the Jews. As a Jew, I could no longer stay silent.
“He’s not actually anti-Semitic,” is the point many of my fellow members of the tribe made to me. “It’s just his supporters, not him,” they claim. Never mind that he stole and tweeted a photo from a Nazi website of Clinton in front of a Star of David and a wall of money, branded her as “the most corrupt candidate ever.” Never mind that when meeting with Republican Jews, a minority group within the Jewish community, Trump claimed that he is “a negotiator, like you folks.” He went on, asking “Is there anyone who doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? Perhaps more than any room I’ve spoken to.” Concluding the bizarre tirade, Trump echoed many of his anonymous Twitter followers who proclaim the stereotypes Jewish Zionist fiscal and political control, telling the crowd that “You’re not going to support me, because I don’t want your money. You want to control your own politician.”
Although this speech to Republican Jews took place months ago, it is only now, in the early fall, that my fears of Trump’s anti-Semitism have begun to take hold. Growing up, I dismissed anti-Semitism, even in numerous Hebrew school or secular high school lessons on the Holocaust. I was, however, never taught about the anti-Semitic red-lining policies which were enforced, in this country, up until the 1960s. I never knew that an anti-Semitic underbelly of this country still flourished in the shadows of Twitter and Reddit. This has been a rude awakening from my dream of full assimilation and inclusion in this nation.
Since Trump’s normalization of bigotry, Jewish journalists have been attacked mercilessly on Twitter by his followers, with comments such as “Listen kike, crying wolf is the quickest way into the oven.” Jonathan Weisman, a New York Times writer, was harassed with numerous tweets, the worst of which can be summed up by an anonymous follower offering “I found the Menorah you were looking for.” The Menorah was a candelabrum made up of the number six million – the number of Jews killed in the holocaust. Despite my whiteness, it has been made overtly clear that I am, as a Jew, wholly unwelcome in Trump’s vision for an ethnically nationalist America.
“There are two countries on earth where it is completely safe to Jewish,” my mother also told me, proceeding to read off the short list of the United States and Israel. My family has lived in the United States for generations, coming from the Eastern European hotbed of Judaism and anti-Semitism. Personally, outside of snide comments, I have never experienced violent anti-Semitism, although I’m sure my grandparents and other family members did. The Trump campaign has started as a crusade against the non-whites of this nation – a group, which I, despite my previous understanding of my place in America, am clearly not a part of. I have rarely felt otherized – a privilege which I am grateful for and for which I can thank my non-outwardly Jewish appearance and name. The Trump campaign has effectively normalized bigotry and racism, a combination which has made me question my place in this nation, despite the fact that I am deeply proud of being an American. The Trump campaign does not represent the United States, but it has normalized behaviors and attitudes of bigotry which threaten to rip us apart at the seams.
This long-winded tirade has lead me to my main question: if you fit into any minority group – Jewish, Muslim, Mexican, Black, Muslim, disabled – or if you are a woman, how can you justify a third party protest vote? The idea of a Trump presidency is genuinely terrifying. Hate crimes against Muslims have increased along with Trump’s poll numbers – as have ad-hominum attacks on Jews. This piece is aimed at the Johnson and Stein voters – voters who proclaim Trump disgusting, but not enough to ensure he isn’t elected, apparently. Inherent in that vote is a degree of privilege. Privilege to know that even if Trump is elected, you won’t feel the direct results.
I know you don’t like Clinton. You may even hate her. You think she’s dishonest, a career politician, corrupt, a bad decision maker, and so on and so forth. You have every right to believe so. But as a member of a minority group against which bigotry has been normalized, I am begging you to reconsider. I know that many of you will say that voting for Johnson or Stein is the only way for you to maintain a clear conscience. Let me turn this around. Voting for a third party based on your own sense of moral superiority while ignoring the very real peril of minorities is not my understanding of maintaining a clear conscience. By putting your own selfish moral superiority first, you allow for the possibility of an America in which anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, racism, and misogyny are normalized and expected. I understand many of you hate Hillary Clinton, but please, put your own priorities aside and think of your minority friends – friends who, in this election, desperately need you and your vote to prevent the return to an America where we are not welcome.