Skip To Content
Back to Opinion

Donald Trump, Anti-Semitism and the New Socialism of Fools

Here’s a little history for those just joining us: What’s long distinguished anti-Semitism from most other forms of oppression is that this form of bigotry presents itself as an anti-oppression ideology.

The anti-Semite doesn’t (in his or her view) hate Jews because ugh, Jews. Rather, the anti-Semite believes Jews to be an all-powerful force, a tyrannical aristocracy. Anti-Semitism, to the anti-Semite of the left or the right, is a social justice movement. A noble cause.

There’s been much talk, among Jews combatting anti-Semitism, of the ways the left these days refuses to include anti-Semitism among the forms of bigotry that are deemed worth combatting. The left, goes the thinking, either views all claims of anti-Semitism as surreptitious pro-Israel advocacy, or views Jews as too privileged to be oppressed. I promise I have on this, but that’s it for now, and, again, I highly suspect this isn’t the first you’re hearing on the matter.

What I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere, but what needs our attention, is the way racism – that is, the bigotry white people express towards people of color – has, in 2016 America, come to resemble anti-Semitism. Because, gah, it has! That is precisely what we’re seeing!

As Filipovic’s tweet suggests, the new bigotry isn’t resentment at perceived ‘hand-outs’ but, rather, at achievement.

It’s important, though, when discussing white resentment*, to keep the following in mind: Just as anti-Semitism isn’t actually a response to Jewish wealth or power, nor is this new racism, which presents itself as a punch up, actually all that much of a response to a new order where people of color are, all of a sudden, richer and more powerful than white people. That’s… not what’s happening. Rather, it’s that white people have cherry-picked examples, some stronger than others (a black president, a big deal, at least symbolically! a bunch of think-pieces about black student protestors at elite colleges, maybe not representative of much!) and decided that Times Have Changed.

And so we’re left with a new racism – a newly election-winning racism – that understands itself as a fight against the “privileged”, a category that’s long since stopped just meaning the “rich,” but that now evidently includes (from Trump supporters’s perspective) not just Jews but all non-white, non-Christian Americans, all of whom get to fall under the euphemism of “urban elites.”

And then there’s that mantra of the moment, the White Working Class. An expression that may have once referred to a demographic, but that’s come to suggest that the working class is only white, and that white people (even rich ones) are the real victims as well as (conveniently enough) the only real Americans. Rather than addressing concerns of the entire country, Team Trump opted to go full Tumblr-identity-politics with this. So it’s not just that white working-class Americans have certain concerns, some of which had been overlooked. It’s that their issues are the real identity issues, speaking callously about their plight the real microaggressions. So now, thanks to a Trumpist racist victory, we have to have this national soul-searching about how white Americans have been wronged.

*White male resentment, it’s tempting to say, but it’s complicated.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at [email protected]. Her book, The Perils of “Privilege”, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in March 2017.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning journalism this Passover.

In this age of misinformation, our work is needed like never before. We report on the news that matters most to American Jews, driven by truth, not ideology.

At a time when newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall. That means for the first time in our 126-year history, Forward journalism is free to everyone, everywhere. With an ongoing war, rising antisemitism, and a flood of disinformation that may affect the upcoming election, we believe that free and open access to Jewish journalism is imperative.

Readers like you make it all possible. Right now, we’re in the middle of our Passover Pledge Drive and we still need 300 people to step up and make a gift to sustain our trustworthy, independent journalism.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Only 300 more gifts needed by April 30

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.