November 18, 2018

Will the last Trump ad be the final straw?

Ads have names.  The famous political ad linking Barry Goldwater to a nuclear bomb was called “Daisy Girl.”  Ronald Reagan’s ad branding him as the candidate of optimism was called “Morning in America.” Remember the one showing Sen. John Kerry as an out-of-touch elitist?  That was “Windsurfing.”

The ad the campaign of Donald J. Trump just dropped this Saturday will have a name too. No matter what its creators try to call it, it will always be known as “Protocols.”

The ad warns voters that an international cabal of bankers and financiers, working in cahoots with Hillary Clinton, has conspired to keep average Americans down. The images the ad chooses to show to depict this cabal are of financier George Soros, Federal Reserve Chief Janet Yellen and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. They are all Jewish.

“It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class,” Trump intones over these Jewish faces.

Oy. F___king oy.

“The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” was a turn-of-the-20th century anti-Semitic pamphlet about a fictional world cabal of “international Jewry” that conspired to run the world.  It peddled the exact same falsehoods as the Trump ad. And its impact was lasting: the fake idea has inspired anti-Semites and their movements from the KKK to Hitler to David Duke and his alt-right patsies. 

The association of the “Protocols” ad to the themes and ideas of the original Protocols was enough to alarm the Anti-Defamation League, a strictly nonpartisan human rights organization.

“Whether intentional or not, the images and rhetoric in this ad touch on subjects that anti-Semites have used for ages,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a press release.  “This needs to stop.”

Other commentators have not been as charitable as the ADL in giving the campaign the benefit of the doubt. Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, who first brought the ad to attention, called it a series of dog whistles to the alt-right. The average viewer might not know Soros, Yellen and Blankfein are Jewish — even though their names together sound like a Beverly Hills law firm — but the websites of the alt-right universe feature their names and heritage prominently. They are the poster children of all things greedy and Jewish in that twisted universe.  The ad wasn’t just a dog whistle to motivate these people to come out of their holes and rally around Trump, it was, as Sen. Al Franken told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “a German Shepard dog whistle.”

The Trump campaign is calling that charge ludicrous. Its spokesman, Jason Greenblatt (Jewish Insider has dubbed this “The Battle of the Greenblatts”), said “Protocols” builds on themes that Trump has been speaking about since the beginning of his campaign. He then rested his case on the go-to excuse the campaign gives every time it distributes clearly, blatantly anti-Semitic tweets, imagery and ideas: That Trump couldn’t possibly be anti-Semitic because his daughter and son-in-law are Jewish, and that no one loves Israel more.

Trump likely isn’t anti-Semitic – but there is no denying his campaign is.   It provides intellectual support and cover for America’s most fervent Jew haters. “Protocols” mainstreams blatant anti-Semitic stereotypes and ideas.

The fact that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is Jewish, is part of the team pushing “Protocols” doesn’t mean it’s not anti-Semitic. It just means Kushner is ruthless. Appealing to the basest instincts of the base is the way to bite into Hillary’s white voters, and Kushner will do anything — anything — to win.  He is likely gambling that in the long run the harm will be negligible, the payoff huge. In the short run, it has made Jared Kushner — not Trump’s own sons — the closest Trump advisor.  Daddy likes winners, and in Trump’s world, a winner is someone who backstabs his own People for a few more votes in Pennsylvania.

Could it backfire?

The Jewish votes that matter most are in the states that most matter: Florida and Ohio.  There aren’t enough Jews in Virginia, North Carolina, New Hampshire or Colorado to make a difference. But in Florida and Ohio, a healthy Jewish turnout for either candidate can have an impact on the national election far out of proportion to the small percentage of Jews in this country (which, by the way, is 2 percent).  What if these Jewish voters see this ad and say, “Too far!”?

You would think ads like “Protocol” would finally convince the 10-15 percent of Jewish Trump voters to change their minds.  Long ago most of the leading Jewish Republican activists, pundits and leaders saw where Trump’s campaign was going and pulled their support.  But the Jews I know who are still voting for Trump have made up their minds, and nothing is going to persuade them otherwise. For every vile thing Trump does, they will point to something they find equally despicable in Hillary.  For every argument against Trump’s foreign policy abilities, they have one against Barack Obama.  I suspect these hardcore Jewish Trump voters are more bent on punishing Obama than defending Trump.

For them to change their minds, Trump would literally have to broadcast some of the most vile anti-Semitic ideas ever mainstreamed to the American public.

Wait. No. He just did that. It’s called “Protocols.”

If that doesn’t wake up the rest of the Jewish electorate, nothing ever will.


Rob Eshman is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Journal.  He is on Twitter and Instagram at ” target=”_blank”>@foodaism.