2016: The Year America Noticed AntisemitismBy Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon | January 24, 2017 | Flashpoint 41
The 2016 election was notable in more than a few ways. One of them was a heightened focus on the troubling rise of antisemitism in the United States—a phenomenon that has been evident throughout the Western world for at least the entirety of the twenty-first century. In 2016, however, the antisemites opened a new front. For the first time in decades, overt political antisemitism appeared on the national scene from forces who identified as part of America’s political right. Though small enough to qualify as a potentially troubling curiosity, these forces played a considerable role in the story that the mainstream press wanted to tell. The established media thus chose to downplay the tens of millions of decent, hardworking Americans rallying behind Donald Trump’s candidacy to focus obsessively on a fringe movement—that Trump repeatedly condemned—who took pride and joy in employing antisemitic images, languages, and memes, allegedly on his behalf.
One media darling was the old-school white supremacist David Duke—a man whom the GOP has publicly rejected numerous times over the past few decades, including his moment of peak popularity in the early 1990s. Duke, despite reemerging as a media favorite upon announcing his support for Trump (support that, once again, Trump repeatedly repudiated), ran a dismal seventh in his 2016 bid for a Louisiana Senate seat—suggesting a far greater interest among America’s news editors and producers than among Louisiana’s voters. Another was the younger, more media savvy Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute (NPI), “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” Spencer, who had labored in inconsequential anonymity prior to 2016, understood that the path to notoriety was paved with Nazi symbolism—which he dutifully trotted out whenever the cameras were rolling.
The centerpiece of the media’s attempt to slander Trump, however, was the amorphous, poorly understood, “Alt-Right,” an ill-defined presence on the Internet that appears to specialize in composing Holocaust-themed hate mail, directed primarily at Jewish journalists who express opinions with which Alt-Righters disagree. Many such folks cheered Trump’s candidacy, responding gleefully to his evisceration of political correctness and his flouting of selected norms. Though Trump himself repeatedly repudiated these fringe supporters, distanced himself from them, and did nothing explicit to encourage them, their affinity for his candidacy was central to the story that the mainstream media, progressives, and Democrats (but we repeat ourselves) wanted to tell. To them, no amount of repudiation, and no evidence of noted Klansmen, Communists, and apologists for terrorism expressing comparable support for Hillary Clinton, much mattered. The establishment imperative of branding Trump “unacceptable” had to be upheld independent of the evidence, and the ability to cast fringe support truly worthy of the term “deplorable” as representative of one-quarter of the country (as Clinton famously did), fed the moral superiority of those in greatest psychological need of declaring themselves morally superior.
As any competent fact-checker could have verified (and many did), Trump’s distaste for white supremacists, David Duke in particular, and hatemongers of all stripes, is hardly of recent vintage. Aside from a lengthy career history of integrating previously segregated facilities as soon as he bought them, Trump expressed his aversion to racial divisiveness and supremacism most clearly during a previous foray into politics. In 2000, after competing briefly for the Presidential nomination of the Reform Party, Trump quit the party because “[t]he Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani…. This is not company I wish to keep.” Unlike his progressive critics, Trump has thus long correctly seen little difference among the leftist identity-obsession of Lenora Fulani, the paleoconservative antisemitism of Pat Buchanan, and the segregationist white supremacism of David Duke. And there is little indication that Trump’s aversion to these folks or their causes has waned since 2000; notwithstanding myriad press reports describing Trump as heir to the Buchanan wing of the Republican Party, and Buchanan’s own endorsement of Trump, Trump never reversed his earlier assessment of Buchanan—much less of Duke.
Throughout the 2016 election campaign, however, Trump made his antipathy for the progressive worldview clear—and the progressives returned it in kind. Because contemporary progressives view themselves as the sole arbiters of virtue, they had to pitch Trump’s disdain as inherently racist. They orchestrated a vicious slander campaign to that effect. They began as soon as Trump declared his candidacy with a scathing criticism of U.S. immigration policy. By now, the lie that Trump called all Mexicans rapists has been repeated so often that it has become progressive gospel. In point of fact, the sole passage incorporating the words “Mexico” and “rapists” was:
When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.
Twisting Trump’s words, however, could only take them so far. Donald Trump was hardly an unknown quantity. He had been a celebrity for decades before entering politics. He had worked, very publicly and very happily, with—and tangled with—members of every conceivable ethnicity. He moved comfortably in liberal Hollywood, lived in liberal New York City, and fought to drop racial and religious barriers at his Florida resorts. It was one thing to convince people of the racism animating Mitt Romney, a classically soft-spoken, Mormon businessman unknown outside of selected circles. Convincing them of the secret racial animus of an outgoing, gregarious man they’d been watching for decades was another matter entirely. Most Americans saw through the establishment smokescreen. Progressives bought their own fright-night propaganda hook, line, and sinker—and in the process, terrified themselves and their friends.
 See e.g., Adam Nagourney, “Reform Bid Said to be a No-Go for Trump,” New York Times, Feb. 4, 2000, http://partners.nytimes.com/library/politics/camp/021400wh-ref-trump.html
 Ian Schwartz, “Trump: Mexico Not Sending their Best: Criminals, Drug Dealers, and Rapists are Crossing the Border,” RealClearPolitics, Jun. 16, 2015, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/06/16/trump_mexico_not_sending_us_their_best_criminals_drug_dealers_and_rapists_are_crossing_border.html.
Bruce Abramson is the President of Informationism, Inc., Vice President and Director of Policy at the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.
Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic, Chairman of the Iron Dome Alliance, and a Senior Fellow at the American Conservative Union’s Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy.