With less than a month to go before the presidential election, Donald Trump has resorted to flinging about conspiracy theories to account for his increasingly likely loss. His latest tirades against the so-called rigged system have struck an especially venomous tone, as he warns his jeering crowds of a “global power structure” ruled by “international banks” and other “financial powers” who work hand-in-hand with Hillary Clinton to control the government. Put aside the obvious lunacy and impossibility of these claims and all that is left standing is a man essentially saying that a small, elite class of people run the world and ought to be taken down. Jews hearing this language recognize it as the words used by anti-Semites for centuries to accuse them of greedily monopolizing the world to their advantage. To his crowds, hell-bent on securing a Trump victory, the message is clear: Jews could steal the election.
These coded warnings are not the Trump campaign’s first brush with anti-Semitism. The examples are myriad — the photo of a Star of David superimposed on a picture of Clinton with stacks of money, Donald Trump Jr.’s inappropriate mention of gas chambers, the reluctance to denounce anti-Semitic white supremacists like David Duke, and of course, the campaign’s tacit approval of the alt-right’s hateful online presence. The latter cannot be trivialized as a mere fringe group of ignorant, unenlightened cyber-bullies thanks to the Donald Trump campaign, which has so normalized these abhorrent individuals that they are beginning to infect the mainstream with their hate.
For Jewish millennials like myself and other young people, this is our first real interaction with overt anti-Semitism. We are experiencing it in ways we never expected, from memes being co-opted by the alt-right to use as hate symbols to swastika signs being waved at political rallies. Anti-Semitism on college campuses has also seen an alarming spike, with the Anti-Defamation League reporting that the number of anti-Semitic incidents at colleges in 2015 is nearly double what it was in 2014. But NYU students are familiar with blatant prejudice as well, such as the anti-Semitic protesters who frequent Washington Square Park. When our generation looks to political leaders and their rhetoric, there can be no tolerance for anti-Semitism whatsoever. The stakes are too high, the tensions too sensitive.
I eagerly anticipate election day, and I have faith that the decent, democratic side of America will prevail over the dark, deplorable side. Even so, it remains a national disgrace that Donald Trump was ever given the platform he has to spew hate and conspiracy theories. His coalition poses a threat to our most storied institutions; that of a free press, of a democratic system, of a nation that eschews bigotry, not one that embraces it. In the end, history will prove Donald Trump and his supporters wrong.
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A version of this article appeared in the Monday, October 17th print edition. Email Annie Cohen at [email protected]