A Test for the Anti-Trump Movement

In the week leading up to the presidential election, like hockey players who refuse to shave during the playoffs, the women of the Weiss family lived in their “Pussy Grabs Back” T-shirts. For months, our family texts had buzzed day and night with emoji-laden reactions to the latest Trump outrage…

Bari Weiss writes:

The political stupidity of embracing Odeh is plain. What better ammunition could there possibly be for a White House all too keen to dismiss a genuine grassroots movement as paid professional protestors and anti-American anarchists than the public participation of a bona fide terrorist? If the anti-Trump movement is going to stand for tolerance, genuine liberalism, civility, and decency—everything we disdain Trump for disdaining—Odeh and her ilk can have no place in it.

But there is a deeper, darker point here beyond strategy: It concerns the alarming cheapness of Jewish blood. A movement that has so much to say about the value of black lives, of transgender lives, of women’s lives, of Latino lives, of Muslim lives, of the lives of the disabled and the poor and the weak, but becomes mealy-mouthed and contingent about the lives of Jews when those Jews happen to live in the land of Israel should make any person of conscience question the sincerity of that movement.

Indeed, what’s perhaps even more disturbing is the increasing tendency on the part of Jews to silence themselves on these fundamental moral matters to fit in or to avoid accusations of being soft on Trump. On this, our leaders must do better, even though it will surely mean fewer likes and retweets from popular progressives. It’s incumbent upon those who assert themselves as representatives of the Jewish community not to paper over this disturbing hypocrisy—especially if what they are trying to do is convince amcha that it’s still in their best interest to be at the anti-Trump table.

Somehow it seems that Jews are always the ones being asked to check their identity at the door in movements driven by identity politics. We may assiduously follow the “two-thirds and 51 percent” rule, but our partners often do not. If asking for something so minimal—to disassociate and condemn a woman who murdered innocent Jews—seems impolite or greedy, then perhaps the compromise we have made is rotten.

It would be a fatal error to assume that the only voters that the anti-Trump movement will lose will be some Jews. However, it is an easy one to make.

When you are active in a political movement, the only people you tend to encounter are your sworn enemies and your devoted supporters. It becomes very easy to anathematize and turn your backs on those who don’t agree with you. They’re the evil Trump supporters, at least by default, after all.  They’re more than made up for by the crowds of energized, angry people who agree with you in any case.

Your support base shrinks, but you don’t notice it at all.

Then, suddenly, it is election time, and you lose. You can’t understand why. Fox News and Breitbart must be to blame. Those who were once on your side, but who criticized you, are the real villains. In fact, you’re the victim of a conspiracy. Democracy has failed.

This is not a fantasy of the future. It is precisely where the UK Labour Party – now trailing the ruling Conservative Party by 18% in the polls, having just lost a Parliamentary seat which it held since the 1930s – finds itself.

In electing Jeremy Corbyn, a politician from the extreme fringes of the Labour Party, many supporters believed that they were ushering in a new era of open and honest politics. Nobody really cared about his long-standing association with Irish terrorist politics, which included standing in silence for dead terrorists, idolizing Castro and Chavez, and praising Hamas and Hezbollah as his “friends“, after all. These stories were hardly news, and didn’t really come up on the doorstep when Corbyn was a backbencher.

All that has changed in the last year. Corbyn’s extreme politics has destroyed the British Labour Party.

The lesson for the anti-Trump movement is clear. Just because the protesting crowds do not presently appear to be diminished doesn’t mean that such alliances are not deeply damaging the movement. If you only see your die-hard supporters, you miss the ones sneaking out at the back.

There’s another question to be answered. Why does the anti-Trump movement appear to care so much about putting extremists at the head of its movement? Is the coalition so robust, does it need to be so broad, that it includes terrorists? Is the best repost to Trump’s outrageous general conflation of Muslims with terrorism to promote a terrorist?

The answer to that question is important but unpalatable. The keenness of the leadership to bring these people into the political mainstream is greater than their desire to see Trump out of the White House.

Even if that is so, certainly, some Trump opponents won’t mind. But in that case, some may ask, would the triumph of a politics – which is supposed to against hatred and discrimination but palpably is not – really be that much worse than Two Terms Trump?