FB-posting of Seth Millstein, July 26, 2016
Prior to the Republican National Convention, I had received a couple of anti-Semitic comments from Trump supporters on Twitter. Just a few here and there, but they stood out in my mind. I’d never actually been called a kike until then, and that seemed significant.
The Trump campaign itself has been playing footsie with white supremacists for a while. There are tons of examples of this, but Google “trump star of david,” or “trump david duke,” or “trump white genocide” if you want to get an idea. I don’t think Trump himself is anti-Semitic, but he certainly seems to be okay with anti-Semitism. More importantly, anti-Semites and neo-Nazis almost universally love Trump. This is well-documented.
That’s what was on my mind when I watched Trump speak at the Republican National Convention last week. As it progressed, a feeling of dread and horror set in, not unlike bad trip on psychedelics. The language that Trump used was fascistic by any definition of the word: His constant, repeated appeals to “security” and “law and order;” his claims that foreign elements are responsible for making the country less safe; his use of lines like “I am your voice,” which sent a chill down my spine.
The crowd reaction wasn’t much better. The angier and more growly that Trump got, the more the thunderous of an applause he received. Every single time he mentioned immigrants, the arena erupted in boos. Hearing a six-year-old girl behind me chant “BUILD THAT WALL!” with the fury of God in her voice is a moment I won’t forget anytime soon.
The next day, I tweeted that being in the convention hall was one of the most chilling experiences of my life. I didn’t think much of it, because most of my tweets disappear into the Internet and are quickly forgotten. But my post was retweeted by Chris Hayes, an MSNBC anchor with half a million followers, so it quickly reached a wide audience.
Within five minutes — and I’m being literal, because it didn’t take me more than five minutes to order that cup of coffee — my inbox was flooded with hundreds of hideous and threatening anti-Semitic comments. I mean that — hundreds. More than one person invited me to jump into an oven. A few said that I was right to be scared, and that the worse was yet to come. Someone posted a lovely animated gif of a giant machine herding Jews into a corner, incinerating them, and displaying an enormous swastika.
To be clear, I don’t care if people harass me on the Internet. I can handle that. What terrifies me, though, is that these people are flocking to Donald Trump like bees to honey, and just as importantly, everything Trump has done indicates that he is okay with having their support. This man has a legitimate shot at being the next president, and having a president who is okay with neo-Nazis gives them a lot of freedom to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.
I don’t like Hillary Clinton, and I never have. She’s not nearly liberal enough for my tastes, she’s not a very good politician, she surrounds herself with toxic advisors, she’s needlessly intransigent on things that don’t matter, she’s not going to do anything to close the wealth gap, and so on. If you put the name of every federally-elected Democrat into a hat and pulled one out, I would almost certainly rather they be the nominee than Clinton.
But the fact of the matter is that Clinton, as of now, is the only alternative to a Trump presidency. I don’t like the two-party system, but I know history, and with the polls where they are now, either Clinton or Trump will be the next president. Until Jill Stein or Gary Johnson cracks, I don't know, 30% in a poll (neither has hit 15%), this will be the only rational conclusion to draw.
And this brings me to #BernieOrBust. I understand that a lot of my friends loathe Hillary Clinton, and don’t feel like they can bring themselves to vote for her. By voting Clinton, the argument goes, they are condoning both her and the two-party system itself. Furthermore, a Clinton presidency would do nothing to change or diminish the corruption and plutocracy that permeates both the government and our political system as a whole. Better to vote third-party and send a message to the political establishment.
Here’s the thing: As a Jew, I don’t have the privilege of getting to “send a message” by voting for Jill Stein (who, by the way, I agree with on a lot more policies than Clinton). I don’t have that luxury because sending that message directly increases the odds of a Trump presidency, and a Trump presidency is a direct threat to me and all of the Jews I know.
You may think I’m overblowing that risk. But I’ll point out that in the late-19th century, Jewish intellectuals spent decades warning that a genocide was coming. Those warnings were brushed off, because hey, that could never really happen. And then the Holocaust happened, and a third of Jewish population was wiped off the planet.
I saw someone make this same argument to a non-Jewish friend of mine on Facebook. My friend replied that it made perfect sense that Jews were terrified, and that she herself would feel frightened if she were Jewish. And yet, this friend made clear, she still intends to vote for Jill Stein.
And that breaks my heart. Because what I hear when I read that is, “I’m okay risking a Trump presidency because I’m not Jewish, so I know I’d be safe. But hey, good luck, Seth.” And that doesn’t feel good at all.
Adolf Hitler rose to power because the extreme left in Germany viewed moderate leftists, not fascists, as the true enemy. This splintering of the opposition is the only reason Hitler was able to do what he did. I see a similar thing happening amongst many of my friends right now, and it scares the living shit out of me.
I’m not going to tell anybody how to vote. But to my white friends who are willing to risk a Trump presidency, either by staying home or voting third-party, I would ask that you ask yourself this: If you were Hispanic, would you feel that you had this luxury? Be honest. If you were Jewish, would you conclude that the risk of a Trump presidency was one you could afford taking in order to send a message? And if the answer to either of those questions is no: Do you have any Hispanic, or Jewish, or Muslim, or black friends who you care about?