Globalist vs. Nationalist
One consistent theme of Trump’s rhetoric is the disparagement of “globalists.” In his final campaign ad before the 2016 election, Trump criticized “those who control the levers of power in Washington, and … the global special interests.” Images of dollar bills and Wall Street appeared. The only people shown in the ad were Jewish: Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve Bank; Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs; and George Soros, an investor and prominent Democratic donor (more on him later). At a rally last week, Trump fully embraced the rhetoric: “A globalist is a person … not caring about our country so much,” Trump said. “I’m a nationalist.”
Trump’s suggestion that globalists wield outsize power in finance and government, and that they are opponents of America’s true patriots, as Ben Zimmer has written, adds to a long history of similar claims. And although Trump himself has not connected the term to Jews, he is employing language used by others who have. Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, for example, suggested that Jewish “cosmopolitans” were too connected to “bourgeois Western influences” and not connected enough to Soviet culture. Search on Twitter, and you’ll quickly find globalist used as a synonym, or a derogatory adjective, for Jew.
“I’ve been called out in hundreds of newspapers in the last month as being anti-Semitic, because I talk about a global, corporate, combine,” the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones complained in 2016. That, he insisted, was unfair. In the same segment, he claimed that the Emanuel brothers head the “Jewish mafia in the United States. They run Uber, they run the health care, they’re going to scam you, they’re going to hurt you.”
Read: How Trumpian nativism leads to anti-Semitism
The investor, activist, and donor has become a popular target for conservatives, who portray him as a shadowy financier funding Democrats’ efforts against the president. Soros, a Holocaust survivor, was recently accused, without evidence, of paying protesters to attend rallies against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, organizing the caravan of several thousand Central American migrants making its way slowly through Mexico, and occupying the State Department.
Last week, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida tweeted a video suggesting Soros was paying members of the migrant caravan—and soon thereafter, the claim found a supporter in Trump. Gaetz later told The New York Times that he was simply asking questions, and acknowledged that he had the facts wrong.
Soros is also a favorite target of the former Louisiana Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. A 2016 post and radio broadcast on Duke’s website criticized “Zio George Soros”—Zio is a slur used against Zionists and, more broadly, Jews—for donating to Trump’s Republican primary opponents. He called Soros’s actions “controlled opposition” and claimed that Jews such as Soros fund both Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans. White nationalists such as Duke use Soros to illustrate their conspiratorial beliefs that Jews are secretly controlling the American political system.