Trump’s words come directly from the audio of a speech that he delivered in Palm Beach about a global conspiracy, after which he came under heavy attack for employing the kind of words used in the Protocols of Zion. “This is an anti-Semitics ad,” wrote Josh Marshall, “every bit as much as the infamous Jesse Helms ‘white hands’ ad or the Willie Horton ad were anti-African-American racist ads. Which is to say, really anti-Semitic.” Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released a statement that said: “We denounce, in the strongest possible terms, the use of contemptuous and historically anti-Semitic tropes in the recent campaign ad of presidential candidate Donald Trump. References to ‘the establishment’ and a ‘global power structure,’ juxtaposed over images of Jewish public figures, create thinly-veiled allusions to centuries-old anti-Semitic propaganda. This latest ad is, regrettably, part of a pattern of the use of such words and imagery that has been repeated by the Trump campaign over many months.”
Indeed, this is not the first time that this has been a problem in the Trump campaign. A number of journalists have documented the close connections that have emerged between Donald Trump and the white-nationalist groups who are part of what is euphemistically called the “Alt-Right.” These organizations have heard the words that he utters as speaking directly to their concerns about the threats that face white Anglo-Saxon America. Trump and his campaign are aware of this passion for his campaign, yet they have done little at any point to pull back from these kinds of incendiary statements. Nobody was surprised when the Ku Klux Klan’s official newspaper endorsed Trump with the banner headline—“Make America Great Again!”
When CNN Anchor Jake Tapper confronted Trump months ago about the endorsement of David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Trump simply refused to condemn him. He told Tapper he didn’t know who Duke was, or the kinds of organizations he was associated with. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he insisted. Although he later repudiated the endorsement, it wasn’t until his initial stubbornness, something of a dog-whistle to those groups, was out there. The Twitter campaign for Trump has been driven by an energized army of anti-Semitic and white nationalist writers who have unleashed their venom on Jewish journalists and filled social media with hateful and threatening words. His campaign has retweeted tweets from these sources and sometimes used visual images from their camps.
There were many moments in the past few decades where Republicans hoped that they could peel away the Jewish vote from the Democratic Party. Starting with Ronald Reagan, there was an ongoing effort, particularly by neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, to find wedge issues like Israel that would allow for a shift in partisan loyalty. Although there were a few elections like 1980 where there was some movement of Jews from blue to red (Reagan won 39 percent of their vote, the best since Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, who won 40 percent), overall this ongoing campaign has been a failure. The predictions of a conservative moment for Republicans with Jewish voters have been overblown. George W. Bush tried to do this around national security following 9/11, while Mitt Romney hoped that Jewish unease with Barack Obama’s policies toward Israel would lead to an exodus. All of them were wrong. Obama won about 69 percent of the Jewish vote in his campaign against Romney. American Jews have remained firmly within the Democratic camp, one of the party’s most loyal constituencies.