Critics of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee have long contended that the lobbying group puts Israel’s interests before America’s. AIPAC’s invitation to Donald Trump to speak at its annual conference next week in the face of his bigoted comments about Muslims and Mexicans and endorsement of violence at rallies suggests that the organization has now forgotten to take account of America’s interests at all.
Trump’s rhetoric is not just another candidate’s speech. Abe Foxman, the former head of the Anti-Defamation League, gets straight to the point. After Trump asked that crowd in Florida to raise their right arms and promise to vote for him, Foxman said: “It is a fascist gesture. He is smart enough — he always tells us how smart he is — to know the image that this evokes.” Trump’s promotion of violence and his open bigotry against Muslims and Latinos add to Foxman’s dangerous picture.
The Reform Jewish Movement made a feeble effort to excuse AIPAC’s invitation, citing the organization’s standard policy “to invite all the viable candidates for president.” The Reform Movement’s hint that it will protest against Trump is not enough.
AIPAC expects some 20,000 people in the audience at this year’s conference. Trump’s performance is predictable. He will tone down his rhetoric, profess his love for Israel, mention his Jewish son-in-law, make lame jokes, and leave at least some thinking that they can work with him. Cable news, even the supposedly liberal MSNBC, will cover Trump’s speech, probably live, and most of the commentators will note that he seems to be mellowing. With every such speech, and each new television interview, Trump’s racist views become more legitimate — a plausible alternative perspective, a bit odd, but let’s give it a chance.
Trump will probably not win the election this year, although we’ve had to add that “probably” in the past month or so. But Trumpism is now part of the political landscape, and it is not going away soon. What happens when the next recession pushes unemployment up to 8 or 9 percent, and all those people who are (understandably) angry that their wages have stagnated for decades are earning nothing at all?
Trumpism needs to be delegitimated. So far, his bigotry has advanced due to what Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, calls “media malpractice;” television has given him several times the coverage of the other candidates combined.
Enough is enough. Some Republicans, politicians and commentators, have already said they will not support Trump in the general election. These are the same people who have let their party slide toward Trumpism over the years, though they are now making what seem to be tough decisions.
And what about AIPAC? Does it truly want to give yet another national stage to violent, dangerous bigotry?