Post-traumatic Stress and the Democrat Base
October 27th, 2006
Why do so many American Jews reflexively support Democrats? A Jewish liberal I know has a daughter who loves art history. She felt very happy to be admitted to one of the best Art History graduate programs in the country. But after the first few weeks she left, because of the pervasive anti-Semitism she experienced there. And yet, her father is just as liberal as ever. Sure, he understands intellectually that the Left has spread anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on US college campuses. But he cannot learn from his own experiences. Why?
A Jewish college friend told me once that his grandmother had been knouted to death in Poland. A knout is a thick bullwhip that can kill at a single stroke. Such a family trauma sends waves of pain down the generations. Polish Jews had many experiences like that, culminating with Auschwitz. At some point it no longer makes sense to talk about the pros and cons of politics; the pain imprinted generations ago is too great.
Today’s Democrats make the right sounds for many Jews—they are rhetorically liberal, which sounds warm and reassuring. Historical family trauma makes many Jews vulnerable to con artists and demagogues. They don’t even bother to ask if they’ve chosen the right side. The ultimate irony is that the only source of publicly accepted anti-Semitism today comes from straight the Left, which is rarely challenged on liberal college campuses. In Europe, some socialists are now classic anti-Semites. The Left has flipped against Jews, but most Jews still haven’t caught on.
Many Jews (and African-Americans, too) are easily manipulated by the Left. Many Blacks have traumatic family histories. The NAACP smeared George W. Bush in 2004 by associating him with the murder of a Black man who was dragged to death by a pickup truck in Texas. The criminals were properly caught, prosecuted and convicted. But the NAACP had no interest in assuring its supporters that the time of the KKK is over. Democrat operatives have no guilt about associating a good and decent president with the worst kind of racist crime. The NAACP commercial worked, because the target audience has been so utterly burned by their family histories. Truth didn’t matter. Lies won.
Such trauma must command our respect and sympathy. And yet, if people live in the past they cannot make reasoned choices in the present. The idea that US conservatives resemble Nazis is pathetic; it is only made possibly by sheer ignorance of history. The formula “Bush = Hitler” is delusional to the point of madness; on the contrary, “Bush = FDR” or “Bush = Churchill” would be much, much closer to the truth. It is utterly despicable to use such lies to manipulate innocent people. And yet, the Left routinely propagates bizarre ideas with great success. If the Left could not lie through its megaphone of the media, it would lose all its power.
The massive irony is that the United States is as different from Poland sixty years ago as any place in the world could be. No country in the world has been kinder and more generous to history’s victims of all races and origins. We have immigrants, traumatized in their native lands, living in this country from Cuba, From Vietnam, from Africa, from Eastern Europe, from Cambodia and from China. Among many others.
In the last fifty years America’s generosity has applied to Blacks as well. Yet many American Jews cling to their family fears from long ago. Political demagogues play upon that in the foulest way. What turned me against the Democrats more than anything else was the Party’s unbelievable manipulation of traumatized Jews and Blacks. This is as immoral, even evil, as political behavior gets. The demagogue wing of the Democratic Party stands convicted by its own behavior. Nothing the GOP has ever done even comes close.
The irony is that today’s Democrats are using demagogy, guilt by association, and emotional manipulation in precisely the same way Jim Crow demagogues used to. There is little difference between the race-baiting of the old Dixiecrats and the race-baiting of Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan. It’s not surprising: Sharpton learned his political gambits from the Jim Crow experience. Only the victims have changed. Bill Clinton learned his sly good ole boy mannerisms from his mentor J. William Fulbright, and today’s liberals fall for them just as Southern whites used to. Only the sides have changed.
No doubt some liberals really believe “Bush = Hitler.” To them any slander is justified. Those people are delusional; they are not in touch with reality. They confuse friends and foes, and end up in effect supporting people like Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad . Such deluded people end up flipping right and wrong, moral and immoral, pro and con, reason and irrationality. Morally, they belong to the side they have chosen.
Many American Jews have a love for Israel, just as Irish-Americans have a special love for Ireland, and English-Americans for England. Before World War I and II, the British Foreign Office was accused of manipulating American public opinion on behalf of Britain. Today American Jews are accused of giving too much support to Israel. But there has never been any problem with American citizens advocating for countries in danger of being crushed by their enemies, especially when the moral differences are so crystal clear. Americans of English descent had the right to make Churchill’s case against Hitler. Jewish Americans should feel no guilt about making the case for Israel against the likes of Hamas and Hezb’allah. It is their right as citizens, and their duty morally.
Tenured professors at places like the Kennedy School of Government are now accusing American Jews of having too much influence on behalf of Israel. Notice well: it’s not the Republicans who are making those allegations. It’s the pervasive leftistists of Kennedy School of Goverment ilk. But American Jews seem to live with a great blind spot, even when leftist betrayal of democratic and humane values happens over and over again over a hundred years. Jews on the Left end up taking the side of suicide killers in Tel Aviv.
There is no rational argument for such blindness.
The solution to trauma is compassionate therapy, but nobody can give therapy to millions of people living in the past. All we can do is remind them of the reality right in front of their eyes. Just look at reality, and think. Don’t be stuck in the past. Don’t be triggered by reflexes. Open your minds. Think, think, think.
Today’s Blacks are not living in the Jim Crow South, and Jews are not living in Poland. That was then. This is now. Think.
Living in the past means getting suckered by political con artists. It is hugely self destructive. Just think. Open your mind. Think.
James Lewis is a frequent contributor to American Thinker.