The premise of the title above has nothing to do with Israel, or any perception of political power possessed by Jewish Americans. Rather, it's a discussion of a double-standard that I see, as a Jewish American and political writer, between the use of racism, versus anti-Semitism, in American politics. In 2014, I wrote a piece titled Ferguson and Race From White America's Perspective, If It Switched Places With Black America, and was invited by Marc Lamont Hill to discuss my article on HuffPost Live. In The Times of Israel that year, I wrote a piece titled What if American Jews faced the African-American experience in 2014? When the uproar over a mosque near Ground Zero caused unfettered Islamophobia, I tried to imagine how I'd feel, and wrote a Jerusalem Post op-ed titled What if they opposed a synagogue? Recently, I appeared on CNN New Day with Victor Blackwell to discuss how Hillary Clinton's white privilege allows her to escape endless controversy.
Therefore, let's discuss political parallels within the context of roles being reversed. Had Hillary Clinton called Jewish children "super predators," echoes of the Holocaust (of the six million who perished, 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered) would be part of the uproar from such a statement. As Auschwitz survivor Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier testified during the Nuremberg Trials, "One night we were awakened by terrifying cries. And we discovered, on the following day, from the men working in the Sonderkommando-the 'Gas Kommando'-that on the preceding day, the gas supply having run out, they had thrown the children into the furnaces alive." Thus, within the psyche of the Jewish community, the Holocaust is an open wound, and anti-Semitism in any form is a reminder of what could take place, if left unrestrained. Like Armenian Americans who are commemorating the Armenian Genocide this month, victims of genocide often times view politics in the shadow of past slaughter and bloodshed.
The psychological and emotional scars from Auschwitz, and centuries of persecution before Auschwitz, have made Jews sensitive to even the slightest attempt at demagoguery.
Why this sensitivity doesn't exist in progressive politics today (especially in regard to the Clintons), when such tactics are used against black citizens, is a conundrum. Like the Jewish experience, African Americans have for centuries endured persecution; a horrific reality of American history. In 1895, Ida B. Wells writes in The Red Record that after a black man was found not guilty, "This did not suit the mob...He was seized and hurried off to a convenient spot and hanged by the neck until he was dead for the murder of a woman of which the jury had said he was innocent." For a nation with a criminal justice system that has for centuries targeted black citizens, it's amazing to see Hillary Clinton's PAC take more prison lobbyist contributions ($133,246 to $21,700) than Jeb Bush's PAC, and yet still receive the majority of the African American vote.
I discuss Clinton's prison lobbyist donors in the following YouTube segment.
Therefore, what if Jewish Americans had suffered from the policies of Bill and Hillary Clinton? Had Bill Clinton locked up enough Jewish Americans leading to almost half the prison population being Jewish, and the First Lady championed these policies, the context of Jewish history would make it impossible for them to get the majority of the Jewish vote. As stated by The Los Angeles Times in 2001, "more federal inmates were added to prisons under Clinton than under presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan combined." Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, wrote in The Nation that "When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world...African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison."
Ultimately, my goal in writing this is simply to highlight what I think would happen, if policies advocated by both Clintons decimated the Jewish community, as they did with the black communities in the U.S. Also, how would the Jewish community react to surreptitious anti-Semitism?
For example, in 2008 Harvard sociologist Orlando Patterson stated Hillary Clinton's 3 a. m. ad against Obama contained a "racist sub-message." As Professor Patterson states in The New York Times, "In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within."
Imagine if Clinton's 3 a. m. ad used imagery conveying Jews couldn't be trusted in times of crisis. The Dreyfus Affair would come to my mind, if this type of imagery targeted a Jewish candidate being a threat, or untrustworthy, because he was a Jew. Again, as Professor Patterson writes regarding Clinton's 2008 political ad, "The danger implicit in the phone ad -- as I see it -- is that the person answering the phone might be a black man, someone who could not be trusted to protect us from this threat."
Also, Hillary Clinton's staff circulated a photo of Barack Obama in African attire, hoping to sway voters by utilizing racism and Islamophobia. You think I'm exaggerating? David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, is quoted in The Guardian in 2008 stating the photo was "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election." Mr. Plouffe also stated "It's exactly the kind of divisive politics that turns away Americans of all parties." Had this type of propaganda been used against a Jewish candidate, the political dynamic would likely have been different.
You'll never hear about 3 a. m. ads, or photos utilizing Islamophobia against Obama in 2008, from leading progressives. Expect MSNBC's Chris Hayes to care more about Susan Sarandon possibly not voting for Hillary, than Hillary's use of racism in the past as a political tool. Many pundits simply don't care that in 2008, The New York Times wrote "Mr. Clyburn added that there appeared to be an almost 'unanimous' view among African-Americans that Mr. and Mrs. Clinton were 'committed to doing everything they possibly can to damage Obama to a point that he could never win.'"
Recent events have also compelled me to write this piece. It's apparent that both Clintons can act with impunity towards the voting demographic they owe everything to, without revolt or mainstream condemnation; and even with full support from many leading pundits.
When a racist joke is made before the New York Primary, just days after Bill Clinton sparred with Black Lives Matter protesters ("You are defending the people who killed the lives you say matter," said Clinton to Black Lives Matter) and only months after Bill Clinton apologized for mass incarceration, something is dangerously wrong with Democratic politics. One can only imagine what would have happened politically to Bernie Sanders, if he acted in this manner.
Perhaps as a white Jew, I have the luxury to make these observations, without needing to abide by "political pragmatism," but there's nothing pragmatic about FBI investigations or Clinton's negative favorability ratings in every national poll. I explain in this YouTube segment how the Clinton campaign views the FBI's email investigation. I also highlight in this YouTube segment why Bernie Sanders is infinitely more qualified to be president than Hillary Clinton.
No doubt, the arguments presented here will be distorted by some, and manipulated by others, especially because few people in politics care to scrutinize their own political party. Sadly, these issues are also tools for hate-filled people to further their own agendas. As for my writing, the usual ad hominem attacks against me can't erase history, or Hillary Clinton's "abysmal" racial justice record, and racism against Obama in 2008.
Of course, I'm only voting for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and I view his arrest as a civil rights activist in 1963 to be a stark contrast to Clinton's history regarding race. When looking at Clinton's record from a different perspective, I feel that had she utilized anti-Semitism, rather than surreptitious racism, this behavior might have made Democrats think twice about backing such a candidate.