Donald Trump's last line of defense: Ramp up the "transactional antisemitism"

"An increased use of these kinds of fascist appeals shows how weak he is as a candidate and how scared he is"

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published August 21, 2023 5:45AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign event on July 1, 2023 in Pickens, South Carolina. The former president faces a growing list of Republican primary challengers. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump arrives at a campaign event on July 1, 2023 in Pickens, South Carolina. The former president faces a growing list of Republican primary challengers. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

They are going to attack.

Donald Trump is under siege. He faces 91 criminal charges and potentially hundreds of years in prison for his many alleged crimes in connection with Jan. 6 and his coup attempt. Trump and his forces will respond to this challenge to his power and authority. Just when their targets are tired and exhausted, they will attack — again and again and again.

The attacks will consist of racism, antisemitism, misogyny, disinformation, misinformation, violence, stochastic terrorism, fearmongering, white victimology and conspiracy theories. They will involve brute force.

The plans are open and public, lacking subtlety and guile.

The use of conspiracy theories and paranoia is one of the right wing's most powerful weapons in the campaign to keep Trump out of prison and take back the White House in 2025 with the goal of ending the country's multiracial pluralistic democracy. These conspiracy theories, and what Richard Hofstadter described in his seminal 1964 essay as "the paranoid style," have become much more complex and dangerous in the Age of Trump and this time of democracy crisis and ascendant neofascism.

In a 2019 interview with the Economist, Nancy Rosenblum and Russell Muirhead, authors of the book "A Lot of People Are Saying: The New Conspiracism and the Assault on Democracy," explained that:

What we're seeing today is something different: conspiracy without the theory. Its proponents dispense with evidence and explanation. Their charges take the form of bare assertion: "The election is rigged!" Yet the accusation does not point to any evidence of fraud. Or take Pizzagate, the claim that Hillary Clinton is running a child sex-trafficking ring in a pizzeria in Washington, DC. It doesn't connect to a single observable thing in the world — it's sheer fabulation. And in America, this new conspiracism now comes directly from the president, who employs his office to impose his compromised sense of reality on the nation….

The new conspiracism obliterates nuance and judgment and replaces it with a distorted unreality in which some things are wholly good and others (say, Hillary Clinton) wholly evil. This is its appeal. And something with such political force will be taken up everywhere by those who seek to abandon regular processes and disrupt established institutions, and especially by those who reject the idea of a "loyal opposition."

As I detailed in a recent series of essays here at Salon, because Trumpism, like today's Republican Party more broadly, is fueled by racism and white supremacy, antisemitism is quite predictably playing an increasing role in the right-wing's conspiracism and related fantasies of white victimhood and persecution. We see this in the right's obsession with nebulous forces such as "globalists" and "the deep state." Terms like "cultural Marxism" and concepts like "Critical Race Theory", "Black Lives Matter" and "Wokeism" are frequently demonized. Democratic Party fundraiser George Soros (who is a Holocaust survivor), is at the center of the QAnon conspiracy, which is a 21st-century version of Blood Libel against Jewish people.

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To that point, Donald Trump's campaign sent out a series of emails in rapid succession last week that are rife with such dangerous lies and messaging:

The pattern is undeniably clear.

The Deep State has done everything in their power to try and paint me as a villain – all while the REAL villains, nestled deep within the Washington, D.C. swamp, quietly get away with bleeding our country dry.

And now, it's being reported that I could potentially face 1,000 YEARS in prison.

The Deep State wants to make an example out of me…

…They want to show the nation that these are the consequences of choosing to put a political outsider in the White House.

This is ultimately about instilling FEAR in the public.

The fear that if you stand in the way of their Marxist agenda, then YOU could be INDICTED, ARRESTED, or IMPRISONED for your beliefs.

The fear that if you give the forgotten, hardworking men and women of this country a voice, then YOU could be made their Public Enemy #1.

Together, we will PEACEFULLY show the Deep State that their intimidation tactics cannot work on the American people.

No matter how much they attack our movement, we will NEVER SURRENDER our mission to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

Here is another example from later in the day on Thursday:

You may even be asking yourself, after FOUR unjust indictments, why do Crooked Joe and his Deep State accomplices continue to concoct these phony witch hunts when it only BACKFIRES?

Well, the sad truth is that these crooks, thugs, and Marxists truly believe America is not YOUR country, but theirs.

Ever since I rode down the Golden Escalator and promised to restore America's greatness and cast off the political ruling class that hates our country, the rabid Left has justified anything – truly, ANYTHING – in the name of "getting Trump."

And that's why they sincerely believe that they will get away with attempting to JAIL their leading opponent for LIFE despite committing NO CRIME.

To them, transforming America into a Third World tin-pot dictatorship is just part of the plan.

Because they are TERRIFIED to lose their grip on power like they did in 2016…

Friend, the America that you and I know and love is gone, and in its place now stands a country more like Stalinist Russia or Maoist China than our once free Republic.

But while Crooked Joe and the radical Left believe this is their country for the taking, I'm willing to bet there are more than 74 MILLION freedom-loving patriots ready to stand right by my side and tell them that WE WILL NEVER SURRENDER our country to tyranny! 

Last Friday, this Trump fundraising email emphasized the old right-wing McCarthyite (and antisemitic) trope of "the enemy within":

The United States government has recently condemned other countries for imprisoning their political opponents.

They've called those regimes threats to the core values of democracy.

But now, the United States is becoming one of those Third World dictatorships that criminalizes opposition to the ruling regime.

That's why I will continue to say that the greatest threat to America comes from within.

No one else in the world is doing as much damage to the bedrock principles of our Republic than the left-wing tyrants entrenched within the Deep State who are trying to interfere in our elections….

The following recent Trump fundraising email encapsulates his and the larger neofascist movement and white right's antisemitic attacks ("George Soros" and the "globalists") and how they leverage paranoia, projection, victimology, and the Big Lie.

So far, disloyal Republicans (RINOs) have only PLEDGED to spend $370 MILLION on their plot to sabotage us in the primary.

But that all changed at the July end-of-month fundraising deadline.

Right before the deadline, a nefarious group of RINO globalists officially raised $78 million to begin turning that plot into a reality.

They've shown that their $370 million plot is not just a threat. They are truly willing to spend more money than even George Soros to defeat us.

This news came just as Biden's weaponized Department of "Justice" issued yet another unlawful INDICTMENT of me as a completely innocent man.

Friend, we're being attacked from every side.

RINOs. Democrats. Globalists. They're all just one big UNIPARTY that's united behind a common goal of stopping YOU from having power in your own country.

That's why RINOs are willing to spend MORE THAN GEORGE SOROS to try and take me down.

Every dollar Republicans spend attacking me is a dollar given straight to the Biden campaign.

The truth is: they know that and simply do not care. . . 

. . . Because, at the end of the day, they'd rather see Crooked Joe in the White House than a political outsider who puts the people of our country FIRST.

These special interest globalists have made a fortune off of putting YOU dead last and selling out our nation to foreign countries like China.

These RINOs love to call themselves defenders of liberty – and yet, they choose to side with a corrupt president who has once again weaponized the legal system in an attempt to JAIL his single biggest opponent for a lifetime.

But fortunately for us, our movement is packed with over 74 MILLION patriots who will peacefully defend our God-given liberty and justice.

I asked Jennifer Mercieca, who is an expert on political rhetoric and speech, for her thoughts about Trump's emails and how they fit into his political project. She explained that Trump "relies on "us versus them" polarization appeals to separate Trump's followers from the rest of the country": 

He uses the rhetoric of conspiracy to accuse his opposition of corruption. He frames his opposition as enemies and hate-objects, who can and should be destroyed through violence. It is a very dangerous and very anti-democratic rhetorical strategy that has historically led to war and genocide.

He uses these strategies because it binds him to his base and makes them think that he is fighting their shared enemies. He also uses these fascist strategies because they enable him to dominate the political conversation.

That we're seeing an increased use of these kinds of fascist appeals shows how weak he is as a candidate and how scared he is of prosecution. On the one hand, a strong candidate would use the democratic language of persuasion, not the fascist language of coercion. On the other hand, if he were really the Ubermensch he pretends to be and he really was able to rid the country of corruption and destroy his enemies, then why hasn't he done so—eight years later? When Trump talks like a strongman, it just shows how weak he actually is.

Federico Finkelstein, who is the author of "A Brief History of Fascist Lies," made this intervention in response to Trump's fundraising attempts and their antisemitic and fascist messaging:

In fascism, extreme, almost pathological, paranoia was justified as a defense of the nation and the leader against an imagined conspiracy of existential enemies. From paranoid extreme ideas of the enemy within to the projection onto others of what Trumpism is truly about: an attack against democratic institutions and ideas.

Trumpism represents an alliance between conservative, populist and even fascist sectors and ideologues. We should expect this dangerous propaganda to continue if it is constantly normalized as a functioning part of American democracy. It is not.

I also asked John Roth, who is co-author (with Leonard Grob) of the book "Warnings: The Holocaust, Ukraine, and Endangered American Democracy" to share his thoughts about Trump's fundraising emails and their repeated use of antisemitic themes and tropes:

Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2019, then-US president Donald Trump pronounced that "the future does not belong to globalists. It belongs to patriots." Four years on, Trump's dichotomy between globalists and patriots has become darker and more divisive because it increasingly ramps up Trump's transactional antisemitism. Play the antisemitic card when its helpful to him personally.  Hold back when it's not.

Trump rails against "the globalist warmonger donors backing our opponents." Hitler was blunter.  He alleged that "international Jewish financers" would provoke world war. Trading off the Nazi trope that Jews seek world control and domination, the term globalist is conveniently general, vague, and ambiguous.  It does its work without mentioning Jews explicitly.  That's what makes globalist work well in Trump's dog-whistling vocabulary. Using it permits him both to deny and to advance the antisemitism that the canard conveys. 

Jews such as George Soros are Trump's emblematic globalists. What's more, Trump contends that Joe Biden is their servant.  The "quiet part" is all but said out loud: A Jewish conspiracy aids and abets Biden, who, in turn, betrays the heritage that properly puts America first by making the United States a White Christian nation.  It's nonsense, but dangerous, nonetheless.

Trump repeatedly says that he's the least racist or antisemitic person "you've ever encountered." That's a lie, but from Trump's lips to God's ear, what else is new?  

As "the walls close in" on Donald Trump, he and his agents and followers will only become more violent, racist, and antisemitic. Such an outcome is very predictable and in no way surprising or climactic; that makes it no less dangerous to the future of the country and its democracy and the lives and safety of the American people. To save American democracy, Donald Trump and the larger neofascist movement must be defeated at the polls, in the courts, and through direct corporeal politics across the country.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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