The US presidential race is President Barack Obama’s political legacy. Depending on who succeeds him, that legacy will either fade or become the new normal.
To understand what he has wrought, a good place to start is with the man running to Obama’s left: Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The socialist from Vermont knows how to play to the crowd. Sanders knows that the people captivated by his tales of avaricious bankers aren’t too keen on Jews either.
And as a Jew, he’s cool with that.
Sanders’s courtship of Jew-haters in a staple of his campaign. The depth of his efforts was made clear at the end of a campaign event at the Apollo Theater in Harlem last Saturday when an audience member got up and began spewing anti-Jewish slanders.
Sanders doesn’t have a problem telling bigots off. He did just that at another event when a questioner asked a question he deemed anti-Muslim. Sanders is an unstinting champion of gay rights and black rights. So if he wanted to tell off a Jew-hater, he could have done so easily.
In the event, the questioner rose and said, “As you know, the Zionist Jews – and I don’t mean to offend anybody – they run the Federal Reserve, they run Wall Street, they run every campaign.”
Weathering a chorus of boos from his fellow audience members, the questioner then asked Sanders, “What is your affiliation to your Jewish community?” Sanders could have told the questioner to take a long walk off a short pier. He could have told him he’d rather win without the support of bigots.
He could have used it as a teaching moment and told his audience that millions of Jews have been murdered because of the lies the questioner just repeated.
Instead, he called him “Brother” and told he needed to hide his hatred better.
“No, no, no, that’s not what you’re asking,” Sanders insisted.
In other words, talking about Jewish bankers is not the way to go.
Sanders said he is proud to be Jewish, got the applause, and then changed the subject from the socially acceptable Jewish bankers to the socially unacceptable Jewish Israelis.
Although the questioner was talking about Jews in America, Sanders said, apropos of nothing, “Talking about the Middle East and Israel, I am a strong defender of Israel, but I also believe that we have got to pay attention to the needs of the Palestinian people.”
If that wasn’t enough, Sanders’s staff reportedly approached the man and told him to meet with Sanders’s communication director after the event concluded. In other words, not only did he not stand up to the anti-Semite, Sanders went out of his way to make the Jew-hating bigot feel loved and respected.
Sanders’s embrace of an out and out anti-Jewish bigot was not surprising. A consistent goal of Sanders’s campaign has been to court leftist anti-Semites.
Last month, Sanders was the only presidential candidate to reject AIPAC’s invitation to speak at its annual convention.
Last week, he told the New York Daily News that the IDF killed 10,000 innocent Palestinians in Gaza during Protective Edge in 2014, (the actual number was fewer than a thousand, and Hamas claims it was around 1,500).
When his slanders caused an outcry, Sanders shrugged his shoulders, winked and then pretended to correct himself while spewing still more inflated statistics. In so doing, he continued his public fight with Israel and the Jews in America who support it.
Then there are his Jewish campaign officials.
They hate Israel.
Sanders’s director of Jewish outreach is Simone Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a prominent anti-Israel, pro-BDS activist. Among her greatest achievements, last year she published an expletive- filled post on her Facebook page describing how much she hates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
And Zimmerman is not alone. Daniel Sieradski, who manages the Facebook page “Jews for Bernie,” is an anti-Israel activist.
By hiring anti-Israel Jews to serve in key Jewish positions in his campaign, Sanders signals to the anti-Semites that they have a friend in him. He and his Jewish campaign officials are not the bad “Zionist Jews.”
Sanders and his Jewish professionals are the good anti-Zionist Jews whom anti-Semitic leftists can embrace and so prove they aren’t bigots despite the fact that they think a Jewish conspiracy controls the galaxy.
Sanders isn’t empowering anti-Semites because he necessarily hates Jews himself. He may actually like Jews.
He is doing this because he is a populist demagogue.
Sanders isn’t in the race to solve his supporters’ problems. He is in the race to tell them whom to blame, whom to hate. He caters to their hatreds.
Sanders is the legacy Obama has given the Democratic Party.
Eight years ago, to get elected to the presidency, Obama had to pretend to be a moderate. He dismissed the importance of his longstanding ties to terrorists like William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. He pretended away the significance of his intimate relationship with his Jew-hating preacher Jeremiah Wright and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Obama insisted that he was a unifier, not a divider, and a star struck media supported his propaganda.
Obama abandoned his promise of moderation immediately upon entering office. Over the past seven years, he has turned Americans against one another. Racial tensions are higher than they have been since the 1970s. Conservatives and liberals share less and less. Moderates have all but disappeared.
Indeed, one of Obama’s main accomplishments within the Democratic Party is the destruction of the moderate Democratic camp.
When he entered office, there were 54 moderate Democrats in Congress. Today only 14 remain.
Sanders, whose campaign slogan is “revolution,” is proof that Obama has transformed the Democratic Party. Without Obama, Sanders would have remained a quack from Vermont.
The Republicans have also been profoundly affected by Obama. Indeed, today the party is at war with itself.
The first product of this war is Sanders’s Republican counterpart, fellow populist Donald Trump.
Like Sanders, Trump has based his campaign not on offering solutions to America’s problems, but on telling his supporters who is to blame for their misery. Whereas Sanders blames the bankers, and wink, wink, nod, nod “the Zionist Jews,” Trump blames the Mexicans and the Chinese.
To the rapturous applause of frustrated and angry supporters who believe the political class couldn’t care less about them, Trump says that the Chinese and the Mexicans are the reason the US economy is sluggish. So Trump will stick it to them.
And the reason the Chinese and Mexicans are running circles around America, he says, is because the political bosses let them. Trump will stick it to them too.
If Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same populist, bigotry-enabling coin, Ohio Gov.
John Kasich and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton are two sides of an opposing coin. Like Sanders and Trump, Clinton and Kasich offer little in the way of policies – although to her shame, Clinton has embraced Sanders’s radical economic and social positions in the hopes of luring away economically illiterate millennial voters.
Kasich, for his part, runs as the anti-Trump. Trump is a demagogue who channels hate. Kasich is a demagogue who sooths voters by presenting himself as a gentle, slightly dotty uncle.
Clinton’s and Kasich’s campaigns are predicated not on their ability to galvanize voters but on their capacity to secure the support of their respective parties’ establishments. Clinton, to all intent and purposes is the Democratic establishment.
So she is also the front-runner in the race.
Kasich has no path to victory in the primaries. He remains in the race because he believes that an establishment desperate to retain control of the party will anoint him the nominee.
His expectation is not unreasonable. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has indicated that the nominee will be one of the three candidates running – meaning that Kasich is very much a contender despite the fact that he remains in fourth place in a three-man race.
This then brings us to the last candidate running – Sen. Ted Cruz. According to CBS News and The Washington Post, Cruz stands an excellent chance of blocking Trump from securing the nomination on the first ballot of a contested convention and then winning the nomination on a second ballot.
Cruz’s knowledge of the political process is not surprising. He is the product of the Tea Party.
The much maligned Tea Party has been demonized as anti-intellectual and demagogic.
But the Tea Party movement, which arose as a protest movement against both Obama’s policies and the Republican leadership that failed to block them, was the most intellectual, substantive protest movement in a generation.
With their focus on substance, Tea Party organizers made the conscious decision not to accept a leader and run the risk of descending into demagoguery. They preferred instead to keep their focus on substantive policy initiatives and positions.
By focusing its critiques on both Obama’s policies and on the Republican leadership’s failure to block them, the Tea Party became the bane of both.
As a product of the Tea Party movement, since entering the Senate in 2013, Cruz has maintained a laser like focus on the rules of process in order to block implementation of Obama’s policies, which he opposes. At the same time, he has continuously championed the alternative policies that are aligned with this ideological agenda.
Cruz’s commitment to blocking Obama on the one hand, and forcing his party to adopt policies voters support rather than seek compromise with the radicalized Democrats on the other, has made him the bane of his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
In the early months of the campaign, Cruz, used the establishment’s rejection of both himself and Trump as a basis for cooperation with the Republican front-runner. Cruz invited Trump to headline a rally he organized on the steps of the Capitol in opposition to Obama’s nuclear pact with Iran.
The demonstration was held in opposition not only to Obama’s deal but to the Republican leadership’s mishandling of the deal’s approval process.
Had Republican leaders been more dedicated to their principles they could have defined the Iran deal as a treaty and shot it down in the Senate.
By opting not to do so, they made implementation of the deal inevitable.
Over time, the Cruz-Trump partnership became untenable. As a Tea Party politician, Cruz is not only anti-establishment, he is anti-populist.
Cruz isn’t interested in finding scapegoats to blame for America’s problems. He’s interested in solving them.
Hated by the establishment, hated by the Left, Cruz is Obama’s nemesis. If he is elected, he will implement policies that unravel Obama’s legacy.
If America opts for a demagogue, it will remain on its current trajectory.
Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post