From the moment President Donald Trump launched his run for office in 2016, the media and the Left have claimed that he has used racially-charged language and exacerbated ethnic tensions in this country. A pair of sociologists at the University of Pennsylvania, Daniel Hopkins and Samantha Washington, recently set out to measure the result of what they described as President Trump’s “explicit, negative rhetoric targeting ethnic/racial minorities.”
What they discovered was, to them, astounding. Though they expected racism to be flourishing under Trump, “white Americans’ expressed anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice declined after the 2016 campaign and election” [emphasis theirs]. After carefully studying the evidence proving the media’s claims to be false, they came to the sort of truly learned conclusion only possible in the ivory towers of academia: This demonstrated a “thermostatic response,” in which people move in the opposite direction from their leaders.
The possibility that their underlying assumption might be as faulty as their hypothesis never seemed to cross their minds.
Writing in the Spectator, Ross Clark offered a second option: “[I]t was the sight of a mixed race man in the White House who brought out in the inner racist in Americans who are inclined towards those feelings, while the reassuring sight of a white man back in the Oval Office has calmed them down.”
So while the professors apparently believe that electing David Duke would do still better things for race relations in America, Clark offers the possibility that any old white guy would do just fine. Neither of these options should strike us as reassuring. Fortunately, there is reason to believe that both of them are wrong.
Yes, the media has insisted that Trump is a racist, just as the media told us that John McCain and Mitt Romney were racists before Trump. But Americans have discerned that it simply isn’t true. Trump may be politically incorrect and imprecise with his language, but he is neither a racist nor an anti-Semite. Actually, it is just the opposite — he enacts policies to equally benefit all Americans, and appears to take special pleasure celebrating minority achievement.
Back in 2008, many who voted for McCain felt great pride in a country that instead elected Barack Obama less than two generations removed from the end of racist laws designed to systemically oppress African-Americans. And then, sadly, President Obama undid much of the progress made via his election.
It was not Obama’s ethnicity, but his actions that triggered what Clark describes as “a more fractious period in race relations.” Obama repeatedly took positions in racially-charged disputes that exacerbated tensions rather than reducing them. He claimed that police “acted stupidly” in arresting a professor who became disorderly when asked for identification, described a simple defensive shooting as the result of a “broken and racially biased system,” and famously said that “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon [Martin].” That last anecdote was surely unrelated to Trayvon Martin’s previous history or the circumstances under which he was shot. Obama claimed kinship based upon shared race and upon no other factor.
Trump has never operated that way, but the media still diligently tries to paint him that way. The vast majority of the president’s supporters are not racists, but are instead people who see in him none of the things that the media claim embody him.
They know that the president neither mocked a reporter’s disability nor called neo-Nazis “fine people.” He never envisioned a “Muslim ban” — only an eminently reasonable travel ban from countries that are hotbeds of radical Islamic terrorism. He never said “Mexicans” are rapists, but accused Mexico of “sending people that have lots of problems” to the U.S. These false claims of bias provide much of the impetus behind the president’s frequent derision of “fake news.”
In reality, the president has allocated more money to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) than any predecessor — including Obama — and signed a crucial executive order directing funds to HBCUs just six weeks into his presidency. And he has continually celebrated the decline in black unemployment, which is now at its lowest in history.
No one would describe the man responsible for integrating Palm Beach country clubs as a racist were it not for cynical, partisan considerations. Perhaps racism in America is not declining, despite the man in the White House, but thanks in part to his insistence upon ensuring that every American has a chance to pursue the American dream.
Unquestionably, and unlike the anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice measured in the survey, there is more anti-Semitism in America than there was two years ago. But President Trump is not to blame for that, either. Anti-Semites hate Trump’s affinity for Jews, and this is as true for leftist anti-Semites as it is for the synagogue shooters of both Pittsburgh and Poway.
Besides his great friendship towards Israel, three of the President’s closest advisors for decades have been observant, Orthodox Jews. One is his son-in-law, father of the president’s observant Jewish grandchildren. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, wounded at his synagogue in Poway, called Trump ‘a mensch par excellence’ after their interactions, and few in the Orthodox community were surprised.
Anti-Semitism, or any hate, become dangerous when three things happen. First: When it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second: When the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three: When those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so. All three factors exist in Britain now.
Lord Rabbi Sacks could not have known how prescient this warning would also prove to be in America. Members of Congress elected afterwards have espoused anti-Semitic views of a kind familiar to Jews throughout history, but foreign to modern America and American values. Leading members of the Democratic Party have not only failed to condemn the bigotry of some of the Party’s newest elected officials, but have both defended them and vilified those who stood up and protested — such as President Trump. And public support for Democrats has remained strong.
Combining the sociologists’ results and Rabbi Sacks’ admonition, it is clear which side of America’s acrimonious divide is actually reducing hate — and which side urgently needs to clean house.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Jewish Values. Clarence Henderson, a veteran of the 1960’s Woolworth’s Sit-in Movement, is President of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina, a church elder, and public speaker.