As people scramble to explain the sudden resurgence of socialism not only on America’s college campuses but also in the corridors of political power, it is worth noting the concomitant resurgence of anti-Semitism in those redoubts. The coincidence is not, as the Marxists like to say, an accident. The truth is that unfettered socialism, though based primarily on a demand for the abolition of private property, always comes riding on a current of anti-Semitism. Picking apart the conceptual reasons for this link is a complex business that I will leave aside here. But it is worth noting how impeccable a provenance the union enjoys. Consider this observation:
What is the worldly religion of the Jew? Huckstering. What is his worldly God? Money. . . . Emancipation from huckstering and money, consequently from practical, real Judaism, would be the self-emancipation of our time [and would] make the Jew impossible. . . . In the final analysis, the emancipation of the Jews is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism.
It’s worth keeping Marx’s views in mind as you ponder the rise of figures like Ilhan Omar, the young and comely Somali refugee who just took Keith Ellison’s House seat in Minnesota. Like many new Democrats, Omar was nurtured by the far-left Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. ‘Israel has hypnotized the world,’ Omar said on Twitter, ‘may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.’
Then there is the man she replaced, Keith Ellison, now the Attorney General-elect of Minnesota. ‘We can’t allow another country to treat us like we’re their ATM,’ Ellison said of Israel. ‘That country has mobilized its Diaspora in America to do its bidding in America.’
And let’s not forget the Democrat ‘It Girl’ herself, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has gone back and forth on the question of whether Israel has a right to exist at all but has been as never-varying as Dewar’s Scotch in referring to Israel’s ‘occupation’ of Palestine.
The efflorescence of anti-Semitism is always a bad sign in a culture, not least because it harbingers a spirit of thuggish intolerance and breakdown of faith in society’s mediating civil institutions. The old saw of being ‘anti-Israel, not anti-Jew’ does not quite ring true here, as the lefties’ language echoes the anti-Semitic tropes of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
I am of two minds about where our country’s new flirtation with socialism is heading. Perhaps it is a predictable by-product of affluence, a toxic gas emitted by the mighty engine of the free market. Much of the rhetoric and histrionics might be put down to the enforced childishness wrought the breakdown of our educational institutions. It is clear, for example, that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez generally has no idea of what she is talking about. It’s not, probably, a lack of native intelligence. It’s just that, when it comes to political and historical realities, her mind is an impressionable tabula rasa.
But even if educational deficit helps to explain the resurgence of socialism, I am not sure that would be consoling. I have increasing sympathy for those who, casting their eye over the vicious and intractable opposition to the inherited processes of our political dispensation, see the potential for a great unravelling, what the political commentator James Piereson called a ‘shattered consensus.’
Donald Trump’s gospel of ‘principled realism,’ his gentle and patriotic version of broad-church, America-first nationalism, offers a healing alternative. The angry Left, which has yet to accept the results of the 2016 election, refuse to take their seats at the table he has set for them. The increasingly violent confrontations with journalists, politicians, and talk show hosts is one troubling sign of that recalcitrance. The normalization of anti-Semitism is another.