Guest Column by Harold Kirtz
On Oct. 25, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was a featured speaker at a “writers’ workshop” put on by The Social Contract Press, a white nationalist group, according to the Center for New Community.
Kobach has been added to Donald Trump’s transition team. Think about that.
Kobach has pushed laws in various states that are the harshest we have seen against immigrant populations. For example, Arizona’s S.B. 1070 compels police to ask for papers from anyone they have a reasonable suspicion of lacking legal status. Under that law, people of color or with a foreign accent can be required to prove their status and can be jailed — citizen or not — until they can do so.
Do you sometimes go for a walk without your driver’s license? Under that scenario in Arizona, you could be jailed until someone could get your driver’s license to the authorities. Your house is locked; your children live out of town. How are you going to get your license?
Is putting Kris Kobach on your team the type of leadership move that shows respect for the various communities in this country?
Trump’s first tweet after the election complained about the anti-Trump demonstrations — almost entirely nonviolent, including in Atlanta. He labeled as professional disrupters the tens of thousands of demonstrators exercising their First Amendment rights of speech and assembly. He also blamed the media for inciting the demonstrators — after he lambasted the media throughout his campaign, creating threatening and fearmongering atmospheres against the media at his rallies.
During the campaign, he threatened to enact British-style libel laws to weaken the press. Right after the election, he still refused to have a press presence on his plane. Is he going to be as secretive and vindictive while carrying out the presidency as he has been in dealing with the press — much more secretive and vindictive than any other modern president?
Moreover, across the country, the days since the presidential election have seen increased incidents of racist or anti-Semitic vandalism and violence, many of which have drawn directly on the rhetoric and proposals of Trump. The Southern Poverty Law Center has counted more than 200 complaints of hate crimes since Election Day.
So how is Trump going to serve as president? We have a history in which many presidents were racist, but none had the instruments of government that exist today. The presidency has increased its powers and privileges over the decades. No president in the 18th, 19th or early 20th century had access to so much alternative media dedicated to racism or had so many opportunities to gin up support for offensive policies.
Trump asks for our respect. He has it backward. We respect the office of the president; he is a temporary holder of the office. He must respect the office as well.
We Americans must demand his respect for us. He must apologize for all his racist or racist-inciting statements, his misogynist and sexually explicit statements toward women, his mocking of disabled people, his assault on the Muslim community, and his insults toward the African-American community.
Which brings me to the Jewish community. What community has had more experience with race-baiting, religion-hating, rumormongering and killing — with the Crusades, the Black Death-blaming — the pogroms in many countries, and the Holocaust, in which one-third of our people were killed?
Throughout history, communities either turned against us or sat back while outsiders murdered our people, burned our synagogues and sacred texts, and destroyed our communities.
Donald Trump built his base with racist and misogynist pronouncements and innuendo. We know pronouncements and innuendo. We have experienced the consequences of that.
It is incumbent upon all Jews to make their concerns known. That includes Jewish Republicans who supported Trump. They must insist that the president-elect retract every statement of hate, incitement and profound insult that he uttered during the campaign.
How else will he truly be a president for all the people? No other presidential candidate, at least in modern times, has so insulted and maligned whole segments of the populace.
It is time for Trump to explicitly, directly and sincerely apologize for all the hurt he caused during the election campaign and to denounce the white supremacist groups that have applauded his election. If he does not, what claim does he have to the respect and support from any of us?