My Facebook “friends,” those I know well and others I only follow online, Jews and non-Jews, run the gamut from the seriously conservative to the defiantly liberal.
The conservatives chortling about Donald Trump’s victory would do well to remember the sports maxim “When you win, act like you’ve been there before” (in other words, behave graciously).
The liberals, meanwhile, continue to suffer from post-election shock syndrome.
The most bitter among them post a steady stream of caustic comments on social media about the incoming administration. Their embrace of diversity apparently stops with politics, permitting them to paint Trump supporters with a broad brush as racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic people who, in the case of Jews commenting about other Jews, are quislings.
Whatever satisfaction this may provide in the immediacy, it’s not likely to be a successful long-term strategy.
“Calling people stupid, racist, and hateful isn’t a good way to convince them to change their opinion on anything, but it’s a great way to discredit yourself in their eyes for eternity. … So when you use that kind of language, you’re not just insulting ‘the other side,’ you’re actually insulting people who are dear to many on ‘your side’ as well. Which is a great tactic if your aim is to lose the next election by a larger margin. There are many people who voted for Trump despite his racism, not because of it, but if you accuse them of being racists, you’re pushing them into the hands of the actual racists out there. That’s a dangerous game to play.”
To be fair, most liberals, fearful as they are about the next four years, have steeled their resolve to support firmly held beliefs without invective.
The divisive campaign exposed fault lines in society and cracked familial bonds, with grown children cutting themselves off from parents or siblings, some vowing never to visit. Emotional testimonies about severing contact receive sympathetic responses on the Facebook page “Pantsuit Nation,” whose 3.95 million members primarily supported Hillary Clinton.
J.J. Goldberg, editor at large of the Forward, discovered during a post-election speaking tour that “the election of Trump as our next president has introduced a whole new level of acrimony. The outcome doesn’t provoke discussion but ends it, bringing stony silences and ruptured friendships.”
That acrimony continues to include the appointment (no confirmation hearing required) of Steve Bannon, late of Breitbart, as Trump’s strategic adviser.
The Trump team is unlikely to be impressed that a petition signed by more than 1 million people — stating that “there is no place for a white supremacist, anti-Semitic, climate-change denying misogynist in the White House” — was delivered to Capitol Hill by a coalition of left-oriented Jewish and other groups.
The communal establishment likely will not by shaken by a college student’s warning that Jewish organizations “must condemn him immediately or risk being left behind by a far more radical generation of Jewish activists.”
A pillar of that establishment, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has defended itself from accusations within its own ranks of being tone-deaf by agreeing to co-host a Chanukah party at the new Trump International Hotel, a property owned by the government and leased by the Trump Organization, down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House.
Lastly, Jewish conservatives are licking their lips at the prospect of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison being selected as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. They see Ellison, a convert to Islam who has repudiated past links with the anti-Semitic Nation of Islam and whose positions regarding Israel concern even centrist groups, as an opportunity to attract wary Jewish Democrats to the Republican Party.
The battle within the Jewish community over Ellison may bruise liberals still reeling five weeks after the election.
People took their politics personally this year. Along the way, civility was discarded. Restoring it must be a priority.