Denial and self-deception: how Trump’s fans defend his anti-Semitic use of the Star of David


I’ve been monitoring the efforts of Trump supporters (including some who are, or hint at being, Jewish) to dampen the controversy triggered by his July 2 tweeting of an image of the Jewish star (Star of David) and Hillary Clinton, with a pile of cash in the background. Although Trump aides have replaced the Jewish star with a circle, Trump himself continues to make arcane excuses (as, on July 4, that the star was just a sheriff’s badge or that it was just a “plain star”–see the Huffington Post). On July 6, he said in a Cincinnati speech that his aides should not have deleted the star. (“In Defiant, Angry Speech, Trump Defends a Post Seen as Anti-Semitic,” New York Times, July 7.)

Trump’s followers are repeating and elaborating on his excuses, either cynically or as part of their psychology of denial. You can see a sampling of their responses at the Facebook page of historian Ron Radosh, who incurred their wrath (July 3) by linking to a piece in the Forward blasting Trump on this issue.

First, Trump’s supporters try to narrow down the range of what needs to be explained away. They address only his one-time use of a single image, while (a) not mentioning the neo-Nazi/white supremacist source of the image as reported by Esquire and (b) not mentioning the many other tweets that Trump has lifted from neo-Nazi/white supremacist sites, as reported by Jason Easley in Politicus USA. In addition, Trump supporters mechanically separate out anti-Semitism (which they blame on the Left alone) and white supremacy (which they simply ignore), although, in fact, you cannot separate the two forms of bigotry either in the contents of the sites that Trump is borrowing from or in the character of the crowds attracted to his rallies. (David Duke, who hates both Jews and racial minorities, has endorsed Trump–and has also opined that the star in Trump’s tweet is definitely the Star of David.)

Finally, even when Trump’s supporters address the sole issue they deign to recognize–the six-pointed star used in a single Trump tweet–they only compare the star to a sheriff’s badge while ignoring the pile of hundred dollar bills in which the star is embedded and the political corruption allegation that links the two together. The implication of their evasions is that the image is merely urging law enforcement (the “sheriffs”) to arrest Hillary Clinton. But the Star of David in the image refers not to Clinton but to the pile of money (representing Jewish influence, as anti-Semites see it) that supposedly has corrupted her. The image’s attack on Clinton resides in the suggestion that she has allowed herself to be corrupted by the Jews; thus, THE JEWS ARE THE MAIN TARGET.

One Trump supporter tried to invert this message by depicting the Jews as the victims. Hillary, he said, “uses liberal Jews for a voting block.” This statement may or may not be true to some extent (as with other voting blocs), but it is certainly NOT the statement embedded in the image that was being discussed.

As to Trump’s claim that the star in the image was just a sheriff’s badge, let’s put this excuse to rest once and for all. A sheriff’s badge is just that, a badge. It is not a Jewish star, which is depicted with sharp points (as in the image Trump tweeted). Sheriff’s badges, as portrayed in many Google images, have a round thingamajig (often a quite large one) at the end of each point as well as other identifying features. Furthermore, a sheriff’s badge may have five points (as in a star pentagon) or seven points (a heptagram, also known as a septagram), rather than the six points of the hexagram, or Jewish star; in other words, the sheriff’s badge is not universally identified with six points the way the Jewish star is. And if the star tweeted by Trump truly had been intended as a sheriff’s badge it would have been shown on a sheriff’s breast or in another clearly identifiable manner, not as a generic hexagram on top of a pile of cash. Note that in all the examples below, unlike in Trump’s tweet, the badge has information identifying itself as a sheriff’s badge.

Little balls on the edges are not included in Trump's tweet.

Little balls on the edges are not included in Trump’s tweet.

Some badges have only five stars.

Some badges have only five stars.

Some badges have seven stars, not six.

Some badges have seven stars, not six.

Trump also claimed that the star was just a “plain star.” I went to Google images and typed in “star images.”  The overwhelming majority of the stars displayed were five-pointed star pentagons, not the six-pointed Jewish star. Even most of the blue-colored stars (blue of course is the color of the outline of the Jewish star on the Israeli flag) were five-pointed. I typed in “plain star images” and got similar results. Thus another Trump excuse goes kaput.

Supporters of Trump are so hysterical over this issue that they are dredging up the crankiest of arguments. One supporter posted that everything is okay because a six-pointed star is used not only in sheriffs’ badges but also in the Great Seal of the United States. Now there is, at the top of the seal (above the eagle), a collection of small stars (five-pointed star pentagons, not hexagrams) that represent the 13 original states. The necessity of aligning 13 stars to fit into a circle that would express the unity of the 13 states meant there would be one at the top, one at the bottom and rows of four, three, four in between, which produces the appearance of six small bumps. 

To make these into a hexagram with characteristics comparable to the Jewish star is a stretch. There is a legend that the alignment of the 13 stars within the circle was ordered by George Washington out of gratitude to Haym Salomon, a Jewish businessmen who helped the Revolutionary Army. According to the Wikipedia article on Salomon (who in fact was a notable figure in the American Revolution), there is no evidence for this legend. Indeed, “legend” is too polite a word for what is really an anti-Semitic meme. The conspiracy-drenched website of James Japan, for instance, has suggested (a) that the arrangement of the Great Seal stars is evidence “that Zionists have secret control of the currency [of the United States]” and (b) that the Jewish star is linked to the “occult.”

Japan refers his readers to a Texe Marrs video for further information. Marrs is an anti-Semite and Flat Earther who runs the Power of Prophecy Ministries–and is a strong supporter of Trump, urging him to continue to challenge the Jews. Marrs has not only speculated about the Great Seal but he’s also written a book about a gigantic worldwide conspiracy symbolized by the Jewish star; he sells this tract on his website in tandem with the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch quotes him as saying, on the radio talk show of Jeff Rense (a promoter also of the ideas of Lyndon LaRouche, David Duke and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel): “The Jews cannot administer a country, they don’t know how to run a country, all they are, well they’re just plain, well, you know, they’re parasites. They can get into a country and take over its financial system, and use the propaganda organs of a country, but they really don’t know how to administer for the good of the people. They cannot even administer the economy in the nation of Israel today.”

Flat-earther Marrs claims to give “Eye Opening Revelations…about Israel, the Jews, Zionism and the Rothschilds.”

Regardless of what the cranks and haters claim, the aesthetically pleasing arrangement of the stars in the Great Seal (rooted in the historical accident that the number of original states was 13) is not a plausible excuse for Trump’s trafficking in anti-Semitic hexagram images. If he had wanted to use the Great Seal for this purpose, he could just have taken a dollar bill out of his wallet and run the back side of it through a scanner. But then, his message of hate would have been diluted to the point of absurdity and would have lost its usefulness in whipping up his base.

Realignment— The Sequel

“I’m back, like an old pair of shoes you thought you threw away”. Johnny Cash

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Last year when Bernie Sanders decided to run as a Democrat, he resurrected the question of third party or independent candidates for president. When he ran for mayor and member of Congress he ran as a socialist or independent, but for president he is running as a Democrat. One year ago this month I met Bernie at the Keystone Progress Summit in Harrisburg, PA. At that time he was unannounced and was traveling around the country examining the climate for his potential campaign. I had an opportunity to briefly talk with him about how he would run. I told him that Social Democrats USA would welcome his entry into the race, although we were still months away from endorsing anyone. I also commented that in a “Democratic machine” state like Pennsylvania he would have a lot of trouble winning as a third party candidate, and I suggested that running as a Democrat would be best. He joked that his staff had discussed this topic once or twice, implying that HOW to run was as big a question as SHOULD he run.



Many sisters and brothers on the left feel that we should have a party of our own— a party of labor and progressives that would field candidates against corporatist Democrats. And they further argue that every time a candidate like Bernie Sanders decides to run as a Democrat, he or she thwarts the effort to create such a party. Well, the truth is that we did have an independent left party for decades. And it didn’t work. We were never able to get Labor and Socialists on the same page long enough to field a candidate who would beat both Democrats and Republicans. Members of the working class are often conservative in their social attitudes, contrary to the positions of socialists. And even though attempts were made to pull socialists and labor together in a unified party, by 1960 most leaders of the Party had abandoned the idea of fielding candidates. At the national convention that year they adopted a policy of “realignment”. The center piece of that policy would be exerting Labor and Socialist influence within the Democratic Party to pull the party to the left and to force out any right wing tendencies, i.e., Dixiecrats. There is a great article this month in Jacobin magazine on the topic of realignment. Paul Heideman describes the history of realignment in wonderful detail invoking all our favorite players including Shachtman, Harrington, Rustin, Reuther, and Meany. He writes that in the 1950s, “The way might then be clear, Shachtman reasoned, for labor and its liberal allies to take over the party, transforming it into something like a European social-democratic party”. Not everyone bought into the idea. Proponents and opponents pitched back and forth through the 60s, until Harrington was elected SP Chair in 1968. He was a realigner, but unfortunately the Vietnam War created a new division between socialists and labor. Former allies Shachtman and Harrington were now on opposite sides. The realignment plan never really came to fruition. In a last gasp effort the AFL-CIO did endorse Mondale in advance of the 1984 primaries as a show of unified labor influence in the DP. In the decades since then, labor has become weaker. The social democratic faction in the DP has struggled to keep its head above water while the DP leadership agreed to cuts in social programs, a negative growth minimum wage, investment bankers ruining our economy, and a foreign policy that includes perpetual war. We have a Democratic Party that is driven from the top, ever reminding us that the DP is not a membership based party. The Democratic National Committee drives the bus and the voters are told to get on the bus. No one at the DNC asks the passengers where they would like to go.



Because realignment didn’t produce the desired results, there have been recurring calls for the creation of a new left party. Are conditions better now than they were 50 years ago? Was our failure to unite labor and political action the only reason realignment didn’t work before? Michael Goodhart, a local poli-sci professor here in Pittsburgh, once told me that it was because of some guy named Maurice Duverger. His contribution to our story was his theory that winner-take-all voting systems lead to two parties, whereas proportional voting systems tend to create multiple parties. In other words, third party candidates are viewed as spoilers and that causes voters to gravitate towards the least-worst candidate of the two major parties. We have seen this “spoiler” candidate in a number of elections and most leftists are not prepared to split the left vote and hand a victory to the Republicans. Last month I had a short on-line discussion about realignment with Jason Schulman and David Duhalde of DSA and Bhaskar Sundara, editor of Jacobin. At one point I commented that Harrington had recognized the validity of Duverger and supported realignment; Jason responded that Harrington and Duverger were both wrong. To that I can only respond that I don’t see any evidence that a new left party would be successful, especially one that is membership based. If we can’t muster enough support to become a majority of the DP, then we don’t have enough support to build a new party in a winner-take-all voting system. And if I may throw salt into the wound, the Tea Party has already demonstrated that realignment works. Rather than run as third party candidates, Tea Partiers were smart enough to form a “party within the party” and became a major influence in the GOP.

When charting a path forward, it always helps to take a look at where you’ve been. In 1972, the Socialist Party changed its name to Social Democrats USA. It is not insignificant that we dropped the word “party” from our name. As discouraging as it is, we are not going to field candidates except in some rare cases of a local or regional election where the general population is already leftist and the contest is only between corporate democrats and social democrats. (Actually, now that I think about it, that describes Hawaii and an independent Social Democratic Party could probably have success there). Although realignment did not work in the past, there is no viable alternative at this time. Our National Committee remains committed to the realignment policy of the Shachtmanites. Roger Heller, a UAW political activist in Michigan and a SDUSA NC member, believes the Sanders campaign has created the momentum needed to establish a permanent Social Democratic Caucus within the DP. We need to harness the energy being created by the Sanders movement and not let it evaporate after November. However, be assured that if Bernie doesn’t win the DP nomination, there will be more cries for the creation of a new progressive/labor party and the abandonment of realignment.

Psychiatric Ethics

Just a quick note to say that an interview with SDUSA National Committee member Steven Weiner appeared in the Oxford Handbook of Psychiatric Ethics. He discussed his history with our medical system and its treatment of mental illness. To read, click HERE. Steve also publishes a periodical called The Suspicious Humanist, which we post here from time to time.

Democratic Super-Delegates

Note: this post originally appeared on the blog of the Carnegie Democratic Committee, by Rick D’Loss, Chair of that committee

Yesterday we finished the first official contest of this presidential election season. And it ended with a very exciting tie. And so we move on to New Hampshire.

From the beginning the pundits have been saying that it really doesn’t matter whether Bernie gets more primary votes than Hillary— she still wins the nomination. Really? What are they talking about? What they’re talking about are super-delegates.

The short story is this. In 1972, George McGovern won the Democratic nomination. In the general election however, he was soundly trashed by Richard Nixon. And so the DNC (Democratic National Committee) devised a system that would ensure that “the Party’s interests” would prevail over a very popular, grass roots candidate like McGovern. They established that a certain number of convention delegates would be reserved for elected officials (governors, senators, etc) and party leaders (DNC members) who could vote however they pleased. This number would be substantial. It is estimated that in 2016 there will be 713 superdelegates at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia. This represents about 30% of the delegates! Think about that. All the campaigning and voting that will proceed around the country in upcoming months will determine about 70% of the delegates, and the other 30% will be determined by party leaders.

What impact does this have on Clinton-Sanders? Many super-delegates announced support for Hillary even before the race began. This includes Howard Dean, former Chair of the DNC. Even at this early date in the campaign, 347 super-delegates have already announced for Hillary. That’s almost half of the super-delegates. Before anyone has even voted, Hillary has 15% of the Convention delegates. That is why the pundits have been saying Hillary has it wrapped up even before the primary voting starts.

There is good and bad to this, of course. Admittedly, it’s kind of embarrassing that the Democratic Party has put shackles on democracy (the Republicans don’t have super-delegates). But the good part is that the party leaders are supposed to take some responsibility for vetting of candidates. We make an assumption that our elected officials (here in PA— Gov. Wolf, Sen. Casey, former Gov. Rendell, etc) will look out for our best interests and not create a repeat of 1972. But it’s also saying that the super-delegates who committed to Hillary early didn’t even take the time to consider who the other candidates are. It reeks of party machine politics, and that could turn off the next generation of voters.

Bernie Sanders is carrying the overwhelming majority of young democrats. What will be the message to them if they are ignored? Would they come to the conclusion that they would be better served by moving to the Green Party or the Working Families Party? I hope the super-delegates have enough sense to not piss off the future of the party. The Sanders movement is huge and it’s impact should not be ignored.

Militia in Oregon

Whenever I hear the news media refer to armed insurgents as militias, I keep thinking of this famous line from the Princess Bride.

The 2nd Amendment is all of one sentence long, and for many decades the right to own and bear arms has been debated because of the comma in the middle of the sentence. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed”. Citizens need to have arms because they need to be available to serve in militias. OK, I get that. And gun owners argue that even if they aren’t part of a militia, the Constitution nonetheless gives them the right to own arms. That’s a legitimate debate. However, I don’t recall much debate about the definition of “a well regulated militia”. My guess is that a group of guys in the woods with guns does not constitute a well regulated militia. The men at the Oregon Wildlife Refuge are not a militia, in any sense of the word. Stop using that word! Carrying a U.S. flag does not give them credibility. I commented to a friend earlier this week that here in the city, a group of men with guns that has staked out a territory is called a street gang.

The well regulated militia identified in the Constitution is officially called the National Guard. The National Guard is the formal military organization of the individual states. Refer to 32 U.S. Code § 101 – Definitions

(4) “Army National Guard” means that part of the organized militia of the several States and Territories, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, active and inactive, that—
(A) is a land force;
(B) is trained, and has its officers appointed, under the sixteenth clause of section 8, article I, of the Constitution;
(C) is organized, armed, and equipped wholly or partly at Federal expense; and
(D) is federally recognized.

Admittedly, the federalizing of the National Guard is contentious.  I discussed that last year.

Why is it then that the press does not refer to the Oregon militia the same way that they refer to a street gang? The answer is institutionalized racism that survives in all areas of our culture. You may recall back in the ’80s when a group of black anarchists calling themselves MOVE occupied some buildings in Philadelphia. They were armed and refused to surrender. The police bombed the building killing 11 people, including children. The resulting fire burned down most of the neighborhood. But today in Oregon, the government wants to “avoid a confrontation”. And the reason is the militants are white.

POTUS hasn’t spoken much about militia in Oregon. He says it’s a police matter. The local law enforcement in Oregon says that the occupiers will face charges when they surrender. Presidential candidate Kasich’s spokesperson tweeted, “I know a good federal compound for Bundy and his gang: a U.S. penitentiary.” My feelings are a bit stronger than that. I think they should be treated as if they were black or Hispanic. I will agree to let my tax dollars contribute to the rebuilding of the structure after the fire.

And oh by the way, one of the insurgents stated that they just want the federal government to give the land back to its rightful owners. The local native tribe is pretty excited about that.