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No surprise

Reader comment on item: MEF's Surprising Straw Poll on Trump

Submitted by Gideon Remez (Israel), Apr 12, 2016 at 12:45

Sadly, Dr. Pipes, I'm not surprised at all by the results of the survey. The MEF audience has been subjected to years of incessant and relentless Obama- and Hillary-bashing, and evidently is less nuanced than yourself and other thoughtful analysts. Small wonder that it should now take a simplistic stand for Trump as the antidote on Israeli grounds (real or perceived), regardless of the wider implications for America itself. The same was achieved by chronic overstatement of the perceived Moslem threat, which gained sympathy in the same audience for Trump's Islamophobia -- just as analogous groups of European Jews were drawn toward far-right neofascism due to a perceived anti-Moslem common cause.

Fortunately, most Jews in both cases thought and still think otherwise. Even if they are on the MEF mailing list, I guess that many of them – like me -- could not vote in the survey for lack of an acceptable option. None of those that you offered could express the depth of my dread and revulsion at the prospect of Trump as US President. The catastrophe for America would be such that his Middle Eastern policy -- if indeed he has any -- would pale into insignificance.

Shortly before the survey, MEF circulated an article, "Why Israelis Are Worried about Donald Trump," by Gregg Roman and Eylon Aslan Levy. It asked "where does Donald Trump stand on the Arab-Israeli conflict," and concluded that he did not merit support among American friends of Israel. Though I heartily agreed with the conclusion, I thought it was drawn from the wrong premises. Trump's positions on the Middle East and Israel are not the main reason that Israelis, or other American allies, are and should be frightened at the phenomenon of his political rise and the prospect, however remote, of his presidency. For Israel, regardless of any differences with a US administration, the overriding interest is maintaining a strong America, and America cannot project power to protect its allies, or its values, if it is fatally undermined from within. Trump starkly exemplifies a perennial principle: for Israel's sake as well as their own, American Jews -- of any political persuasion in Israeli or US terms -- must look out, first and foremost, for the overarching consideration of America's future. If America descends into the abyss that Trump embodies, his specific policy toward Israel will matter little.

A Trump nomination would do away with one of the two main American political parties as a legitimate force, which is an essential component of a working democracy. Unfortunately, the Republican Party has gone a long way in that direction already. But a victory for Trump's demagoguery would seal its fate, and thus would be corrosive to America's very fiber, putting it beyond the pale of chauvinism, personality cult and autocracy. History shows that such a turn may yield a brief heyday of "glory" for the nation in question, but inevitably leads to downfall -- with the attendant disastrous results for its allies.

So, "never Trump" indeed, but the survey's best option, "anyone but Trump," did not begin to reflect my opinion. A presidential candidate should not be nominated – much less elected -- as the lesser evil, and even in this extraordinary election cycle doesn't have to be. If the Republicans can't do better than either Trump or "anyone but Trump," the survey's question becomes irrelevant. Even in the increasingly unlikely case that the party survives its convention in one piece, it will deserve to lose -- and probably will.

Your excellent post-survey article that correctly identified Trump's fascist attributes must have dumbfounded, if not offended, the majority among your loyal readers who had just supported Trump or acquiesced with him. I hope and expect, Dr. Pipes, that you and your colleagues will now undertake the very necessary de-indoctrination of these many and well-earned admirers (as I say sincerely, despite our frequent differences). This should not stop with denouncing Trump, because some of the Republican alternatives are as bad or worse. His closest competitor, Cruz, is at least as threatening -- if less impolite and better at gaming the electoral process.

Gideon Remez
Associate Fellow, Truman Institute, Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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Daniel Pipes replies:

We largely agree until the end; I see Cruz as an excellent candidate.

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