Reprinted from The Nation
Donald Trump and his campaign aides continue to struggle to distinguish between the Star of David and what the presumptive Republican nominee refers to as "a plain star."
While it is surely troublesome when a candidate for president has trouble distinguishing between the six-pointed Magen David that serves as a symbol for modern Jewish identity and the five-pointed shapes that represent the states on the US flag, perhaps we should not be surprised. There is a lot that Trump -- who has been stung by charges of anti-Semitism since his Twitter account featured a crude graphic of what sure looked like a Star of David with a pile of money and references to Hillary Clinton as "corrupt" -- refuses to recognize about the crude language of hatemongers past and present.
Instead of simply apologizing for sending messages that end up being celebrated by white supremacists, Trump invariably doubles down in defense of terrible tweets. On Wednesday, for instance, the Republican candidate made things worse when he announced that his critics were "sick" and suggested they had "bad tendencies."
Trump gets caught out on the fascist fringe too frequently for comfort. Carl Bernstein, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed the excesses of Richard Nixon, refers to Trump as"a neo-fascist in the sense of his appeal and methodology that has to do with authoritarianism nativism and [the] incitement which we're seeing now." Trump's campaign, argues Bernstein, has invited "a debate, a historical debate about what fascism was and is and how Donald Trump fits into that picture" -- a debate that the author suggests could include a discussion of "authoritarianism," "despotism," and "the desire for a strong man who doesn't trust the institutions of democracy and government."
The July 4 weekend discussion of Trump's tweeting, and the concerns expressed by Democrats and Republicans about how, as the New York Daily News notes, the image of the Star of David mingled with piles of cash "made its way from a neo-Nazi message board to his 9.4 million Twitter followers," has embarrassed some Trump backers. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the candidate's most prominent supporter, says the Trump campaign needs to "clean up" its social-media messaging. "Look, anti-Semitic images, they've got no place in presidential campaigns. Candidates should know that," says Ryan.