WASHINGTON – In the final hours, the mask came off.
Donald Trump and his surrogates have been playing footsie with American neo-Nazis for months: tweeting their memes, retweeting their messages, appearing on their radio shows. After an Oct. 13 speech in which Trump warned that Hillary Clinton “meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty” and that “a global power structure” is conspiring against ordinary Americans, the Anti-Defamation League urged Trump to “avoid rhetoric and tropes that historically have been used against Jews.”
Well, Trump just gave his reply. On Friday, he released a closing ad for his campaign repeating offending lines from that speech, this time illustrated with images of prominent Jews: financier George Soros (accompanying the words “those who control the levers of power”), Fed Chair Janet Yellen (with the words “global special interests”) and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (following the “global power structure” quote). The ad shows Hillary Clinton and says she partners “with these people who don’t have your good in mind.”
Anti-Semitism is no longer an undertone; it’s the melody.
For more than a year, I have condemned Trump in the harshest terms I could conjure as he went after Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, women and the disabled. This is both because it was wrong in its own right and because, from my culture’s history, I know that when a demagogue begins to identify scapegoats, the Jews are never far behind.
At first, it was genteel chauvinism, such as Trump telling Jewish Republicans they wouldn’t support him “because I don’t want your money”; the fact that he has a Jewish son-in-law gave him some cover.
Then we had Trump’s tweet of an image, previously found on an anti-Semitic message board, of a Star of David atop a pile of cash; Trump later objected to his campaign’s decision to remove the image. Trump retweeted a message from @WhiteGenocideTM, phony crime statistics that originated with neo-Nazis and a quote from Benito Mussolini. His campaign blamed an intern for tweeting an image of Nazi soldiers superimposed on the American flag next to Trump’s likeness.
Trump banned news organizations such as The Washington Post from covering his events but credentialed the host of a white-supremacist radio show. Donald Trump Jr. posted an image of “Pepe the frog” – a mascot of white supremacists. He took questions on the radio from the host of a white-supremacist radio show. He followed several white supremacists on Twitter.
The elder Trump said “I don’t have a message” for supporters who threatened anti-Semitic violence against a Jewish journalist, and Melania Trump said the writer “provoked” the attacks. Attacks by Trump supporters have continued unabated against Jewish journalists. On Monday, I heard from a white supremacist with the Twitter name “Oven Builder.” Also Monday, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg thanked Trump for “empowering” the type of person who called him “Jeff Kikeberg” in a message telling Goldberg he would be hanged.
Breitbart News, the alt-right website until recently run by Trump’s campaign chief, Steve Bannon, referred to Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew” and my colleague Anne Applebaum as a “Polish, Jewish, American elitist.”
To its credit, the Trump campaign disavowed the endorsement of a Ku Klux Klan newspaper – after Trump’s initial reluctance to renounce David Duke’s support.
But you can see why such people feel drawn to Trump. On Oct. 25, Trump supporter Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist and radio host Trump has praised and echoed during the campaign, went on a diatribe about “the Jewish mafia in the United States.”
Trump himself has been raising the anti-Semitic ante: On Oct. 2, talking about the “blood suckers” who back international trade and, on Oct. 13, the “global power structure” secretly scheming, a theme embraced earlier by Jones and Bannon.
If Trump didn’t recognize the anti-Semitic tropes then, he has no such excuse now, after the widespread complaints from the ADL and others about the laced language of the Oct. 13 speech.
This new ad isn’t subtle – Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style propaganda, as Al Franken put it. I agree with Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall when he says this “is intentional and by design.” There have been too many instances to be otherwise.
When the election returns come in Tuesday night, it will be Nov. 9 in Germany – the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” at the start of the Holocaust when Nazis vandalized synagogues and businesses.
I pray that on this solemn anniversary, Americans tell Donald Trump and the world that we are never going back there.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.