Joseph Schmitz, a Pentagon Inspector General who left in 2004 under a cloud of accusations of anti-Semitism, is one of Donald Trump’s national security advisors. This has gotten me thinking about the nexus between political anti-Semitism and right wing (and fringe left-wing) politics. Schmitz says that his 38-year marriage to an ethnically Jewish woman absolves him of any taint of anti-Semitism, but he has other family connections that suggest otherwise–he is the son of John Schmitz, the ultra-right wing Orange County Congressman whose holocaust denial got him booted from the John Birch Society (and who also gained notoriety for having a second family, and whose daughter–but I’ll let you Google that one).
How is it that a “debt king” who proposes to downgrade the US’s sovereign debt, who finances his business empire with Russian capital and staffs his campaign with Russian agents has become the leader of a party that was premised on fiscal austerity and anti-Communism? How has a thrice-married playboy who doesn’t know his Two Corinthians from the Koran become the candidate of choice of so many Evangelicals? And how has an avowedly pro-Israel candidate with an orthodox Jewish son-in-law, a converted daughter, and Jewish grandchildren become a beacon for a neo-Nazi like David Duke? Believe it or not, I think it has more to do with mathematics—or more precisely, with some innumerate people’s fear of mathematics—than it does with economics.
If our partisan politics were as rational and money-driven as we like to think, the obvious coalitions would be between Wall Street, Main Street, and Silicon Valley on the right and the unionized– and especially the de-unionized–proletariat, service class, and students on the left. Instead they’re mostly driven by geography, with cities and inner-ring suburbs leaning leftish and exurbs and rural southern and mountain regions rightwards; by race, ethnicity and religion; by education; and even by gender and sexual preference. Jews are over-represented in the intellectual leadership of the neo-Conservative and neo-Liberal right, but as a voting bloc, they are reliably left-leaning (though numerically insignificant–Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus together make up about 6 percent of the US population).
Setting Trump aside, whose politics are incoherent and opportunistic, and taking a much broader, high-level view, the great fault lines in our politics are mostly cultural and of long-standing: the north versus the Old Dominion and the western frontier; farmers versus city folk; religious authoritarians versus secular materialists; Northern Europeans versus brown and black people and Jews, Muslims, and Asians. This is how the GOP became the home to both members of the investment class and the white nationalists that once made up such a big part of the Democratic party in the south. And this is why, as I wrote in my book The New Hate: A History of Fear and Loathing on the Populist Right, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and anti-intellectualism are such potent motivators for its base.
But in some ways the biggest fault line is between people for whom money is a simple means of exchange, a kind of proxy for barter, and people that use money as a means of making more money–and this one runs right down the center of the Republican party and bids fair to fracture its already fragile coalition of wealthy low-tax, anti-regulation contributors, morals crusading evangelicals, and know-nothing white nationalists. The hatred of usury, the fear of fiat money, the horror of fractional reserve banking is closely related to the timeless fear and loathing of sorcerers, witches, Satanists, and Jews, and it is what a gold bug like Ron Paul, a conspiracist like Alex Jones, and a programmatic anti-Semite like David Duke have in common. Farmers and manufacturers (Producers, in the language of the old Populists) are rooted in place; money people are cosmopolitan and globalist.
Protocols of the Elders of Zion anti-Semites didn’t hate the Rothschilds just because they were rich, or because their ancestors killed Jesus. They hated them because they used debt to make something out of nothing (interest)–and because they were presumed to use the leverage that gave them over the debtors to create action at a distance (which is both politics and a kind of magic).
A big part of our cultural divide is numeracy. Math is an esoteric language and tool. People who understand its principles and know how to wield it practically live in a different world than regular people do. When physicists look through its lens, they can see that the world is round, not flat, and that it moves around the sun rather than vice versa. When evolutionary biologists look at the mechanism of natural selection through a lens of mathematical probabilities and genetics, the development of complex organisms isn’t remotely as unlikely as, in the classic analogy of the so-called scientific creationist, a 747 being assembled by a tornado in a junkyard. When a regular person looks at money, he translates it into what he can buy immediately. When a financier looks at money, he sees it the way a quantum physicist sees the underlying constituents of the material world–as something in motion and flux, but that can be understood and predicted up to a point by probabilities.
Conspiracism, gold-buggery, programmatic anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, blood-and-soil nationalism and, yes, Trumpism itself are not just rebukes to science–they are an attempt to create an alternative science and economics that anyone can understand.