Thursday, July 12, 2018

Things People Blame the Jews For, Volume XLVII: Schumer Not Stopping the Cavanaugh Nomination

A few times now -- not anywhere official, just on Facebook posts or blog comments -- I've seen some variation on the following argument: Chuck Schumer is going to "let" Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed because Israel and/or Netanyahu. Right after Justice Kennedy announced his retirement, John Cole made an intimation in this direction:
At first blush, it's not just a false connection to make, it's a profoundly weird one. What exactly does AIPAC or Israel have to do with the Supreme Court? It's the branch of government that -- by far -- is least relevant to their policy agenda. Whatever Schumer does or doesn't regarding the confirmation fight -- and right now, all signs are he's gearing up to make it a real fight -- will almost assuredly have nothing to do with Israel or pro-Israel lobbying one way or the other.

There's actually a few different conspiracy theories intersecting to make this one, not all of which are specifically antisemitic or even about Jews. There is:

  • The belief that congressional Democrats have some super-secret trick they could use to stop Kavanaugh, and the only reason they don't use it is because they don't really want to block the nomination;
  • The belief that Schumer doesn't actually possess substantive (hawkish) policy views about Israel, but rather votes the way he does simply in blind deference to whatever Netanyahu wants;
  • The belief that Israel is so concerned about who will fill Justice Kennedy's seat that they will make sure Kavanaugh gets confirmed.
You need to believe all three subparts for the machine to run. If you don't believe the first, then you're left with the straightforward and boring truth that if Kavanaugh gets confirmed it's almost certainly because he's a Republican nominee needing to get the approval of a Republican Senate, and Democrats don't have some magic bullet to turn 49 into 51.

You need to believe the second because otherwise there's no reason to think that Schumer would care what Bibi thinks about the U.S. Supreme Court. If Schumer votes hawkishly on Israel because that's what he believes (and it so happens to mesh with Bibi's own views), then there's no reason to think that harmony would translate over to the American judicial context. What they really want to argue is that Schumer is bought and paid for by Israel and just ceases to exercise independent judgment once Bibi opens his mouth on any topic.

And you need to believe the third because otherwise there's no account for why Israel would intercede in this issue. I understand why Israel would try to lobby people on the Iran Deal -- that's a big issue for them. But the Supreme Court? That's not their bailiwick. And you'd have to think they care so much that they'd be willing to risk serious blowback for marginal gain, since Kavanaugh is very likely to be confirmed even if they do nothing.

The first of these is actually the largest driver here. There is a non-trivial portion of the progressive base that has more or less full-throatedly endorsed Green Lantern-ism -- the idea that whenever progressive political outcomes don't manifest, it's because liberal politicians didn't will it hard enough. This is itself a weird position when you think about it -- its leftists basically saying that American political structures are so lopsidedly slanted in favor of progressive priorities that we should naturally see progressive results even in circumstances where the liberal party is in the minority. But it's an outcropping of the same "the primary was rigged" sentiment whereby everything is being sabotaged from within, we'd be winning already were it not for the powers-that-be standing in our way, and the greatest enemies are always inside the house.

On it's own, this sort of sentiment doesn't require any particular connection to Jews or Israel. And one does see other terms or entities fill the role of the interfering "power" that stands and obstructs the natural progressive march of political history ("neoliberals", "the establishment", "big money donors" ... there are a few actually).


Nonetheless, understanding this sentiment does illustrate how the "Zionist conspiracy" iteration is not accidental and is a form of antisemitism. It is antisemitism -- specifically, the antisemitism that naturally associates Jews and Jewish entities with extraordinary power and world-spanning conspiracies that stand outside the normal fabric of political space and time -- that makes Israel "work" as a vector for this sort of conspiracy theorizing.

The conspiracy theory is trapped between the rock of feeling like it's going to lose (the Cavanaugh nomination) and the hard place of fervently believing that -- were things proceeding as they "should" (and they mean that descriptively, not normatively) -- they'd be destined to win. What they need, then, is some body that can break their own political equivalents of the laws of physics -- and, precisely because it can latch onto a network of deeply-ingrained antisemitic tropes, the Zionist cabal feels "plausible" as the sort of entity that could pull that off. And, as a bonus, it offers hope -- if the Zionists are what is standing between the conspiracy theorist and total victory, then all one needs to do is smash Zionism and voila! Utopia. It's so much easier than the messy, complicated, sometimes-friend-sometimes-foe reality that characterizes actual political progress -- which is why antisemitism is called the "socialism of fools".

So let's state what should be obvious: If Kavanaugh is confirmed, as remains much more likely than not, it will be for the straightforward reason that he is a Republican nominee and there are 51 Republican Senators in a 100 person chamber. That's it. If a few Democrats defect, that will be because sometimes red-state Democrats facing tough reelection fights cast votes like this. That's it. I'm not saying any of that is good or wise or justified, just that it's the most obvious explanation, and not one that seems so superficially implausible that it cries out for an alternative "it's a Zionist conspiracy" explanation.

1 comment:

Dusty said...

Yes!

"Nonetheless, understanding this sentiment does illustrate how the "Zionist conspiracy" iteration is not accidental and is a form of antisemitism. It is antisemitism -- specifically, the antisemitism that naturally associates Jews and Jewish entities with extraordinary power and world-spanning conspiracies that stand outside the normal fabric of political space and time -- that makes Israel "work" as a vector for this sort of conspiracy theorizing."

The 2 manifestation of modern antisemitism are conspiracy and blood libel. And we've been seeing a lot of both, lately