(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Opinion writer

The man who allegedly murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue hated refugees and American Jews with what appears to be equivalent intensity. Before apparently carrying out the massacre, he unleashed hate-filled diatribes directed at both.

A Jewish organization that helps immigrants, the man raged, “likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.” He added that Jews “like to bring in hostile invaders to dwell among us.”

As I’ve noted before, this sort of xenophobic right wing nativist nationalism has several key ingredients. There’s the scapegoating of out-groups below, such as the dark hordes of migrants now being hyped by President Trump, who are eager to infest and undermine the “real” American people. But that’s not enough on its own. You also need a “globalist” elite that is supposedly manipulating those out-groups to carry out that task.

Writing at the Atlantic, Peter Beinart offers a fascinating look at the history of this ideological inclination and the ideas, such as they are, at its core. As Beinart notes, white supremacists have long trafficked in a version of this narrative, claiming that civil rights activists (who were trying to liberate African Americans from Jim Crow) were being manipulated by Jews and international communists. Meanwhile, white nationalists of various stripes have long blamed Jews for opening our borders to Third World immigration.

As Beinart points out, there’s a reason Jews have long supported civil and immigrants’ rights: Because they are “predisposed,” due to their “understanding of Jewish history,” to “identify with outsiders.” But white nationalists see this otherwise, instead buying into the crackpot conspiracy narrative that Jews supported civil rights and now support immigrant rights because “they want to subjugate white Christians”:

One reason hateful nativism so easily morphs into anti-Semitism in the Trump era is that today Jews really do disproportionately support immigration. The major American Jewish organizations overwhelmingly oppose Trump’s immigration policies. So do rank and file American Jews, according to several polls. Among whites, Jews were dramatically overrepresented in the civil rights movement too. . . . [P]eople who demonize African Americans or Latino and Muslim immigrants notice that predisposition, and it leads them to demonize Jews too.

How did George Soros come to occupy the position of the leader of the Jewish conspiracy to orchestrate the browning of America? It’s a long and tortured tale, which the New York Times told at length the other day. But one thing we can say is that Trump has played his own part in helping make that happen.

Indeed, in retrospect, it’s remarkable how well his 2016 campaign previewed some of what we’re seeing today. In light of all of it, it’s chilling to go back and watch his two-minute closing ad, which was the perfect statement of this type of xenophobic populist nationalism. Its blueprint is perfectly captured in two images from the ad. First, the “global special interests”:


Then, the dark invading hordes — described as “massive illegal immigration” being engineered by those global special interests:


Trump was, and is, fluent in this language of xenophobic populist nationalism. It’s why Stephen K. Bannon immediately recognized him as a kindred ideological spirit. And during the campaign, Trump was explicitly warned that this juxtaposition was a very dangerous one. As Joshua Green recounts in his biography of Bannon:


“Darkness is good,” Bannon told Trump. “Don’t let up.” And as president, Trump has decidedly not let up. He has not let up even after the Pittsburgh shooting.

The point is not that Trump is to blame for that massacre; it’s that in its wake, Trump has continued to feed this crackpot conspiracy-mongering with more dangerous lies. Trump not only continues to hype the migrant caravan as a national emergency, even sending in troops to dramatize the point; he has also even continued to encourage the view that Soros is engineering it:

Reporter: Do you think somebody is funding the caravan? Do you think somebody is paying for the caravan?

Trump: I wouldn’t be surprised. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Reporter: George Soros? Who’s paying for it?

Trump: I don’t know who. But I wouldn’t be surprised. A lot of people say yes.

Trump was warned during the campaign that these ideas were combustible. He has now seen this come to fruition in the most horrifying way possible. And as president, he’s continued to feed them. And so have many other Republicans. Which he, and they, will continue to do no matter what other horrors come along.