If you want to understand the ascent of Donald John Trump, consider the BDS movement.
Factually, of course, they’ve little in common. But facts don’t matter here because facts don’t always make sense. Factually, it’s as hard to understand why any serious person would advocate sanctions against one nation while condoning far worse offenses in others, as it is to imagine the Mexican government paying for a wall between itself and its neighbor to the north. It’s 2016, and facts, sadly, hold as much currency as a Jeb! campaign button. Only emotions matter now. And emotionally, you can learn everything you need to know about Trump’s rise by observing the mechanics of organized Israel-hating.
Both BDS and Trumpism are movements predicated on petulance. Both begin with a similar rejection of politics—which is the craft of compromise, the art of building frail coalitions, and the practice of learning to live with the occasional defeat—and both offer a chauvinistic, borderline hysterical, mindless reaction: divide the world into us and them. Wage total war. Bully anyone susceptible to bullying. When you get called out, claim you’re a victim.
Like Israel’s supporters, Trump’s opponents tried to answer tirades with facts. They pointed out inconsistencies and lies, cracked sophisticated jokes, and watched, baffled, as the mad mob continued to grow. And while BDS, thankfully, isn’t nearly as trenchant as Trump seems at the moment, it draws its adherents from the same murky waters the bloated billionaire draws his: the childish and the entitled, the peddlers of identity politics, the fools who howl much and do little.
Observers of both movements frequently try to offer, if not excuses, at least plausible explanations for their growth. Sure, they’d say, BDS is morally repugnant, but can you really blame those activists who are so frustrated with Israel’s political recalcitrance as to resort to such desperate measures? Of course, Trump is odious, but can’t you understand his appeal to those working-class folks left behind by a tiding plutocratic economy they can no longer understand and from which they no longer gain?
The answer, in both cases, must be the same: No.
No, because while these explanations may be salient, they don’t matter. Whatever Trump’s supporters feel, they’ve a duty to consider their civic responsibilities and resist juvenile urges like stickin’ it to the man or tellin’ it like it is or votin’ for the funny and outrageous dude. If they fail this basic duty—and, by failing, shatter the solid democratic ground upon which The United States of Amera has stood for 240 years—they can hardly complain about whatever disasters come rushing down on their heads as a result. The same is true for the BDS crowd.
Our fight isn’t political our ideological. It’s more basic than that. It’s foundational, and it’s being waged right now between self-centered children—who would like to redress their grievances by burning everything they don’t like to a crisp—and weary adults—on the left and on the right, critical of Israel and supportive of it, fiscal conservatives and welfare state adherents, giddy atheists and worshipful believers—who are still standing with their fingers in the cracked dam, and doing their best to keep the flood from coming. God help us all if the grown-ups lose.