The New York Times Starts to Understand the Right (With the Help of an Israeli Professor)
The December 18 New York Times article by David Halbfinger carries an intriguing title: “To Understand Red-State America, He Urges a Look at Red-State Israel.” More intriguing still is the subtitle: “An Israeli sociologist argues that Trump voters, like Netanyahu supporters in Israel, have legitimate reasons to find liberal values threatening.”
This is printed in the Times?
But it gets better still. The opening two paragraphs read:
Liberals were confounded. The right-wing incumbent’s blue-collar base was sticking by him, cheering as he weaponized identity politics, attacked democratic institutions and appeared to place his own interests ahead of the nation’s.
A familiar set of facts, to say the least. But the liberals in question were Israeli, the incumbent was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the working-class voters were Israeli Jews with roots in North Africa and the Middle East.
Halbfinger focuses on the work of a Tel Aviv University sociologist named Nissim Mizrachi “who spent years studying those voters and grappling with their rejection of liberalism.”
“Their Vision Itself Poses a Threat”
Interestingly, the left’s perspective on the right in Israel is similar to the left’s perspective on the right here in America.
According to the Israeli left, the right-leaning vote is chalked up to right-wing biases, such as xenophobia and sexism and racism. These right-wing voters, the liberals believe, don’t know what is good for them. How, the liberals wondered, could they be so unenlightened?
As Halbfinger explained, Prof. Mizrachi realized that what these conservative voters perceive “as the endgame of the liberal worldview is not a world they wish to inhabit.”
Indeed, Mizrachi noted, “It’s really hard for liberals to imagine that their message, their vision itself, poses a threat to the core identity of other people.”
Did I mention this was printed in the New York Times?
According to Halbfinger, Mizrachi’s findings, published one year ago in the left-leaning Haaretz, sent shock waves across the nation. Was liberalism actually at fault? Were liberals missing the point?
What the Left Thinks About the Right, and What It Doesn’t Understand
Here in America, the left still does not understand where so much of Donald Trump’s support came from, chalking it up to similar, dark motives.
Trump supporters want to keep America white.
Trump supporters are misogynists.
Trump supporters hate all immigrants.
Trump supporters are uneducated hicks.
And you can be assured that the leftist media will do its best to find the worst possible representatives of Trump when interviewing the man or woman on the street. The caricature must be reinforced.
Consequently, the left does not recognize that the vast majority of Trump supporters are neither white supremacists nor woman-haters. They are no more racist bigots than they are storing up weapons in the hills of West Virginia.
Some, for sure, fit these negative depictions, just as there are bigots and racists and haters on the left. Each side has its extremes.
But most Trump supporters simply did not like the way the nation was going, not based on skin color but based on leftist policies, some of which threatened the very foundations of our free country.
Dismissed as Racist
In Mizrachi’s view, speaking of non-liberal voters in Israel and America, “Both see themselves as their countries’ most patriotic citizens, and demonize the left and its allies in the news media, academia and other liberal redoubts as traitorous enemies. Both feel disdained by those elites, who dismiss their views as racist, ignorant or unwittingly self-defeating.”
Yes, the enlightened ones look with scorn on these ignorant Trump supporters (or, in Israel, Netanyahu supporters), wondering how they could be so foolish as to refuse such gracious help from the left. Surely, the liberals know what is best! How can anyone not see it?
To be sure, the very nature of conservatism can lead to erecting walls and barriers. It can exclude outsiders and demean them. These are the potential downsides that must be avoided. Patriotism can easily descend into tribalism.
But what the left fails to realize is that its utopian dreams and goals, which will be strictly enforced by the all-knowing, far-reaching government, are perceived as a very real threat to our national integrity. Indeed, to our very liberty.
In Mizrachi’s words, “if the liberals get their version of peace, it’s a threat to my way of living.” The sacrifice does not justify the end result.
When the Israeli Left’s Failure to Understand the Right Cost Them
Perhaps the most interesting part of Halbfinger’s article is that the Israeli left failed to get the message. It failed to hear what the people were saying.
He explains that Mizrachi “recalled how Israeli liberals, driven from power in 1977, celebrated their comeback in 1999 when Ehud Barak of the Labor Party ended Mr. Netanyahu’s first term. Triumphant, the left did not bother to reach out. It went right back to marginalizing Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing base.”
As a result, “Barak did not last two years” while “his successors have all been right-wingers, and Labor [the once-powerful liberal party] today is effectively defunct.”
And what is the closing quote of the article?
“This is the lesson maybe for you,” Professor Mizrachi said. “OK, you won the election, fine. But don’t forget that red America is still there.”
Did I mention this was published in the New York Times?
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test? Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.