JTA — Boycott Trump? Mock Trump? Trump, the musical?
Jewish liberals are ready to sow a summer of Donald Trump discontent in ways that aim both to bludgeon and entertain.
Bend the Arc, an advocacy group, is convening its first national conference next week aimed in part at finding a strategy to keep the billionaire real estate magnate, who has secured the Republican nomination, from becoming president.
“We have been actively working and campaigning to make sure that Trump is defeated since early fall,” said Stosh Cotler, the CEO of the group, which was formed from the 2011 merger of the New York-based Jewish Funds for Justice and the West Coast-based Progressive Jewish Alliance. “That work will be continued at the conference.
“We’re hoping that this platform of 500 Jews will be an opportunity to get more folks involved in defeating Trump and the movement his candidacy has catalyzed.”
Mik Moore, the social media agitator behind the 2008 pro-Obama effort known as "The Great Schlep," is planning a narrative series that would lampoon Trump.
Cotler said she would announce plans for a mass action that would involve Jews across the country. She did not provide more details, but pointed to the campaign to have major corporations boycott the Republican convention as a template.
That campaign, joining Bend the Arc with Color of Change, a black advocacy group, and Credo Action, a network of progressive activists, claims responsibility for Coca-Cola’s decision to markedly reduce its participation at this year’s convention, and has targeted others, including Google, Facebook and Apple. (Coca-Cola neither confirms nor denies activists' pressure led the company to reduce its contributions to the convention, saying only that it is nonpartisan.)
Also speaking at the conference are representatives of Latino, African-American and Muslim advocacy groups, as well as politicians including Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the U.S. House of Representatives minority leader.
Other Bend the Arc actions targeting Trump include launching an online petition last November disguised as a mock "registry" of Jews — a pointed parody of his call for a registry of American Muslims — and a web ad that quoted Trump’s description of incoming Mexicans as “rapists and murderers” set against images of Nazi-era Jews who sought refuge in the United States.
“The ugly anti-immigrant rhetoric of today sounds painfully familiar to American Jews,” the ad said.
Moore’s Jewish Council for Education and Research was behind “The Great Schlep,” which drew on the talents of comedian Sarah Silverman to get young Jewish voters to persuade their grandparents in Florida to vote for Barack Obama. Silverman and actor Samuel Jackson were featured in videos in the 2012 campaign that had a similar message, albeit delivered in more profane terms.
This time around, Moore said the breadth of Trump’s challenge to liberal values demands not just a single video but a narrative series along the lines of “Halal in the Family,” a 2015 web series he helped develop featuring comedian Aasif Mandvi that promoted tolerance for Muslims.
“We’ve been thinking about how to use humor to take on Trump and to explain what his politics means,” Moore said.
“We’ve developing a bigger project, bigger than the 'Schlep' or ‘Wake the F--- Up’,” he said, referring to Jackson's 2012 video. “We want to do some storytelling this cycle and create characters people better connect to — better than a single one-off video.”
Moore said it was too early to reveal what shape the Trump series would take.
Jewish groups are grappling with how to confront Trump. His "America First" rhetoric has resonated with white supremacist groups, whose support Trump has been reluctant to forcefully disavow, and some of his proposals, including mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, monitoring mosques and registering Muslims, run afoul of the mainstream groups' civil rights agenda. But directly targeting a nominee risks casting a tax-exempt group as partisan.
A number of groups, notably the Anti-Defamation League, have not hesitated to name Trump. The ADL told the Forward last week that its criticism of Trump is consistent with its longstanding practice of calling out by name politicians who cross red lines.
Other groups, including the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella public policy group, have chosen to decry the rhetoric while not naming the candidate.
Bend the Arc has an affiliated political action committee through which it channels much — but not all — of its anti-Trump activism. Cotler said the PAC hopes to raise $500,000 this season, which will be used, Bend the Arc spokesman Elliot Levy told JTA, "to promote the election of leaders who champion Bend the Arc’s issues and can move our country in the right direction."
Cotler said Trump’s candidacy is enough of an affront to Jewish values of tolerance and inclusion that it should supersede anxieties about appearing partisan. Bend the Arc is able to carry out its anti-Trump advocacy through its 501(c)(4) group, Bend the Arc Jewish Action, which under IRS rules may devote a portion of its activities to politics.
“The Jewish community that Bend the Arc believes in is one that values democracy, inclusion and equity that understands that when any other community is singled out and banned, this goes so deeply against our core values,” she said. “This is a values-based election; this is not a partisan issue.”
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