Bernie was the first to arrive. He appeared edgy as he entered the hole-in-the-wall bar off an alley on the Lower East Side.
He paused in the doorway, waiting for his senses to adjust to the dusky, dead-quiet interior.
He checked the time: 4:23 p.m. “Hello,” he shouted, taking a step inside.
“You’re early,” I barked from the back room.
Bernie walked slowly down the narrow aisle between the long bar on his left and the single row of tables on his right. I met him halfway.
“Thanks for coming,” I said, shaking his hand before taking up my post behind the bar. “Pull up a stool.”
Bernie was griping about this and that – “I don’t know why I agreed to this” – when the front door opened and Mike joined us. He’d been here before.
I inherited the joint a long time ago from my Uncle Julius, who ran it as a front for his bookmaking operation. The sign out front still said Arnold’s, a tribute to the godfather of Jewish gangsters.
I turned it into a hideout for political wiseguys to drink and caucus.
“What’ll ya have?” I asked.
“Draft, please,” said Mike.
“Do you have Heady Topper? “ Bernie asked.
“Hedda Hopper?” I laughed.
“Never mind, I’ll have a Rheingold.”
I laughed again, explained to Bernie that the Rheingold brewery shut down in the ’70s, and drew another Coors Light.
I poured myself a vodka on the rocks and broke the ice. “Does the media know you two are Jewish?”
“Is that a rhetorical question?” Mike asked.
“Not really,” I said. “I read the papers and watch too much cable news – mostly MSNBC – and have not heard one word about you both being Jewish, that your party could nominate the first Jew for president, and that it might be an issue.”
Ever since the smart money moved from Biden to a Bernie-Mike race, I’d imagined what the general election would be like. I painted the picture for my guests.
Thousands of Nazis, Klansmen and other Trumpiacs in the streets, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”
Talk of Christ killers and international Jewish conspiracies.
Fox News retrospectives of Emma Goldman and the Rosenbergs.
The president slandering “Hollywood elites” (Jews) and “media liberals” (Jews). Calling out Barbra Streisand, Jake Tapper and “Sulzberger’s” New York Times.
Rally-goers screaming “lock him up” whenever Trump attacks George Soros, Adam Schiff or Alexander Vindman.
A campaign fundraiser, a masquerade ball, called Kristallnacht. Steve Mnuchin comes as Shylock.
Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford and Father Coughlin awarded Medals of Freedom.
The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, anti-Semitic propaganda from czarist Russia – later required reading in the classrooms of Nazi Germany – hot on Amazon.
“The Russians have a long history of weaponizing anti-Semitism and Putin is probably already dishing out shit to help his most valuable asset.”
I’d talked for about twenty minutes. Bernie and Mike periodically interrupted, but I ignored their protestations and plowed on.
“What do you suggest we do?” Mike asked.
“You tell me,” I said. “What’s your plan?”
“My plan,” Sanders said, “is to win the nomination and destroy Trump in the debates.”
“There aren’t going to be any debates,” Mike said with a frown. “He’ll find some excuse and chicken out.”
“And,” I said, “if either of you wins the nomination, there will be blood.”
Non-stop attacks on synagogues and Jews throughout the country.
Trump blames immigrants.
Declares martial law.
Calls off the election.