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Let's Rent a Catering Hall at Palm Beach.

When I first went to Palm Beach, which was the early 1970’s, I had the distinct impression that New York Jews (like me) were not particularly welcome in the town. Florida was still a place where rich, white people who weren’t ethnics had an ocean view from Delray Beach north, and everyone else who wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean from their condo lived from Boca Raton south.

The alternative was to drive 70 miles across Alligator Alley and take a place on the Gulf Coast. But everybody knew that the Gulf was second-class and basically the locale favored by white trash.

Of course, all of this has now changed. Towns like Naples on the Gulf are as fancy-schmancy as anything on the Ocean side of the state, and buying a ocean view apartment on the East Coast requires only that you come up with the cash.

But there’s still something unique about a Palm Beach address. And I’m not talking about West Palm Breach across the causeway. That’s the commercial mess and trailer parks on Route 1. There’s still something of an exclusive aura surrounding Palm Beach, which I hate to say it has been punctured by none other than a New York hotelkeeper named Donald Trump.

I was reminded of how his presence in Palm Beach has changed things when I happened to see a brief video of Trump in the entrance to the Mar-a-Lago dining room congratulating a new bride whose family had rented the space for their blessed event.

With all due respect to the legions of Trump-haters (including me) out there, looking at that video clip you could never imagine that Trump stood up in front of thousands of people back on January 6th, 2021, and told them to go to the Capitol and trash the place.

Okay, so he didn’t exactly use those words. But anyone who believes that Trump didn’t know and didn’t approve of how the MAGA army was going to behave when they broke through the flimsy barriers and ran up the Capitol steps, is either fooling themselves or is just downright dumb. Or to quote the attorney who defended one of the rioters charged with assaulting a police officer among other things, his client was simply ‘dumb as shit.’

I have no idea about the ethnic or religious backgrounds of the bride and groom whose wedding Trump crashed last week. But in fact, if this couple were Jewish or black or belonged to some other non-white ethnic or racial group, the only private club in Palm Beach that would rent them space for their affair is the private club owned and operated by Donald Trump.

Back in the 1990’s, Trump got into a pissing match with the Palm Beach powers-that-be who were giving him a hard time about approving his golf course because Mar-a-Lago had a public policy of placing no restrictions on membership in his private club. Eventually the own gave in and Trump went out of his way to declare that he was running an ‘open’ club, a narrative he continued to promote even after he declared his Presidential candidacy in 2015.

So, how does a guy go from being a champion of racial inclusion to being a hard-core racist before, during and after a Presidential campaign? If nothing else, Trump’s racism, beginning with his denunciation of Mexican ‘rapists’ when he announced his candidacy, set him apart from the rest of the GOP primary field. In other words, during the 2016 primary season Trump basically competed against himself.

By declaring Mar-a-Lago to be a private club which dispensed with traditional social barriers to admission and membership, Trump could also avoid competition with all the other private social and catering venues in Palm Beach. Not so stupid, right?

The problem this time around, however, is that racism and extreme religious and social nationalism are no longer unique to the Trump-MAGA brand. Every day another putative GOP 2024 candidate tries to outdo everyone else with some crazy appeal to the anti-woke audience, e.g., Ron DeSantis, who is now - ready? - exploring alternatives to the college entrance exams prepared by the College Board.

In particular, DeSantis is interested in an exam developed by an outfit whose tests promote the ‘Christian tradition’ and are now accepted by such citadels of higher learning as Abilene Christian University, Holy Apostles College and Southwestern Assemblies of God University, just to name a few.

If I were Donald Trump, I’d forget all this political nonsense and spend more time greeting partygoers at the entrance to the Mar-a-Lago club. What would be so bad if we started seeing a Nar-a-Lago national chain? Somebody needs to replace Howard Johnson’s, don’t you think.

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