Monday, April 15, 2024 -
Print Edition

It’s all about Jewish safety

Donald Trump wants to be the first president to serve non-consecutive terms since Grover Cleveland.

Unfortunately for “The Donald,” he’s no “The Grover.” 

Cleveland won the 1884 election by a 23,005-vote margin, lost in 1888 while winning the popular vote by 100,456 votes, and then won again in 1892 by 379,810 votes. Trump has yet to come close to winning the popular vote. While the electoral college might ultimately be decided by white women in suburban Milwaukee, this history is not on Trump’s side.

Does history matter in politics? History suggests that it doesn’t. Voting patterns in the US have been pretty stable across demographic groups for the last 50 years, at least with respect to party identification. In close elections however, it only takes a small shift to turn the tide. While parties can count on their base to be the same kinds of people from election to election, the difference is often the motivating factor for voters to go to the polls.

The Jewish electorate behaves similarly. Based on exit polling, left and right have been pretty stable with the Jewish vote breaking 68% Democrat and 30% Republican in 2020. Back in 1972, the split was 64% to 34%.

 As a small population, it does not take that many Jewish voters to produce a material change in these percentages resulting in a peak of 80% of the Jewish vote for Bill Clinton in 1992 and a trough of 64% for Nixon in 1972, Carter in 1976 and Dukakis in 1988. The closest any Republican candidate came to winning a majority of Jewish votes in the last century-plus was Charles Evans Hughes in 1916 with 45%.

What has changed since Oct. 7?

The most powerful sense of political betrayal since Oct. 7 surely belongs to Jewish Progressives who wanted to believe that they were allies of other seemingly like-minded groups. Even though anti-Jewishness in the guise of anti-Zionism has surged at least as far back as the Women’s March in 2016 and figured prominently in the rhetoric of certain Progressive elements like the Democratic Socialists of America and Black Lives Matter, such bigotry was discounted. 

The unwillingness of left-wing groups to condemn, or worse, their willingness to support the murder and rape of Jews awakened many Jewish Progressives to the realization that the bigotry they dismissed was real.

Discounting the danger of hate speech is not a fault only of the left. As President, Donald Trump made his infamous “good people on both sides” comment about the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville and in this campaign has quoted Adolf Hitler’s “poisoning the blood” rhetoric. 

Republican boosters like Moms for Liberty have likewise resorted to quoting Hitler and then pretending not to realize how offensive that was as if idiocy were a reasonable defense.

The explosion of anti-Jewish bigotry in the wake of Oct. 7 must force the Jewish community to realize that we cannot continue to dismiss hateful rhetoric nor ascribe the hate that produces it only to fringe elements within the Democratic and Republican parties. 

For Jews in both parties, it is not reasonable to presume that one side is our friend and the other a foe. Both parties have powerful wings staking positions that are a danger to our community. 

Shortly after Oct. 7, President Biden made a dramatic request for support of Israel and Ukraine, arguing that there is a global fight of good against evil that has to be waged with American support. 

To date, Republicans have used Israel’s misfortune to try to push through pet border policies and vacillated about Ukraine while Democrats are increasingly demanding conditions on aid to Israel if not outright cuts. The resulting gridlock means Congress is abandoning American allies in the middle of their fight for our values.

With our votes and our dollars, the Jewish electorate needs to up the stakes for politicians. 

Rote statements expressing opposition to anti-Semitism are not enough. 

Candidates and office-holders need to condemn even those within their own parties who traffic in bigotry. 

It should be obvious that Hitler-quoting is unacceptable in American politics, but since that apparently isn’t obvious, presidential candidates and Hitler-quoting, pro-censorship fellow travelers need to be driven from the power centers of the Republican party.

Meanwhile, leftist use of words and expressions like “apartheid,” “settler-colonialism” and “genocide” when referring to Israel and Zionism need to become as anathema as the N-word in Democratic circles.

We also need to be clear that our community will no longer tolerate politicians who hide behind radical fig-leaf organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace, If Not Now and Rabbis for Human Rights, whose sickening abuse of Jewishness and Judaism to legitimize left-wing hate is setting themselves apart from the Jewish people.

I am not so naïve as to believe that all forms of bigotry and anti-Semitism can be rooted out of politics, but I am also not so sanguine as to pretend that the safety of our community is not threatened by the pervasiveness of hate and hate-speech.

Frankly, I would like nothing more than to ignore the noise. I would certainly feel less stress. But when the radical who left the floor of the Colorado House of Representatives to join with pro-Palestinian zealots screaming from the gallery at a Jewish legislator is from my district (Elisabeth Epps), the barbarians are at my gate. Ignoring them while they close in is not an option.

History suggests that our voting patterns will not change all that much in this election cycle, but that history needs to be a thing of the past. At the top of the ballot, we must punish a Republican who quotes Hitler with admiration. Down the ballot, we must punish Democrats who delegitimize and vilify Israel while Jews are murdered, assaulted and kidnapped.

The domestic political lesson of Oct. 7 is that left and right are secondary considerations. It is the rooting out of threats against the safety of the Jewish community that must be the motivating factor for going to the polls, regardless of party.

Copyright © 2024 by the Intermountain Jewish News

Leave a Reply