16 May 2016
The headline in Politico asks: “Trump: Bad for Jewish Republicans?” The article suggests many conservative (small “c”) Jews are having trouble coming around to the GOP’s presumptive nominee.
It does not cite polling data; instead, it relies on opinions, such as those of Anti-Defamation League CEO (and former Obama administration official) Jonathan Greenblatt, which is a bit like asking the head of PETA what she thinks of the steaks at Applebee’s now that they’ve changed their menu.
There is no doubt that some Jewish Republicans detest Donald Trump, including some well-known pundits. But there are also many Jews who genuinely like Trump, like the gentleman who shows up at my Orthodox synagogue wearing his “Make America Great Again” cap. Others will vote Trump simply because they vote GOP regardless. And Trump has a growing number of Jewish defenders — including figures like Sheldon Adelson, the big donor behind the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Here is what the Republican Jewish Coalition itself had to say in its official response to Trump becoming the likely nominee:
The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates Donald Trump on being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party. Throughout the course of this long campaign among Republicans there has been unity in the belief that Hillary Clinton is the worst possible choice for a commander in chief. Secretary Clinton has proven time and again through her record and her policies that her candidacy will compromise our national security, weaken our economy and further strain our relationship with our greatest ally, Israel. Along with the Presidential race, the RJC will be working hard to hold on to our majorities in the Senate and the House. It is critical that these majorities be preserved. To do this we must remember our core principles: peace through strength, unwavering support for Israel, and robust American leadership at home and abroad.
That is not so much an argument for Trump as it is an argument against Hillary Clinton. But Trump has a few unique things to offer Jewish voters.
One is his unequivocal opposition to radical Islam. In calling for a pause in Muslim immigration after the San Bernardino terror attack in December, Trump just said publicly what many Jews were thinking privately.
A second factor is Trump’s fight against political correctness — the same scourge that is making life rough for pro-Israel kids on campus.
A third is the fact that Trump is pulling so many new Republican voters into the fold.
Some Republican Jews seem uneasy about who they think these new voters are. The “Never Trump” crowd is eagerly amplifying the importance of the “alt-right” to Trump’s base. But that is little different than what Democrats and the media do to any GOP candidate for president. Every Republican nominee is Hitler. In this case, Hitler has an Orthodox Jewish daughter who doesn’t answer his calls on Shabbat.
The argument in the Politico article is that Trump will turn off many liberal Jews who otherwise might have considered the GOP. That is fanciful, at best, especially when Hillary Clinton is the likely nominee on the Democratic side — not because she is so “good for the Jews,” but because she and her husband have spent decades courting Jewish support. Despite her dismal record on the Iran deal and Israeli-Palestinian issues, Hillary also benefits among wavering Jews by not being Barack Obama.
Trump may, or may not, expand Jewish support for the GOP in 2016 — but the real question is whether he would have done better than anyone else against Hillary Clinton. The answer is unknown — and, for now, irrelevant.
The dangerous game being played by some Jewish critics of Trump is claiming that the community itself, or its core values, are somehow opposed to Trump. How will they walk that back in the event that Trump actually wins?
And who elected them to represent us anyway?