2016 Election Blog #22: Trump’s Acceptance Speech: Implications for America and its Jewish Community

July 23, 2016

The Trump address at the Republican National Convention was one of the most unique performances by an American public figure. It would represent a distinctive combination of a populist spokesperson filtered with a mix of traditional Republicanism. His remarks would reflect the same type of social appeal that would mark Andrew Jackson’s campaign 1828, while it included elements of Wendell Willkie’s 1940 Republican campaign.

The mixture of “America First” ideals as seen in Willkie’s candidacy and Richard Nixon’s focus on “law and order” would frame this 75-minute address. His closing of borders and his rejection of immigrants coming to this nation from specific regions and countries would resonate both to this historic posture of early 20th Century Republicanism and more directly to elements of his political base.

On occasion the Republican nominee would introduce several traditional conservative principles, especially in connection with the Supreme Court nomination process, his views on the Second Amendment, and his position on church-state. But outside of these specific references, the Trump effort would be singularly populist in style and content, aiming to tear apart support for trade agreements, a core feature of past Republican Administrations and to move away from other principles of Republicanism.

Critics point to the dichotomy created by Mr. Trump when noting the rise in urban crime and his commitment to make government work for inner city youths, while in the same context describing himself as the “law and order candidate” embracing the power and role of the police.

His assault on American engagement in world conflicts would likewise reverse a core doctrine of Republican interventionism and in particular the Neo-Conservative commitment by replacing failed regimes with democratic institutions of government. His rejection of US interventionism at least on the scale promoted by Reagan and Bush Administrations would mark a major break with his host party.

Indeed, as with all major political addresses, it would introduce the necessary pro-Israel declaration. Yet unlike any other political platform in American history, the Israel statement of the 2016 Republican Party specifically rejected language affirming the party’s commitment to a two-state solution. The statement can be seen as one that could embolden those in the Jewish State who seek to annex the West Bank as part of a greater-Israel platform.

How will America’s Jews respond in the aftermath of the Republican Convention to Donald Trump’s candidacy? The Trump campaign, and more directly his July 21st speech, will arouse some interesting concerns, as well as conversations on his view of America and its future:

Church-State: Donald Trump referenced his desire to reverse Lyndon Johnson’s 1954 legislation to insert into IRS Regulations, a stipulation that if religious organizations, churches and synagogues endorsed political candidates they could lose their 501 ©3 tax exempt status. Trump’s decision to roll back this stipulation is seen as altering the public role of churches and synagogues in the public square. While such an initiative is clearly favored by evangelical groups, most mainstream groups have historically held to this division of church and state.

School Choice: In a brief one-line statement, the Republican nominee endorsed school choice, failing to clarify what specific changes he would propose in changing the options available to parents. Was he suggesting that the government support parochial and private schools?

Second Amendment: Mr. Trump endorsed the support offered to him by the NRA as he embraced the principle that Americans have the right to bear arms as provided for in the Second Amendment; yet, he did not address the rise in gun violence within the society and what steps if any he would propose to deal with the availability of guns in the public square.

Supreme Court: He embraced the appointment of a future justice to the Court who held the same judicial temperament as Justice Scalia.

Environmental Priorities: Trump’s call to revive the Keystone XL oil pipeline project places him in direct opposition to environmentalist groups and to many within the Jewish community who have expressed concerns about such projects.

US Global Role: While some American Jews may welcome Mr. Trump’s desire to withdraw and contain this country’s involvement in world affairs, his retreat from international trade agreements and other commitments that have historically bound this nation to its partners would seem to run counter to the globalist view that has been adopted by most Americans, including many within the Jewish community.

Anti-Semitism: One of the outcomes of concern to the community were a number of reports, as shared by various reporters, confirming a significant amount of social media anti-Semitism, especially following Governor Linda Lingle’s speech on Monday evening and additional anti-Jewish messaging that would unfold over the last several days of the RNC meetings.

Wherever one may be on the political spectrum, the Trump address of July 21st will evoke significant debate. Does his view of America depict the positions and concerns of Jewish Americans or does it represent a message that will be seen as highly problematic to Jewish political priorities?

Dr. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of HUC-JIR, Los Angeles. His writings can be found on the

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