August 20, 2019

2016 Election Blog #12: Trump and the Jews

As it begins to take form, the Republican Party’s nominee may well be Donald Trump. What will happen to the Republican Jewish vote in November? For some, it may represent a second “Yom Kippur” where some in the Jewish Republican camp will “abstain” this year by simply “fasting”, electing not to cast a vote. Sitting this one out maybe a form of “teshuvah,” repentance for failing to mobilize early enough to have denied the nomination to “the Donald”!

While sitting on the sidelines, certain of these Jewish activists will be reenacting the Chanukah story, awaiting the “miracle” that might yet emerge, i.e. the rise of Marco Rubio or a yet unknown politician who like the Maccabees will liberate the Republican Party Convention from the Trumpian forces.

Yet, for almost all, this will be Tisha B’Av, indeed a day of national mourning, as they acknowledge this loss and its impact on America.

Indeed, there is no desire on the part of Jewish Republicans to formally organize a Jewish strategy against a Trump candidacy, as such a move could fundamentally backfire, endangering core interests of the pro-Israel community.

However, William Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel posted a video message this week:

“How can Trump make America great when he’s kissing up to anti-American dictators? If you’re pro-Israel, you shouldn’t be pro-Trump. Apologists for dictators aren’t reliable friends of the Jewish state.”[1] On a different note, the ADL this past week issued a list of individuals and groups supporting the Trump campaign that the agency found to be racist, along with a background summary.

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Robert Kagan, one of the key voices in the neoconservative camp, announced that he would be crossing political party lines:

“For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. …The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.”[2]

But other possibilities exist! This week, just prior to Super Tuesday, the Boston Herold would report that some 20,000 Massachusetts Democrats had left their party in order to register as “independents” or as “Republicans.” Was the intention here to embrace the Trump nomination or a tactical strategy to prevent the his candidacy from securing the nomination? For this assessment the newspaper report was unclear. No doubt there were Jewish voters amongst these transfers who may have decided to act on their own to offset a Trump bid.

In the end for a few Republican Jewish loyalists, they will observe November 8th as a second Purim, proceeding “in drag” to the polls, hoping not to be seen, yet casting their vote out of loyalty to party and country!

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Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles.  His writings can be found at