November 22, 2018

Why I can’t vote for Donald Trump

As a well-identified Republican in the Los Angeles Jewish community, for weeks and months on end I have repeatedly been asked the same question by Democratic friends and colleagues, and I usually sense it coming by the person’s shifting body language: “So, would you vote for Donald Trump?” My diplomatic but evasive response came to be, “It depends on who is running against him.” But I never thought it would really come down to that. Now it appears likely.

For me, it’s time to publicly change my previous answer before it’s too late : Yes, I would Dump Trump. If it came down to the choice between Hillary Clinton (another terribly flawed candidate) and him, I would either not vote at all or support a third-party conservative candidate, if that were an option. Sometimes, regrettably, taking the least bad choice is the best option.

Trump’s outrageous statements and behavior are well worn by now: His disparagement of one ethnic group after the other; his making fun of the disabled; his admiration for Vladimir Putin; his belittling of one person after the other, from Sen. John McCain to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly to former governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush and on and on. Remember his prank of reading Sen. Lindsey Graham’s cellphone number to a crowd? Is this befitting of a president? First he “shlonged” Hillary Clinton, and then he insisted on talking about his own in a nationally televised debate. Mr. Trump: The American presidency isn’t some vulgar reality show.

Trump currently claims to be a Republican, but Republican after Republican are disowning him. His views are certainly not consistently conservative. Using eminent domain for personal interests certainly isn’t. The problem is that no one knows what he consistently believes. His views shift in the wind from day to day or minute to minute. One minute, he would order the military to torture people, the next minute, he wouldn’t. One minute, George W. Bush lied us into war, the next day, he didn’t. How can someone who is so erratic be elected to represent a major political party, let alone be trusted with the codes to unleash the arsenal of the nuclear triad, the meaning of which he was unaware of a short time ago?

As a Jew and the son of a Holocaust survivor, what scares me about Trump is his treatment of people as groups, using negative stereotypes to stir up the emotions of uneducated and disaffected people, and appealing to the worst instincts of people. He disparages minorities before he says he “loves” some of them. For now, it’s Mexicans, Muslims, the Chinese. Jews, after all, are the ultimate minority. During the Diaspora, Jews spread out and shifted from country to country, based on acceptance by the majority in the countries to which they migrated. During World War II, we all know what happened when Jews found the doors shut. While I am not arguing for uncontrolled migration, the demonization of people seeking shelter or a better life is not compatible with our history.

One of Trump’s ex-wives alleges he kept a copy of Hitler’s speeches at his bedside. I have no idea if this is true, but the fact that she thought people would find it credible is disturbing. I haven’t heard that come up in even the bitterest divorces. Trump’s failure to immediately disavow the KKK makes you wonder.

Furthermore, Jews don’t demean women. Woman are revered. Modern synagogues treat the matriarchs as we do the patriarchs, honoring them in daily prayers. Shavuot celebrates Ruth, and Purim, Esther. Jewish adults don’t make fun of a woman’s menses.

On Israel, Trump seems uninformed and naive. Being an even-handed broker between a Democratic ally and Hamas is ridiculous. The fact that he approaches diplomacy as he would a business deal (which for him often ended in bankruptcy) is foolishness. Trump’s defense of his bona fides on Israel is that he once marched in an Israel Day parade. This is reminiscent of the fact that he gets foreign policy advice from watching “the shows.” There is no substance here.

I am writing this from Paris. A friend of mine told me people in the tolerant Republique de France are shocked that so many Americans would be supporting Trump for president. Americans? They have managed to marginalize Marie Le Pen in France amid all the xenophobia but Trump is winning in America? Il n’est pas possible. A few days ago, I was in London with my daughter. A friend of hers who works in the financial district told me that Trump is a hotter topic of conversation among her colleagues than “Brexit” (Great Britain leaving the European Union). “Europe depends on America,” she told me. “Europe is scared.”

Twenty-eight years ago, my wife persuaded me to join the Republican Party because it was more aligned with most of my core political beliefs. My wife and I were frequently challenged and chastised about our conversion by Westside friends, so-called “liberals,” who charged us with greed, sexism, racism, homophobia and misogyny. Having become well versed in the writings and speeches of Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, George Gilder, William Buckley and Ronald Reagan, we had no problem arguing successfully for conservative values based on sound, intellectual arguments. We occasionally changed minds, especially in the early 2000s, as George W. Bush, 9/11, and the Second Intifada produced a wave of “9/11 Republicans,” Jews who were willing to follow facts and abandon old beliefs and emotions.

In 2016, I am still a conservative, a constitutionalist and a Republican. However, I cannot defend Donald Trump on any political or intellectual grounds. He presents a challenge to much of what I believe in and is a potential danger to the United States and our friends and allies. For these reasons, I am adding my voice to a chorus of other Republican leaders in affirming that I cannot vote for Donald Trump, and will use all of my energies to defeat him.

Joel Geiderman is the California Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition and the former Vice Chairman of the United States Holocaust Museum, appointed by George W. Bush. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or individual with which or whom he is currently or was formerly affiliated.