August 20, 2019

2016 Election Blog #13: Jews for Trump and Beyond

This election contains a little (or in some cases) a lot of everything! There have been Bernie’s caravan of young people and Ted Cruz’s evangelical supporters. Then, of course, there is the phenomenon of Donald Trump! (Earlier commentaries in this series, in particular blog numbers 7 and 12 addressed the “Trump candidacy” while others, in a more generic manner, dealt with his impact on this campaign.)

What we know is that his support is comprised of an assortment of angry and dissatisfied Americans. These “Trumpians” include this nation’s left-behind working class, feeling that government has failed them and their families.

Indeed, the candidacy of Donald Trump is attracting large voter turnout. In the minds of his supporters is the belief that both parties have failed them. The resentment of establishment politics is being expressed by these white working class voters, as feeling underrepresented within our society without a base of political power. No doubt, Donald Trump’s candidacy and message has touched this untapped sector of the American society.

These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead,” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their crytofascism. …They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. …and they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism.”[1]

And at times some of this “hate” has been on display at Trump rallies, whether delivered by the man himself or his enthusiastic followers. Some of compared the Trump rise to political prominence as similar to Hitler’s emergence in Germany. As one writer describes it:

Fascism rested not on the truth of its doctrine but upon the leader’s mystical union with the historic destiny of his people, a notion related to spiritual genius…The fascist leader wanted to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they would experience sensually; the warmth of belonging to a race now fully aware of its identity, historic destiny and power.[2]

We would see a similar phenomenon in the late 1960’s as this nation uncovered its white ethnic working class, who carried with them anger and distrust of the political and economic establishments. The 1968 Democratic Convention would display some of t his violence, as the anti-war movement would take to the streets of Chicago. Some of this class warfare would be captured later by Ronald Reagan in his 1980 campaign that was specially aided by “blue collar” Democrats.

Across this nation I have been asked by Jewish audiences, ”Who are Trump’s Jewish supporters?” A second question usually involves “What drives Trump voters?”  Trump’s presence has evoked a wide array of responses amongst America’s Jews. Seen as brutish, harmful, and out of control, many Jews have rejected both his message and his persona in this campaign. Some find him entertaining, if not outright vulgar. Yet, his presence has appealed to a specific segment of Jewish voters who, like their counterparts, are feeling a level of political uncertainty as they worry about the economy, the state of national security, and the impact of immigration.

At the website “Jews for Trump” one can find a good deal of anger directed toward the Obama Administration, Hillary Clinton and selected Republicans, in particular Ted Cruz. Yet, the number of online supporters for Donald Trump appears to be relatively small. The site is filled with conflicting messages from pro and anti-Trump supporters.

This week several additional articles appeared identifying Jewish support for Trump. One such piece noted his favorable reviews among Hasidic Jews.[3] Yet a wide range set of news stories seem to identify his problems with the Jewish voters. His refusal to reject the endorsements by various anti-Semitic figures, his lack of clarity about his support for Israel, and his wholesale attacks on immigrant communities and religious groups have all contributed to his less than significant support within the Jewish community.

Despite the Jewish Forward’s suggestion in August of last year that Trump had a natural connection with the Jewish community, referencing his Israel and civic connections, his daughter’s conversion to Judaism, such links have not proven always to be helpful to his campaign. Clearly, his appearance in early December before the Republican Jewish Coalition failed to score him favorable points, as his stereotypical comments evoked strong negative reactions. In a few days, Mr. Trump will appear before the AIPAC Policy Conference, having yet another opportunity to clarify his views on Israel and a host of other issues!

Interestingly, Israelis seem to resonate with Mr. Trump’s message by an overwhelming percentage (61%). But something else is in play for Israeli audiences as Trump in some way may be seen as “their” voice as well. Feeling locked out of the Israeli political establishment, these pro-Trump supporters are resonating in his message their own frustrations.

A higher percentage of the Jewish public (34%) think a Republican president will be better for Israel, compared to 28% who think so regarding a Democratic president. When Arab Israelis were asked from which party a president will be more pro-Israel, the opposite was reported; the highest rate (47%) thought a Democratic president would be more pro-Israel, 30% said there was no difference, and 23% said a Republican candidate would be more pro-Israel.[4]

In August of last year, well prior to the start of the actual campaign, the AJC would offer Jewish leaders an opportunity to identify their early choices; some 10.2% of Jewish voters were attracted to the Trump message. His support at the time would rank third among all candidates, with some 39.7% for Hilary Clinton and 17.8% for Bernie Sanders.[5]

The Trump candidacy is too difficult at this moment to fully predict. Tuesday’s contests, particularly in Ohio and Florida, may determine his political status. At the time of this article’s release Mr. Trump was leading his rivals in Florida and was in a tight contest for Ohio against Governor John Kasich.

In the end this presidential campaign is certainly like none other in memory, and Donald Trump’s candidacy has indeed produced a different political experience!

[1] ” target=”_blank”>
[4] ” target=”_blank”>


Dr. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion, Los Angeles.  See his complete set of writings,