August 20, 2019

2016 Election Blog #19:American Jewry Confronts Political Reality of Donald Trump,Republican Nominee

With Donald Trump’s emergence as the likely Republican Presidential nominee, the question remains so how will “The Donald” play out among Jewish voters.  The first polling data may give us a clue!

The Siena Research poll, released on Tuesday (May 3), shows Secretary Clinton leading Trump by almost 40 points, 62% to 23%.  According to the Siena report, “Trump’s image among Jewish voters is underwater by 58 percent”.  Only 19% of Jewish voters view Trump as “favorable”.  In this same survey some 77% have an “unfavorable” view of the Republican frontrunner.  In this report, Hillary Clinton is seen as “favorable” by some 57% of New York Jewish voters; her “unfavorable” ratings are posted at 42%.

What pollsters are unable to determine are the levels of fear and uncertainty resulting from the rise of a Donald Trump candidacy.  While many Jewish voters may have dismissed his campaign as political gamesmanship, a Trump Presidency represents a whole different scenario.  In conversations with friends at restaurants, in boardrooms, or in synagogue pews, America’s Jews are in a state of shock over the possibility of a “President Trump”.  These gatherings often end up with participants speaking about the “what if” question, suggesting that they would move to Canada or to Israel, should this become a reality!  Trump’s rise to the threshold of political power is destabilizing Jewish confidence in America.

Several interesting questions have emerged over the last 24 hours as Trump’s nomination appears to have been solidified.  Will Republican Jews remain loyal to their party and support their nominee?  As important, where will Republican Jewish money be directed in this election?  Over the next six months, will the Trump Campaign be able to improve his standing among Jewish voters, and will the New York businessman seek out the support of Jewish funders to help him underwrite his campaign?

More significant, what will be the residual impact of a Trump candidacy on the future of the Republican Party?  One of the interesting challenges for mainstream Republicans may involve how prepared they are to embrace their party’s nominee. Ultimately, what will be the fate of the Republican Party?

In what has already been an election cycle that has totally confounded the expectations and assumptions of experts, how will this political season continue to unfold?

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 of Religion in Los Angeles. His writings can be found at