We should be grateful for small favors.
That refers to the diminished support for Donald Trump from Jews in the 2018 mid-term election when compared to 2016 when Trump was elected president.
In analyzing the midterm, much of the media focused on the fact that Jews voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. But that missed the point; historically, since the 1930s, Jews usually do.
The news — the good news — is that several polls found that the Jewish vote was between 17-19 percent for Trump and his party, down apparently because of anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic politics. In the 2014 midterm election, the Jewish vote for the GOP was 33 percent. In 2016, roughly 25 percent of the Jewish electorate voted for Trump for president.
So, we can take some solace that after Trump’s two years as president, Jewish backing for the president has eroded.
There is another unique element in the drop of support for Trump that we have not seen before. Usually, Jewish voters will punish a candidate more vehemently when they witness anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic themes.
For instance, Ronald Reagan received the highest percentage of the Jewish vote as a Republican (roughly 39 percent) when he ran against Jimmy Carter, whose anti-Jewish bias repelled the Jewish electorate.
President George H.W. Bush, who garnered 25 percent of the Jewish vote in 1988, suffered a backlash in 1992, receiving only 11 percent — the lowest ever for a Republican — when he complained, “I’m one lonely little guy” up against “some powerful political forces” made up of “a thousand lobbyists on the Hill.” Bush was referring to lobbying by AIPAC and other Jewish organizations. He later apologized for the remark.
But, somehow, Trump has not experienced such outrage from Jewish voters despite the fact that he stoked anti-Semitism the likes of which we have not seen since the days of Fr. William Coughlin of the Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak and Charles Lindbergh’s “America First” nationalist campaign, a slogan Trump proudly adopted.
Jonathan Weisman wrote in (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, that Trump ran the most anti-Semitic political campaign in modern U.S. history.
Let’s review a few “lowlights:”
- Trump distributed an anti-Semitic caricature of Hillary Clinton and ran a TV campaign ad which could very well have been produced by the authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The liberal billionaire, George Soros, was one of four Jews featured in the ad who were described as people representing “global special interests.”
- When Linda Lingle, former governor of Hawaii who is Jewish, spoke at the GOP convention, the party’s chat room was flooded with more than 3 million — that’s 3 million — of the ugliest anti-Semitic slurs. Trump? He said nothing.
Given this record, there is a reason why David Duke, the former KKK Grand Wizard, said the night Trump was elected was the happiest day of his life. Richard B. Spencer, the white supremacist leader, also celebrated at his rallies frequently giving the Nazi salute while shouting “Hail Trump.”
After taking office:
- Trump hired Stephen K. Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News that catered to white supremacists and anti-Semites, as chief strategist. Bannon appointed Sebastian Gorka as his assistant. Gorka proudly wore a pin of the Hungarian Vitezi Rend organization that had strong ties to Nazi Germany.
- Trump said that the neo-Nazis who proclaimed that “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville included some “very fine people.”
- Trump joined attacks on Soros, whom his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, called an “anti-Christ.” Soros had a mail bomb placed in his mailbox. Over the years, “Soros” became a code word for “Jew.”
- Almost unbelievably, the Evangelical Pastor Robert Jeffress, who touts that Jews will to go hell for their religious beliefs, was invited to deliver the invocation when the U.S. moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
- After the Pittsburgh massacre, Trump had to be cajoled by his daughter, Ivanka, to deliver a consoling speech. As the press reported, he read such a speech dutifully from a teleprompter and within minutes returned to his usual vitriolic rhetoric.
(Polls show that 72 percent of Jews hold Trump very or somewhat responsible for the shootings in Pittsburgh.)
None of the above deals with the scandals, corruption, lies, conflicts of interest, influence-peddling, abuse of power, 32 indictments (and counting) and sexual sordidness of Trump and his administration.
But we should acknowledge progress when it occurs. We have two years before 2020 to show, as a people, we reject racism, anti-Semitism, hate-filled rhetoric, xenophobia, misogyny and, instead, value dignity, truthfulness, honesty, character, decency and integrity.
Berl Falbaum, a West Bloomfield resident, is a veteran journalist and author.