One of life’s greatest questions is if God created all, who created God? And one of life’s other greatest questions is, how can Jews vote for Democrats?
President Donald Trump put it this way: They’re either ignorant. Or they’re disloyal.
And while the media circus performers have been having lots of fun running and screaming with that one, the fact is, the president has got a point. It’s not like others haven’t wondered the same — haven’t been wondering the same.
The prevailing voting mindset for American Jews has seemed to be that even when Democrats do wrong, Democrats do no wrong.
“As first lady, Hillary was a prized Jewish keynoter — until she kissed Suha Arafat,” the Jerusalem Post wrote in April 2015, just days after Hillary Clinton announced a run for the White House.
The story went on to remind how Clinton, in 1998, famously countered decades of U.S. policy by saying, in a satellite interview with Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian teenagers: “I think it will be in the long-term interests of the Middle East for Palestine to be a state.”
A year later, on Nov. 11, 1999, while visiting Ramallah and attending a press conference with her presidential husband and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Clinton leaned in close and planted a kiss on the cheek of Suha Arafat. The world gasped. Truly, the world is still gasping. It’s been 20 years and Getty Images still sells the reprint permission rights to a large size of that photo for $499.
Yet 71% of Jews still voted for Clinton, not Trump, in 2016.
Then there was former President Barack Obama.
“Obama’s tense relationship with [Benjamin] Netanyahu colors his legacy on Israel,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in September 2016.
“For Obama and Netanyahu, a Final Clash After Years of Conflict,” The New York Times wrote, in December 2016.
“[Nicolas] Sarkozy, Obama bemoan Netanyahu over open mic,” CNN wrote in November 2011. That story went on to cite France’s president, Sarkozy, saying of Bibi, “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar” — and Obama then responding, “You’re tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day.”
Yet, in 2008 elections, 78% of Jews voted for Obama versus 22% for Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Yet, in 2012 elections, 69% of Jews voted for Obama, versus 30% for Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
This follows historical lines.
“American Jews tend to favor Democrat candidates, with 71% of Jewish voters choosing Democrat candidates and only 25% choosing Republicans since 1968,” Jewish Virtual Library reported.
And the website My Jewish Learning reported that “since 1930, the Jewish community has been a solidly Democratic constituency at the national and state levels of government.”
Why is that? — when it’s Democrats, by and large, who’ve been far less of a friend to Israel than Republicans?
One answer: “The American Liberal Jews, whose identity has been stamped three generations ago by their grandparents under FDR continue to picture themselves as enlightened and the true inheritors of the mantle of Jewish concerns for ‘social justice,’ ” wrote Norman Berdichevsky, in a post on New English Review called “American Jews’ Paradoxical Allegiance to the Democratic Party,” in September 2010.
So it’s an inherited loyalty.
“The Democratic Party was widely regarded for the first 150 years of its existence on the national scene as the party of slavery and segregation,” Berdichevsky went on. “Nevertheless, the Democratic Party machines in the big cities … were successful in providing services, jobs and patronage to new immigrants.”
To new immigrants like the Jewish people.
Democrats “successfully posed as the protectors of immigrants” and painted the Republicans as the party of elitists, Berdichevsky wrote.
So it’s a factually twisted loyalty.
One that’s furthered by the reality that “most American Jews have little or no fluency in Hebrew” and are therefore removed from the affection of their own nation — and by extension, by America’s long-running support for Israel, Berdichevsky continued. In other words: American Jews don’t know the history of their country, so they don’t have a deep-rooted love for their country. So they care little about America’s open love for their country.
Or, in even other words — in Trump words, for example: “I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” he said.
His rhetoric sparked a firestorm within some Jewish circles.
But he’s on to something. And the thing he’s on to isn’t even that firestorm-y; it’s actually a well-reported, well-considered, frequently discussed question.
And it’s a question that’s high time to hit head-on.
Whatever the Democrat Party may have been in the minds of the Jewish people in the past, the truth is it’s now become a welcome mat, a breeding ground, for anti-Semitic views, for anti-Semitic people.
It’s become the party of Democrat Ilhan Omar, the party of Democrat Rashida Tlaib — Muslim congresswomen with pro-BDS movement views, records of rhetoric that are decidedly anti-Semitic and ongoing stated sympathies that lie squarely with the Palestinians, over the Israelis, with the creation of a “Palestine” and a devil-may-care attitude toward the fate of the state of Israel.
Trump’s rhetoric may be the newsmaker. But his rhetoric shouldn’t distract from the real issue — that Democrats have become the party of anti-Semitism, and it’s time American Jews acknowledged and fought back with votes.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley.