Medium: The Democratic Party Remains the Political Home of the Jewish Electorate

May 23, 2019

By Ron Klein

A poll of 1,000 Jewish American voters released this week by the non-partisan Jewish Electorate Institute (JEI) proves decisively that the vast majority of Jewish American voters remain firmly Democratic and committed to removing Donald Trump from office. Despite the falsehoods on President Trump’s Twitter feed, there is no “exodus” of Jewish voters flocking to the GOP. The real news is as follows — the Democratic Party steadfastly remains the political home of the Jewish electorate, which overwhelmingly opposes the policies of President Trump.

The priorities of the Jewish electorate align very closely with Democratic Party positions, particularly on domestic issues, which motivate Jewish voters more than Israel or foreign policy. This is because Jews are voting their values, and are overwhelmingly driven by issues affecting the most vulnerable communities, including immigrants. This values-driven agenda is most clear when considering the issues on which the Jewish American community most strongly disapproves of the policies of President Trump, such as family separations (78%), handling of DACA recipients (74%), gun violence (74%), the Mueller Report (73%), and rising anti-Semitism (71%).

No amount of pandering on Israel is going to change the Jewish vote in 2020, because Jews are voting on those domestic policy issues where there is the largest distinction between the parties. The JEI poll found that the “Jewish community continues to identify as strongly pro-Israel and views the Democratic Party as pro-Israel.” It is therefore not surprising that when deciding which candidate to support, Jewish voters focus not on Israel, but on those issues where the parties most significantly differ.

The Jewish electorate is far more sophisticated than President Trump and his supporters seem to believe, which is why Republicans’ ongoing disregard of the rise of anti-Semitism and white supremacy in our country is of deep concern. Importantly, there is a clear distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, though unfortunately the two have been blurred in recent months. While Jewish Americans are highly supportive of Israel and its people (90%), most (56%) are critical of at least some of the current Israeli government’s policies. This is no different than when we criticize our own government but remain staunchly patriotic.

This poll’s findings have real implications for Republican strategists hoping to create a false choice among American Jews between support for Israel and support for domestic priorities reflecting Jewish values. These efforts are doomed to fail. The Jewish vote in 2020 will be shaped by Medicare and Social Security (87%), improving the economy and making it work for everyone (86%), and access to affordable healthcare (80%), all of which the Trump administration and its followers in Congress have failed to provide.

In fact, a staggering 71% of Jewish voters view Trump unfavorably. The JEI poll validates a previous Gallup poll from March of this year which reached the same conclusions, indicating that despite Trump’s continued efforts to politicize support for Israel, Jewish voters continue to believe that their values align most clearly with Democrats, including on Israel.

Today, 67% of Jewish voters would vote for a generic Democratic candidate over President Trump. The real question is not whether Trump and the Republicans will gain Jewish support in 2020 — they won’t — but whether Trump will set a new record low for Jewish support in the upcoming presidential election. Unless Trump changes his rhetoric and his policies, the answer may very well be yes.

In my time as a member of Congress, I never witnessed anything like the current trends of rising anti-Semitism in our country. The Republican Party is failing to attract Jewish voters because the Republican Party is so out of step with the values of the Jewish American community and because it has been silent in the face of rising anti-Semitism on the right .

Nearly 60% of Jewish voters believe President Trump has at least some responsibility for the shootings at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, and 71% of Jewish voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of anti-Semitism. The rise in anti-Semitic violence, nearly all of which comes from right extremists, have made Jewish Americans feel less secure.

In November 2020, Jewish Americans will make their views heard at the ballot box. They will vote their values and it will be a vote against President Trump.

Ron Klein is a former member of Congress from Florida and the Chairman of the Jewish Democratic Council of America