“Do Jews support Trump? Or is it a foregone conclusion that Trump hates Jews, blacks, women, and Mexicans, as claimed by a number of advocacy groups and individuals, and that Jews hate him back?
Here’s a quick preamble that might shed light on something.
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I’ve chosen the keyword “do jews support trump” and, honestly, while I have a bias toward what I think is the answer, I am starting this article not actually knowing the answer.
What prompted this exploration?
This political ad, which to my knowledge has not yet been denounced by the Biden Campaign and by default is accepted by it, is a call to vote but will almost certainly have the effect of prompting more violence in the streets and even violence against Trump supporters:
To reiterate: I don’t know what the answer is to the title of my article.
I don’t know if there is an objective answer. But we will proceed, trying to triangulate among the different American Jewish groups and prominent individuals. [Note after the fact, while proofreading: my assumption was, in fact, incorrect.]
With a great-grandmother who was a Polish Jew, I am admittedly only one-eighth Jewish by blood. But I grew up literally surrounded by Jewish people in New York, where the building I lived in from birth until college was populated by Jews and others who had escaped Nazi-occupied Poland and other areas and who spoke deeply into my life. My next door neighbor was Hanna Ziffer. She and her husband, a doctor, escaped Poland in 1939, only to land in London in time for that city to be bombed. They then moved into Apartment 6C. We were in apartment 6B. When we were kids, my younger brother and I were always visiting her, because she gave us the candy often forbidden by Mom.
Throughout my early years, into college, into seminary, where I learned Hebrew, and into professional life, I have resonated with that part of my DNA, my Jewishness, minor though it might be. I don’t believe I’ve ever been discriminated against for being Jewish, because I don’t have the markings of a stereotyped Jew have I ever presented myself as a Jew. (Full disclosure: I learned only later in life that I had Jewish blood.)
And as much as I hate an anti-black or misogynistic remark though I’m white and male, I feel the sting of anti-Semitic remarks much more. That hierarchy of pain is only human. (I think people who say otherwise are disingenuous.)
To set the stage, Trump is accused of a kind of activity that overtly or subtly calls white supremacists out of hiding. It’s called a “dog-whistle.” We will give it only the briefest of attention to mention that this denigrating remark refers to a group of people as “dogs.” Even though their worldview and activity may be heinous, they are human beings. They should be afforded dignity, even if some who commit criminal acts should be imprisoned. (That goes for the “other” side, too: Antifa rioters and the more violent BLM ones are humans first and foremost.)
But what is a dog-whistle?
Alexander Hinton is a professor of anthropology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. While Professor Hinton doesn’t define the term in this article he wrote, he describes Trump’s criticism of political correctness since the first primary debate in 2016 this way: “Trump’s frequent use of political correctness as a racist dog whistle is adding fuel to the flames.”
In that Washington Post article Hinton links to, a historian of science and technology, Adam R. Shapiro, does define the term:
As a Trump supporter, while I don’t like our president referred to as employing that “specific technology,” I nonetheless find this definition to be helpful.
Before I move on, let me address one important point in Hinton’s piece. In the first paragraph he says this as an example of how the president has used “political correctness” as a reason to give oxygen to white supremacy: “Trump famously [referred] to Mexicans as ‘rapists’…” Trump did no favors to Mexico in his remarks early on, but that’s not what he said, and no number of corrections seem to influence writers to redact or update their remarks.
Since many media outlets, which ostensibly show “the truth” by showing a video clip, also edit the clip’s opening and closing and thereby deceive the viewer. Here’s the full context of Trump’s original quote on “Mexican rapists” from the transcript:
Is this an objectionable statement? Yes. It is even filled with hate? Probably so. Does it inspire hate? It does seem to call out our lesser angels, the demons that each of us wrestles with. Is Trump hedging after the “good people” phrase with “I assume”? Likely.
All true or mostly true.
He’s marketing, and he’s polarizing. No argument here. And, let’s be adults and intellectually candid. All politicians pit one group against another at some point during their campaign or while in office. They need their base, and we humans like to feel an “us” and “them.”
The 2016 election had its share of hate-filled polarizations from the Democrat side. One was Hillary Clinton’s referral to “deplorables.” Here’s the transcript for full context:
To her credit, Clinton calls for understanding. Trump, too, tries to win allies within groups or even foreign powers whom he excoriates in public.
But let’s acknowledge another parallel that’s equally indisputable even if more difficult to pinpoint: Biden’s pandering and lack of ability to fulfill promises made on the campaign trail.
When Joe tells a crowd that he will do something for them in office and then didn’t keep his promises in the past — unlike Trump, who’s kept most of his promises, with the glaring and sad exception of health care reform — or when Biden tells a black voter “If you don’t vote for me, you ain’t black,” or that Trump voters are “chumps” or “ugly,” or that he, Biden, doesn’t want his kids living in a jungle (referring to blacks), or when he doesn’t quickly and repeatedly denounce this video above, isn’t Biden creating division and encouraging hatred toward white Trump supporters and all Trump supporters more broadly…even toward blacks, Mexicans, women, and Jews who support Trump?
Back to the hateful video by the Jewish Democratic Council of America.
Here’s what I found:
- JDCA is a legitimate organization.
- It began in 2017 and filed its first Form 990 in late 2018. They filed their 2018 Form 990 last year.
- They didn’t file their 2019 Form 990 probably (my guess) because it was due May 15, 2020 and: COVID. I respect that. We were all thrown off normal routines and even deadlines.
- It appears to be run by one woman, Halie Soifer.
- JDCA is a one-person shop (in terms of paid staff; it has a large board), and Halie makes a completely appropriate salary of $89k (as of 2018). It appears she may even make this as a 1099, which means she is required her own taxes and doesn’t have benefits. Compared to other nonprofits, she is paid below the average salary for executives.
- JDCA has a big board and good governance, including solid committees. I’d like to see the inclusion of a Nominating Committee and an Audit Committee in the future.
- JDCA is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit.
- Nonprofits classified as 501(c)(3)’s under the IRS “are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” (source: IRS.)
- 501(c)(4)’s can endorse candidates but cannot receive tax-deductible donations as can 501(c)(3)’s. C4s can still receive donations, as the JDCA does.
- Its Executive Director, Halie Soifer, was National Security Advisor to Senator Kamala Harris, now the Vice Presidential candidate.
I don’t want to make too much of that last point, but in the context of the ad, I also don’t want to make too little of it. The ad says everything about why the JDCA is implicitly endorsing Biden and encouraging people to vote. This is especially true, since Biden kicked off his campaign by claiming that Trump called white supremacists “fine people.” This has repeatedly been shown as an edited statement by the media and therefore is misleading. This fairly extensive post by Scott Adams shows the full transcript of where Trump uses the “fine people” phrase. You can read it and make up your mind. But suffice it to say, Biden was the latest and most prominent figure to perpetuate the misquote.
Back to the question: “Do Jews support Trump?”
While the JDCA ad didn’t explicitly endorse Biden, Soifer worked for Harris until 2018, and the hateful ad shows images of Trump weaved into images of modern white supremacists and presented split-screen across from videos of Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Here’s a periscope I did on 31 October 2020 addressing the ad, with some guest callers, who included black Trump supporters.
Here are some screenshots of the ad, and some final thoughts below.
Comments are turned off, and there is a notice about some aspects of the ad — the Comments? — because of a sensitivity toward kids.
At this point, I’m calling bullshit.
The JDCA claims it’s concerned about kids — and so disable a feature on its video — but have published this video that could as easily bring violence toward Trump voters, regardless of age, through hatred in a way they decry in this video.
Do they not see the imlications of this? Does their board? (I don’t believe for a minute that the people at JDCA would wish physical harm on Trump supporters, which is why I can’t understand their airing this.)
But what the fuck are they thinking?! This will give oxygen to all those who hate Trump and hate Trump supporters. This creates a moral equivalence between Hitler and his Nazi followers and Trump supporters. People who hate Trump may even fashion themselves as a present-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer, duty-bound to eradicate Trumpism by any means necessary. To “stop hate,” as the ad encourages. Not “stop hating,” but stopping “hate,” as though hate is personified in a president and his supporters.
As the subject of Hitlerian hate and genocide, we return to the question of “Do Jews support Trump.” The list of Jewish organizations and individuals that support him to a great or much lesser degree include (but are not limited to):
- Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been said to be playing Trump with his support, but it’s clear that he has found at least a temporary ally, which is more than Biden can say about Bibi.
- Orthodox Jews, a small minority among American Jews, support Trump 83% to Biden’s 14%. Importantly, 73% of this group believes the media is baised against Trump, a claim that Biden supporters often inveigh against “Trumpers” and arch-conservatives. This is significant, since if any group would be sensitive about Trump’s anti-Semitism and racism, it would be this branch of Jews.
- On Biden’s side, Florida’s Jewish voters support the former VP 73% to Trump’s 22%. The deal Trump worked out between Israel and the UAE, to name just one example of helping Israel, was found in a poll to be a minor part of the voting decision. The article claimed that while Jewish voters do care about Israel, the two top issues — as for most voters — are the economy and the pandemic.
- An article by Gallup on 14 August 2020 outlines how adult Jews in America only constitute about 2% of the total adults here. Seventy percent of these voted for Clinton in 2016, and 70% of them now also disapprove of Trump going into Tuesday’s election.
Researching Jewish groups that support Trump and those that don’t, and now living in Texas and therefore knowing only anecdotally whether my NYC Jewish friends or their organizations support the president, here are three possible reasons Jewish people would support Trump or not:
- Ultra-religious Jews in NYC — and perhaps only there — are overwhelmingly pro-Trump because of the president’s pro-Israel stance and also because these groups and individuals felt mistreated by Governor Cuomo’s COVID response that seemed to single them out in disallowing gatherings. Like many groups — including Trump rallies themselves — groups like this one in New York called themselves “peaceful protests” to circumvent the COVID rules.
- Jews in Florida, since this key group in a key state was studied by Gallup, are not persuaded by a president’s pro-Israel stance, if they largely object to him on other fronts.
- Many Jews, as many others, feel the president is racist and anti-Semitic.
Whether or not Trump is racist or anti-Semitic, the ad by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, and advanced by the Biden Campaign, doesn’t serve Jewish audiences wanting the truth, and it goes further to raise the possibility of violence against Trump supporters by a broader section of Americans.
While many Jewish people may not target Trump supporters for violence, and while many others not either, there could be some who see this video as a “dog whistle.”
Whether you are Jewish or not, you should demand that the JDCA take down this ad today, Sunday 1 November 2020.