Midterm mes­sage

Jewish Amer­i­cans are now the face of Trump re­sis­tance

The Jerusalem Post - - FRONT PAGE - By MICHAEL WIL­NER

They plan to con­duct hear­ings on his for­eign pol­icy, lead over­sight into his ad­min­is­tra­tion, sub­poena his clos­est aides, in­ves­ti­gate his fam­ily and run against him in 2020.

In large num­bers, Amer­i­can Jews are be­com­ing the face of a Demo­cratic re­sis­tance against US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump by as­sum­ing crit­i­cal chair­man­ships in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and pre­par­ing cam­paigns for the White House.

They are vot­ing against him in record num­bers. In midterm elec­tions on Tues­day, 79% of Jewish vot­ers chose Democrats, ac­cord­ing to exit polls con­ducted by Pew Re­search Cen­ter and CNN. Only 17% sup­ported Repub­li­cans – down nearly 10% in two short, if event­ful years.

And they are get­ting elected. Across the coun­try, 28 Jewish Amer­i­cans were elected or re­elected to the House – only two of which are Repub­li­cans – and nine to the Se­nate, just shy of mark­ing record-high Jewish rep­re­sen­ta­tion on Capi­tol Hill. Democrats’ sole pickup seat from Repub­li­cans in the Se­nate, in Ne­vada, was Jacky Rosen, for­merly pres­i­dent of her sy­n­a­gogue.

What, if any­thing, does their Ju­daism have to do with their pol­i­tics? Statis­tics would sug­gest quite a bit. A ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can Jews have voted for pro­gres­sive can­di­dates and causes in elec­tions since at least 1984, when record-keep­ing be­gan on Jewish voter pat­terns, and when roughly seven in 10 com­mu­nity mem­bers be­gan re­li­ably vot­ing Demo­cratic – a di­rect re­sponse to a Repub­li­can align­ment with Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians that ap­peared at the time hos­tile to Jews and their plu­ral­is­tic val­ues.

Those same po­lit­i­cal el­e­ments that drove Jewish Amer­i­cans to be­come bas­tions of the Demo­cratic Party through­out the 20th cen­tury have resurged with re­newed vigor over three decades later. The Jewish con­stituency amounts to a loose, oth­er­wise di­verse coali­tion squarely op­posed to poli­cies hos­tile to mi­nor­ity pro­tec­tions, so­cial wel­fare and equal jus­tice.

To Amer­i­can Jews, Trump ap­pears a threat to those val­ues to­day. A poll re­leased last month by the Jewish Elec­torate In­sti­tute found that 70% of the com­mu­nity dis­ap­proves of Trump’s han­dling of a spike in an­ti­semitism na­tion­wide – and even fewer ap­prove of his for­eign pol­icy or his ap­proach to im­mi­gra­tion, gun safety, the en­vi­ron­ment, health care or his Supreme Court nom­i­na­tions. Three out of four rule out vot­ing for him un­der any cir­cum­stances.

But if votes in Florida on Tues­day are any in­di­ca­tion, their op­po­si­tion to the Repub­li­can Party in its cur­rent con­struc­tion may not be enough to re­verse its gains. The state’s two most im­por­tant, most ex­pen­sive races– for gov­er­nor and a Se­nate seat – both drew to near ties, but broke for GOP can­di­dates.

And this was in an elec­tion that ap­peared to in­clude high Jewish turnout. In Broward County, for ex­am­ple, one of the most heav­ily pop­u­lated Jewish com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try, in­cum­bent Demo­cratic con­gress­man Ted Deutsch won by a larger per­cent­age than any of his re­cent pre­de­ces­sors, break­ing into the 60th per­centile.

That turnout may have been af­fected by the mass shoot­ing at a sy­n­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh, Penn­syl­va­nia, just days be­fore the vote – an un­prece­dented an­tisemitic at­tack that high­lighted for Amer­i­can Jews the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing state of po­lit­i­cal dis­course and a sharp rise in an­tisemitic in­ci­dents na­tion­wide, tracked with Trump’s po­lit­i­cal as­cent.

TAK­ING CON­TROL of the House, Jewish mem­bers will now count among top con­gres­sional lead­er­ship and serve as the pub­lic face of some of the na­tion’s most closely watched hear­ings and in­ves­ti­ga­tions. It is ex­pected that Jer­rold Nadler of New York will head the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, Nita Lowey of New York the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, Eliot En­gel of New York the For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, and Adam Schiff of Cal­i­for­nia the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.

Those com­mit­tees will trans­form into bat­tle­grounds for the Trump pres­i­dency in Jan­uary, once the new Congress is sworn in. As early as Tues­day night, th­ese four mem­bers were pre­view­ing their plans to sub­poena the pres­i­dent and his aides for his tax re­turns and for doc­u­ments on his fam­ily busi­ness ties over­seas. They are likely to in­ves­ti­gate the pres­i­dent’s han­dling of hur­ri­cane re­sponse in Puerto Rico last year, his pol­icy of sep­a­rat­ing mi­grant fam­i­lies at the bor­der

and his re­la­tion­ship with

Moscow.

They may also ex­am­ine the pres­i­dent’s pay­ments to Stormy Daniels, a porn star and his al­leged mis­tress be­fore en­ter­ing the White House, as well as his fir­ing of for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey. They could look at ethics com­pli­ance of his son-in-law, Jared Kush­ner, at Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin’s busi­ness deal­ings, at the use of per­sonal email for govern­ment busi­ness by White House staff, ad­min­is­tra­tion-backed voter sup­pres­sion ef­forts, and at the politi­ciza­tion of sci­en­tific study at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

Over­all, the fu­ture chair­men vow to pro­vide checks on the pres­i­dent fol­low­ing two years of a Repub­li­can-con­trolled House that of­fered lit­tle in terms of over­sight.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Trump fired his at­tor­ney-gen­eral, Jeff Ses­sions, on Wed­nes­day, ap­point­ing an in­terim fig­ure who has vo­cally crit­i­cized a probe into Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence he will now over­see, Nadler promised House ac­tion.

“Amer­i­cans must have an­swers im­me­di­ately as to the rea­son­ing be­hind @re­al­Don­aldTrump re­mov­ing Jeff Ses­sions from @TheJus­ticeDept,” wrote Nadler on Twit­ter. “Why is the Pres­i­dent mak­ing this change and who has au­thor­ity over Spe­cial Coun­sel Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion? We will be hold­ing peo­ple ac­count­able.”

So, too, did Schiff, who has been an ag­gres­sive rank­ing mem­ber of the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee and is ex­pected to pick up its own Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion where Repub­li­cans had left it off.

“Pres­i­dent Trump just re­moved Jeff Ses­sions. He wants an at­tor­ney-gen­eral to serve his in­ter­est, not the pub­lic,” Schiff said. “Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the in­de­pen­dence of the DOJ [Depart­ment of Jus­tice] must be pro­tected. Whi­taker and any nom­i­nee must com­mit to do­ing both. We will pro­tect the rule of law.”

But while probes em­a­nat­ing from their com­mit­tees are sure to at­tract at­ten­tion – and shape fu­ture elec­toral prospects for the Demo­cratic Party – so, too, will an emerg­ing field of Jewish con­tenders for the pres­i­dency, likely to in­clude en­tre­pre­neur and for­mer New York mayor Mike Bloomberg; Los An­ge­les Mayor Eric Garcetti; for­mer Star­bucks CEO Howard Schultz; and Bernie San­ders, among oth­ers.

All of th­ese fig­ures en­ter the spot­light in an en­vi­ron­ment ex­cep­tion­ally hos­tile to Jews, where white na­tion­al­ism and neo-Nazism is mea­sur­ably on the rise.

“I am con­cerned that, un­der Trump, this coun­try has be­come more di­vided along racial, eth­nic and re­li­gious lines, and that’s be­cause of the vit­riol that some of his sup­port­ers have es­poused,” Halie Soifer, the newly ap­pointed ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Jewish Demo­cratic Coun­cil of Amer­ica, told The Jerusalem Post this fall. “I would like to think that the coun­try is ready for a Jewish can­di­date, but to the ex­tent we aren’t, of course there is con­cern that there’s a rise in an­ti­semitism. And his past rhetoric raises con­cern that this may be­come an is­sue go­ing for­ward in 2020.”

De­clin­ing to com­ment on any one po­ten­tial can­di­date, Soifer did ex­press worry that Jewish fig­ures serv­ing as the face of Trump re­sis­tance could back­fire against the party – and the com­mu­nity – at such a po­lit­i­cally di­vi­sive mo­ment.

“I think it’s still very early – there are lots of names out there,” Soifer said. “But it would be great to have Jewish can­di­dates. I would like to think to­day that the fact that can­di­dates are Jewish is less im­por­tant than if they rep­re­sent Jewish val­ues – a woman’s right to choose, sup­port for Is­rael, gun con­trol. That’s what is re­ally im­por­tant.”

“But it’s re­ally about be­ing able to de­feat Don­ald Trump,” Soifer added. •

(Kevin La­mar­que/Reuters)

US PRES­I­DENT Don­ald Trump takes a ques­tion Wed­nes­day dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at the White House fol­low­ing Tues­day’s midterm con­gres­sional elec­tions.

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