(December 31, 2020 / JNS) A post-liberal Biden government is poised to succeed the right-populist Trump administration. Those yearning for an after-Trump “return to normality” will be disappointed, liberal and conservative Jews included.
More than a disrupter, Trump was an accelerant—former U.S. President Barack Obama’s “fundamental transformation of America” on steroids. Despite his corrosive discrediting of the election results, Trump’s transformations could be positive as well as negative.
For example, he delivered what previous presidents, Republican and Democrat, only promised. He moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Contrary to the foreign-policy establishment, the Arab Middle East did not explode—maybe because it already had.
Obama initiatives that Trump reversed, including cash for Iran’s mullahs through the time-limited nuclear deal and encouragement of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, had contributed to the region’s post-“Arab Spring” conflagration. The result was tens of millions of refugees, hundreds of thousands of dead, failed or failing states from Yemen to Syria and Egypt, and expansionism by Turkey.
Locating the U.S. embassy in Israel’s capital reminded Europeans and Middle Easterners that Washington stood with the Jewish state. Diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries ensued.
Yet some American Jews—obsessed with Trump’s narcissism, historical ignorance and disdain for presidential propriety—insisted he was Hitler 2.0. Nevertheless, Trump, who was the first president to have Jewish grandchildren, named Elan Carr as the State Department’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism. Carr vigorously highlighted the growing danger of Jew-hatred not only abroad, but on the left as well as right in the United States.
Hardly a feature of Trumpism, hostility towards Israel and Jews continued to spread among post-liberal progressives. Minimized when not ignored by those conflating the president with der Führer, anti-Zionist antisemitism radiated from universities through news media, Hollywood, professional organizations and politics.
It has been boosted in part by the left-McCarthyite superstition called Critical Race Theory. This “blame whitey” argument, resurrected from the 1960s and ’70s and dressed in faculty-club jargon, pervades even when unrecognized in the post-George Floyd national racial reckoning. And it makes Jews the epitome of “white privilege.”
A Biden administration won’t reverse these trends. It is more likely to take such beliefs as policy premises even while the chief executive speaks soothingly of social unity.
As for policy, the president-elect seeks to resume the Iran nuclear deal, albeit with fig-leaf conditions Tehran won’t meet. He favors renewed aid to a Palestinian Authority still defiantly subsidizing families of terrorist “martyrs.”
At 78, Biden is unlikely to outmaneuver the Democratic Party’s leftist base, to which his vice president, Kamala Harris, belongs and whose energizing icons include such lovers of Zion as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The latter, whose socialism in Alan Dershowitz’s words trumps his Judaism, campaigned for the British Labour Party’s anti-Semitic leader Jeremy Corbyn in the latter’s 2017 and 2019 races for prime minister. Rather than recover America’s hollowed center, Joe Biden as president is more likely to play Alexander Kerensky to his party’s illiberal neo-Bolsheviks.
Meanwhile, Republican Jews, still a distinct minority, are no longer rare. An Associated Press exit poll indicated the president received a record 41 percent of Florida’s Jewish vote, due in part to targeting by the Republican Jewish Coalition.
But nationally, Trump received a little more than 30 percent of Jewish ballots, about the same as Mitt Romney in 2012. Worth noting, however, was the exit poll showing 70 percent of Orthodox Jews backing Trump.
The Orthodox comprise only about 10 percent of American Jewry, but their birthrates are skyrocketing, while those of Conservative, Reform and unaffiliated Jews are plunging. According to a Pew Research Center study, 27 percent of Jews under 17 are being raised in Orthodox homes (60 percent in the New York City area). As that proportion grows, Jewish Republicans politically may resemble evangelical Christians in the GOP.
Under Trump, a non-conservative Republican Party cut taxes but not spending, supported a rebuilt U.S. military but not American international leadership and showed little understanding of, let alone the ability to reverse, public support for unfundable federal paternalism. Even before Biden’s first budget, federal debt now roughly equals the entire U.S. economy.
All this might cheer progressives and not trouble right-populists, but it leaves conservatives—Jews and non-Jews—wandering in a partisan desert, the country ever farther from normal.
Eric Rozenman is a communications consultant for the Jewish Policy Center and author of “Jews Make the Best Demons: ‘Palestine’ and the Jewish Question.” The opinions expressed above are solely his own.
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