columnU.S.-Israel Relations

The Jewish vote is up for grabs, and it may decide the election

The White House and its supporters are using Muslims in Michigan to justify a slew of deeply hostile policies against Israel. Will that matter come fall?

Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2020. Source: Trump campaign via Facebook/Biden Campaign via Facebook.
Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and U.S. President Donald Trump on the campaign trail in 2020. Source: Trump campaign via Facebook/Biden Campaign via Facebook.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

A few weeks ago, a sermon by Reform Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, the senior rabbi at the Steven Wise Free Synagogue in New York, shocked millions from that city to Tel Aviv. Standing at his pulpit, Hirsch delivered a stern warning to the Democrats.

Noting that he is someone “who is finely attuned to American Jewish sentiment,” Hirsch told Democratic elected officials: “Do not take American Jews for granted.”

Hirsch explained, “I have spoken to many American Jews in the past few months who have surprised me with their anxiety about developments in the Democratic Party, and their perception that it is becoming increasingly hostile to Israel, and tolerant of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in its own ranks.”

“Be careful,” Hirsch warned. “The results of the upcoming election do not only depend on Michigan.”

Many dismissed his remarks with a shrug of their shoulders. For decades, Republicans have asked conservative Jews to explain how it is that American Jews vote for Democrat Party candidates even though Republicans are so much more supportive of Israel. The question comes so frequently that most conservative Jews can give the answers in their sleep.

First, most American Jews see themselves first and foremost as Democrats or liberals, not as Jews. They love Israel, but it’s not really a voting issue for them. And second, the Jewish vote doesn’t matter because most American Jews live in deep blue states that will never tilt Republican.

The Muslim vote, on the other hand, is always in contention. For the past decade or so, Muslim Americans have demanded that Democratic candidates earn their votes in every electoral cycle by adopting hostile positions on Israel and opposition to tough counterterror laws. Beginning in 2006, anti-Israel activists from the Marxist-Islamic bloc have repeatedly ousted pro-Israel Democrats from office and replaced them with virulent opponents of the Jewish state.

Ahead of the 2024 elections, the Marxist-Islamist alliance in Michigan has been insisting that Biden’s re-election is dependent on their votes. And so they used the Democratic primary on Feb. 27 to try and demonstrate their power. Led by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), the alliance’s “uncommitted” campaign called for Israel haters to vote “uncommitted” in the primaries to show the White House that U.S. support for Israel will cost Biden the swing state of Michigan.

In the event, the “uncommitted” campaign was a dud. Biden won 81.1% of the vote. The “uncommitted” ballots comprised a mere 13.2% of the ballots. While the media, Tlaib and her cronies presented 13.2% as a major accomplishment, it was a failure. Around 10% of Michigan Democrats habitually vote “uncommitted” in presidential primaries. Ahead of the 2012 elections, 11% of Michigan Democrats voted “uncommitted” against then-President Barack Obama.

Yet rather than recognize that Biden’s troubles in Michigan have more to do with his energy policies and his electric-car mandate, which have adversely affected the auto industry, than with his tepid support for Israel, Biden and his advisers have maintained faith in the claim that his presidential hopes depend on Dearborn’s Hamas-supporting imams. The White House and its supporters use the Muslim vote in Michigan to justify a slew of deeply hostile policies that the administration has adopted against Israel. Administration apologists in the media have also used Michigan’s Muslim voters to explain the administration’s refusal to take any effective action to protect the civil rights of American Jews on college campuses. And, of course, they also insisted that Trump’s advantage in most of the Michigan presidential polls owes to the Muslim vote.

‘The current U.S. position on Gaza is backwards’

This brings us back to Hirsch’s warning. Is the Jewish vote really in danger for Democrats? And does it matter?

There haven’t been any public polls taken of Jewish voter sentiment since November, when Biden was widely viewed as the greatest friend Israel had ever had in Washington. But anecdotal evidence is piling up that the Jewish vote is in contention like it hasn’t been in more than 40 years. Moreover, American Jewish voters may well turn out to be the demographic that determines the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.

The Jewish Electorate Institute’s poll of Jewish voters in November showed that the intensity of concern about antisemitism had increased sharply since the previous poll in June 2023. Moreover, American Jews were increasingly anxious about antisemitism. Given that the antisemitic onslaught against American Jews has grown exponentially since November, it can be assumed that the numbers are even higher now.

Moreover, perhaps buoyed by this week’s Harvard-Harris poll that showed massive majorities of Americans supporting Israel and its war aims, including its planned conquest of Hamas’s final outpost of Rafah, establishment American Jews are beginning to openly criticize the Biden administration’s hostile policies towards Israel.

On Thursday, Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote a long post on X sharply criticizing the Biden administration’s refusal to support Israel’s planned operation in Rafah. The Washington Institute has long been viewed as AIPAC’s think tank, and its views are perceived as representative of the liberal American Jewish establishment. It is hard to think of any instance where its senior leaders have openly rejected a Democratic administration’s positions on Israel.

Satloff wrote that “the current U.S. position on Gaza is backwards.” He then explained that the administration’s opposition to Israel’s planned operation in Rafah is “a lose-lose-lose-lose proposition. It has the unintended effect of keeping the hostages in captivity. It isn’t achieving a ceasefire that would open the door to an Arab role in Gaza. It runs out the clock on the potential for a Saudi-Israel-U.S. blockbuster deal. And unless the [administration] thinks that Rafah will never happen, it likely extends the Gaza conflict into the summer and perhaps autumn, which the White House should see as disastrous for POTUS’s re-election chances.”

As one Washington insider quipped, “If Satloff is advocating in public what is subtly but clearly a sharp break from the administration over Hamas and Rafah, then it is a strong sign the political winds have shifted in the Jewish establishment and bodes very ill ultimately for the Democrats.”

Other anecdotal evidence is less cerebral. Reports are multiplying daily of young, middle-aged and older Jewish Democratic voters who never considered voting for Republicans announcing to their families or whispering to their lone Republican associate that they are voting for Trump, or will stay home or vote for independent candidate Robert Kennedy Jr., but will never vote for Biden.

So if the Jewish vote is in contention like never before, if liberal Jews join conservative Jews in voting “as Jews” rather than as Democrats or liberals in November, will it matter?

According to Richard Baehr, co-founder and former political correspondent for American Thinker, not only does the Jewish vote matter, it could easily be decisive. It is true that New York and California have the largest Jewish communities, and they remain firmly in the Democratic column. But four swing states—Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona—may well be decided by their large Jewish communities.

Baehr explains that the Jewish vote in all four states is larger than the margins of victory in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential races. In 2020, Baehr notes, the final margin of victory in Pennsylvania was 80,000 votes. It was 33,000 in Nevada, 10,000 in Arizona and 12,000 in Georgia. According to the World Population Review, in 2022, Pennsylvania’s Jewish population stood at 434,165. Georgia’s numbered 141,020. There were 123,725 Jewish Americans in Arizona and 79,800 in Nevada.

In 1976, Jimmy Carter won 71% of the Jewish vote in his race against incumbent Gerald Ford. In 1979, Carter mediated the peace accord between Israel and Egypt. Despite his peacemaker role, Carter’s rhetoric and policies overall were hostile. He facilitated the passage of anti-Israel resolutions at the U.N. Security Council; he flirted with Palestinian terrorists; and he generally accused Israel of being responsible for the pathologies of the Arab world. So in the 1980 election, large numbers of American Jews walked away from him. Carter’s share of the Jewish vote plunged to 45%. Independent candidate John Anderson won 15% of the Jewish vote, and Ronald Reagan won 39% of the Jewish vote—and the presidency.

American Jews are frightened

As more than 100 university campuses across the country are aflame with anti-Israel and anti-Zionist fervor, and Jew-hatred has now become mainstream in Democratic politics, Jews are reconsidering many of their basic assumptions about their position in America generally and the Democratic Party specifically.

After refusing to come out with a full-throated condemnation of the onslaught against Jewish students and faculty for weeks, on Thursday, Biden made a statement on the events on U.S. campuses and again failed to give an unqualified denunciation of the trampling of the basic civil and educational rights of Jewish students and faculty, and the delegitimization of the State of Israel. And it’s not just that he can’t say the word “antisemitism” without saying “Islamophobia” in the next sentence, even though Jews aren’t harassing Muslims and Muslims are waging a massive campaign against Jews.

The real problem is that Biden is propagating blood libels against Israel directly by accusing Israel of excessive killing of civilians in Gaza and accusing Israel of preventing innocent civilians from receiving adequate food and medicine. These are slanderous claims, and they are fueling the assaults on the campuses. Biden could stop them tomorrow simply by telling the truth. Instead, he is doubling down.

With even dovish, Netanyahu-hating generals now beginning to acknowledge that the administration is siding with Hamas against Israel in the war, and Jewish establishment figures openly denouncing the administration’s anti-Israel policies, it is obvious that it would be foolish for Democrats to take Jewish voters for granted. And it would be equally foolish for Republicans to dismiss the importance of their votes.

The data show that Jews are a big enough demographic to move four swing states away from Biden. Both statistical and anecdotal data make clear that Rabbi Hirsch was correct. Democrats don’t just have a problem with Jews; they have a problem with Jewish voters.

There is a profound opening here for Trump and for Republicans more generally. If Trump forcefully and consistently condemns the antisemitism on campuses, in corporate boardrooms—wherever it is found—and if he stands forthrightly with Israel and denounces Biden for standing with Hamas and trying to overthrow the Israeli government, with his record as president, he may convince many Jews that were never considered even vague prospects for Republicans to vote for him. This is true for Senate races as well.

The Jews of America are frightened by what they are seeing and experiencing. They are frightened for Israel’s future, and they are frightened about their future in America. Until now, they had taken their civil rights and equality before the law for granted. Until now, they had taken their equality of opportunity for granted. None of this is true any longer. The fear may make them quiet. But it isn’t paralyzing them. They won’t show up at Trump rallies, and they won’t wear MAGA hats. But they will vote. And when they vote, they will be voting as Jews.

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