For American Jews of a certain age, temperament and life experience the upcoming election poses a frightening choice. On one hand is a candidate who is a rabble-rouser, viewed as a demagogue and, while he himself is far from an anti-Semite, has become the choice for all the neo Nazi, Ku Klux Klan lovers that exist in America today.
In fact, Rocky Suhayda, the chairman of the American Nazi Party sees the possibility of Donald Trump winning the election as a “real opportunity for people…like white Nationalists.” And he is not alone. Several other well-known white supremacists, Rachel Pendergraft and David Duke among them, are proudly proclaiming to their followers the ascendency of a Trump presidency for their hate filled views. The idea that Trump would stop Muslim immigration feeds into their views on what an American citizen should look like. While the Republican platform takes a strong positive view on the State of Israel the home front is beginning to sound a bit too Hitlerian in describing who the perfect white American citizen is. Jews do not fit the paradigm. If Trump were to win, according to the Supremacist’s views, America would soon be devoid of all but white Catholics.
The other candidate also fits a model that engenders fear. Incorporating the ultra-liberal views promulgated by Bernie Sanders and the almost paranoid devotion to a world view that is understanding toward all but Israel the Democratic platform stopped just a hair short of completely vilifying Israel. In short, the view from the ground among this group of Jewish voters is that Hillary Clinton will likely become a very distant, if not hyper-critical friend, or perhaps frenemy, of Israel – someone that can be counted on for the lip service of a friendship but much more likely, will apply overt pressure to give up territory without a peace deal.
J Street supporters take some real joy in this approach but the more mature core Jewish voter views this as a very ominous turn of events. If the State of Israel is constantly criticized the state of Jews in the United States becomes precarious, not only in America, but worldwide. One need only look to France to see what liberalism in practice has wrought on the country and specifically Jewish neighborhoods. Notwithstanding the fact that Bill Clinton wore a transliterated campaign button spelling Hillary in Hebrew at the Democratic National Convention one night, the appeal of the militant and vocal liberal arm of the Democratic Party is creating a sense of foreboding among this group of Jewish voters. The voters point to the Black Lives Matter movements alignment with anti-Semitic positions as just one more example of how the Democratic Party, a Party that they have forever been aligned with, a Party that they called their home, has left them, their beliefs and all that the Democratic Party has stood for, behind.
If there is increased talking in Shul Saturday mornings this election and the attendant fears that seem all too real are among the most significant issues being discussed.
It seemed easier just a few short months ago. Back then talk was that Trump was going to shake things up in Washington and Hillary was just an all-around liar. Or conversely, The Donald was just a showboat and Hillary had years of diplomatic experience and despite her flaws was the best option. Those debates continue but are overshadowed by the more fearsome concerns of survival.
Things are never as simple as they seem especially in politics. As we get closer to November the debate over who is the better choice for President will no doubt evolve. However, this core issue of who is best for the Jews and Israel will not go away. Hard left liberals will cite bunker mentality defensiveness against this conflict of views but reality goes well beyond that. On the one hand much of the free world seeks information from Israel on how to cope with constant terror attacks. At the same time that world shows extreme sensitivity toward the attackers. Hard right politicians suggest carpet bombing attackers. Others want rapprochement, even appeasement. Until this election American politics and politicians were not so diametrically opposed. There was often an attempt to find a common ground, an accommodation. Those days are gone. Yes, the divergence has been building for over a decade now and that is why this group of Jewish voters feels trapped, caught in a position of choosing between two perceived evils.
Mature, middle of the road American Jews with a love of Israel are seeking someone, with a sense of balance and experience, someone who is a voice of reason, someone who can be both realistic and soothing who can get the American political system to function again.
Perhaps in four years.