Donald Trump, the twice-impeached, politically divisive ex-president of the United States, threw his hat into the ring on November 15. In a rambling, self-serving speech riddled with falsehoods, half-truths and exaggerations, he announced he would seek the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination.
It is far from certain whether he will prevail. His moment in history as an unconventional out-of-the-box candidate may well have passed. And substantive contenders like Mike Pence, the former US vice-president, and Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, may also decide to run, thereby diminishing his chances of becoming the Republican standard-bearer for the third time.
Although he enjoys popularity among some Republicans, his image as a credible candidate may be questioned due to the serious investigations he currently faces. These pertain to the January 6 insurrection in Washington, DC, the troves of classified government documents he failed to surrender after leaving the White House, and the accusations of tax fraud and financial impropriety enmeshing the Trump Organization.
Trump is confident he can deal with these challenges. And judging by a speech he delivered on the eve of his presidential announcement, he is banking on the hope that a significantly greater number of American Jews will vote for the Republican ticket in the forthcoming election.
Speaking at a Zionist Organization of America ceremony at which he received its Theodor Herzl Gold Medallion in honor of his role in brokering the 2020 Abraham Accords, Trump expressed frustration with the outcome of the last election, which was won by his Democratic Party opponent, Joe Biden, by a comfortable margin.
Yet to this day, contrary to all evidence, Trump claims the election was rigged. Stubbornly refusing to accept his stinging defeat, Trump’s most ardent supporters, emboldened by his overheated election denial rhetoric, broke into the US Congress on January 6, 2020 in a brazen, illegal and unprecedented attempt to defy the constitution and stop the official ratification of Biden’s victory.
Nearly three years on, Trump still is mystified why three-quarters of Jewish voters cast their ballots for Biden. “As you know, the Democrats got 75 percent of the vote, which is hard to believe,” he said. “We can’t let that continue.”
Carrying on in this contentious vein, Trump declared, “When you see all of the horrible things that have taken place with Biden and Barack Hussein Obama, they get 75 percent of the vote. What the hell is going on here? But we’re going to get it changed.”
Conflating American Jewish voters with Israel, he said, “You do have people in this country who happen to be Jewish who are not doing the right thing for Israel. Too many.”
And in a slanderous and untrue accusation, he said, “Biden appointed numerous anti-Israel radical leftists to key government posts, including those who’ve supported the antisemitic BDS movement that calls for economic warfare against the State of Israel. They’re just unacceptable.”
Trump’s questionable comments, met by applause from a friendly audience of Jewish Republicans like Zionist Organization of America leader Morton Klein, reminded observers of his previous remarks on Israel.
On his social media platform Truth Social, Trump boasted, “No president has done more for Israel.” He went on to complain that “our wonderful Evangelicals are far more appreciative of this than the people of the Jewish faith, especially those living in the US.”
And without bothering to elaborate, Trump urged Jewish Americans to “get their act together and appreciate what they have in Israel — before it is too late.”
The sinister undertones of that opaque remark did not go unnoticed.
What Trump and his supporters fail to grasp is that Jews are not one-issue voters. Israel is not their exclusive concern. While Israel’s existence and well-being are very important, and while they acknowledge and appreciate Trump’s pro-Israel record, they do not base their electoral calculations solely on Israel.
Like most Americans, Jewish voters are animated by and invested in a wide range of domestic political, social and economic issues that do not remotely impinge on Israel or the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Trump has yet to understand that the majority of American Jews are centrists and liberals rather than conservatives. This has been the case for decades now.
Clearly, Trump has no right whatsoever to lecture, browbeat or implicitly threaten Jews who do not share his right-of-center views. He ought to remember that a serious contender for the presidency of the world’s most powerful and influential nation should be thoughtful, respectful and circumspect and should always exercise restraint.
These are not character traits he usually exhibits. Indeed, he is normally erratic and unpresidential in terms of his behavior. Trump marches to his own drummer, much to the consternation of Americans who wish he would retire from politics.