Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

New Questions Concerning the 2024 Jewish Vote and the Presidential Election

The events of this past week, namely the first 2024 Presidential Debate, have added another layer of uncertainty, and even anxiety, for parts of the American Jewish electorate.

As this writer has noted in previous columns, despite its limited size, the Jewish vote represents a more complex story than some journalists may wish to consider.

Given that Jews vote in particularly high numbers and have historically voted in significantly large numbers for the Democratic Party, this constituency is often considered as “not being in play”.   But is the 2024 election likely to be a different story?  With limiting polling data, one can only project the state of the Jewish vote.

Considering the problematic “showing” of President Biden during this past Thursday evening’s debate, new questions abound among many groups of voters over their uncertainty concerning his mental and physical status.

No doubt, there remains a significant body of Jewish Democrats wholly committed to the party, and whomever the Dems select to be their standard-bearer, this faction of “true-Blue” voters is unlikely to change.

Yet, a new proposition may be on the table. Will there be voters, Democrats, Independents, and even disaffected Republicans, who will be casting a broader net in 2024 should Joe Biden remain on the ticket?

Where will such Jewish voters turn their attention?  Several options are possibly under consideration. Some may elect not to vote; unhappy with their choices, such folks might consider opting out, many for the first time in their voting history!

The second consideration will be to embrace one of the “third” party options, Robert Kennedy Jr. of We the People Party, Gail Stein of the Green Party, or Chase Oliver of the Libertarian Party, as much as a statement of their unhappiness with the two major parties.  By way of a side note, none of these candidates holds a favorable position on Israel, which most certainly will be of concern to some prospective Jewish voters. While such candidates can gain some traction, no third-party candidate has ever come close to winning the American presidency, and the general impact of their presence on the ballot can open opportunities for unpopular mainstream candidates to win, as in the case of Donald Trump in 2016, upsetting Hilary Clinton in Pennsylvania where even a 2% shift among third party voters could have generated a different outcome.

What will be the fate of Jewish Democratic donors, some of whom may have given up on Biden following his debate performance? Do they press the party’s leadership for an alternative choice, or do they elect to simply to sit this one out, believing that the dye has been cast and a Biden-Harris ticket is a prescription for defeat?

How active will Jewish Democrats in general be in seeking at this stage to change the Democratic nominee? And, in turn, what percentage of loyalist Jewish Democrats will move forward to defend and advance the fortunes of the 46th President?

No doubt, Jewish Republicans will be seeking to take advantage of this situation, appealing to independent and undecided Jewish voters to join them in the Trump camp.

From where this analyst sits, I see the Democratic Party facing a problem with the Jewish community, possibly as significant or more so than in 1980 as the party defended President Carter’s record on Israel to an unhappy Jewish constituency. On that occasion, Jewish voters had two options, vote for Ronald Reagan (39%) or embrace third party candidate John Anderson (15%). Carter would receive 45% of the Jewish vote, the lowest percentage of Jewish support for a Democrat in over 50 years!

As events unfold over the next several weeks, Americans in general and Jewish voters in particular will gain a better perspective of what maybe their political options.

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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