Steven Windmueller
Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

The Political Challenges Before Us: What’s Ahead in 2022?


The United States may be facing its most serious threat to its democratic institutions since the Civil War. The character and content of this nation’s politics is marked by a deep and dangerous political divide. We are living through a fundamentally disruptive moment in our political culture. Not only are we experiencing strikingly different policy options but the cultural artifacts of politics, namely how some of our politicians operate are dramatically challenging the existing norms of our democracy by introducing conspiratorial ideas, delivering hateful messaging, and promoting acts of violence. The politics of hate will sadly but likely impact the 2022 mid-term elections.

Preparing the 2022 Elections:

The game plan for the 2024 Presidential election will play out in the 2022 Congressional elections. As states finalize their Congressional Districts, based on the 2020 National Census, the battleground is being staged the next Presidential campaign.

We should note that since 1938 in off-year elections, the President’s party has traditionally suffered losses anywhere between 5 and 81seats in the House. Should that pattern continue in 2022, the Republicans would assume the majority, limiting the Biden Administration’s capacity to carry forward its agenda.

What’s at stake? We would remind ourselves that it is possible that the 2024 Presidential election could be decided by the House of Representatives. Should the Congress for whatever reasons throw out various electoral college votes, or should no candidate secure the necessary 270 Electoral Votes to become President, then the House, voting by state delegations, could select the 47th President. Should the House switch majority parties in 2022, the Republicans would control the 2024 electoral vote count for the next president.

Republicans currently control 54.11% of all state legislative seats nationally, while Democrats hold 44.71%. Republicans have a majority in 61 chambers, while the Democrats retain a majority in 37 chambers. By states, 23 are controlled by the Republicans, 15 by the Democrats, while 12 states have divided legislative houses.

In our nation’s history five candidates for the Presidency won the popular vote but failed to be named to the office as they lost the electoral college tally. The latest being Hilary Clinton in 2016.

The House could for only the third time in our nation’s history (1800 and 1824) select our next President!

 Implications for the Jewish Community:

 Considering the high profile that America’s Jews play in politics and the activist character of the Jewish voter, what role will Jews play in these forthcoming political cycles?

Seventeen major population centers account for 66% of all Jewish Americans, with 75% of America’s Jews residing in eight states (California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Massachusetts), with these states accounting for 188 electoral votes. Traditionally, all of these states are “blue” with the exception of Florida which has trended “red”.

If one were to also include the seven states containing between 100,000 and 200,000 Jews, Texas (176,000); Virginia (151,000); Ohio (148,000); Georgia (129,000); Connecticut (118,000); Arizona (107,000); and Colorado (103,000), the combined electoral vote count would be 300 (with 270 necessary to win the White House). While a number of these states vote “blue”, as we have seen in Georgia, Arizona, and now in Virginia, these states must be classified as “purple”, as they are simply too close to call! Ohio has consistently voted “red”.

Another way to analyze the “Jewish vote” is to measure by examining key counties in this country. A majority of the Jewish vote is situated in the 100 most urban populated counties in the nation. Joe Biden in 2020 carried 527 counties including these large metropolitan centers; by comparison, Donald Trump won every other county (2,586) in America.

What We are Seeing Across the States:

 As of this November 19 states have enacted 33 laws making it more difficult for its residents to vote.   In Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and Texas, for example, new criminal laws are designed to limit election officials in assisting voters with their ballots. Four states  (Arizona, Iowa, Montana and Texas) have passed multiple restrictive voting laws. “Most recently, Texas enacted S.B. 1, omnibus legislation that disproportionately burdens Latino, Black, and Asian voters and makes it harder for those who face language access barriers or who have disabilities to get help casting their ballots.” [1]

 The political environment being established for next year’s campaign season would suggest a more hostile setting for voters and a more unsettled voting process as election results will more likely be questioned, and possibly challenged. Partisanship has been elevated to new level of competitiveness.

Might We Expect Political Violence?

 The political climate in this nation has changed. According to the Journal of Democracy:

…Ideas that were once confined to fringe groups now appear in the mainstream media. White-supremacist ideas, militia fashion, and conspiracy theories spread via gaming websites, YouTube channels, and blogs, while a slippery language of memes, slang, and jokes blurs the line between posturing and provoking violence, normalizing radical ideologies and activities.[2]

 Brian Levin, Director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, noted that the political rhetoric “emboldens bad actors and provides potential vigilantes a sense of legitimacy.”[3]

It is important that the Jewish community along with other minority groups anticipate  and be prepared to manage future threats and incidents of hate that will likely be tied not only to the forthcoming mid-term elections but to the broader hostile political and social climate that defines the American landscape.

The Carnegie Endowment provides a ten-point plan to prevent political violence in this society; they conclude their findings by suggesting that:[4]

 We believe that well-functioning democracy depends on non-violent politics. And we believe there is something we can do about the current trajectory of animosity in the United States.

What Lies Ahead?

The challenge here in a disruptive political setting is how we go about preserving our democracy, its core institutions, the integrity of the ballot box, and the safety and well-being of all of our citizens.

In this current unsettled condition, we note with particular concern that minorities maybe specifically targeted. Their welfare and security must be ensured. And more directly, in light of the defined and highly public roles played by Jewish Americans in our society, our national leaders must be prepared to deal with the possibly of verbal, written and/or physical threats directed not only against individual members of our community but also toward our institutions and synagogues.

As we prepare for managing our political culture, five levels of civic responsibility can inform us in helping to frame our mandate:

  • We remain committed to the welfare and integrity of our democratic institutions.
  • We hold to the value that truthful messaging, free exercise of speech, and respectful civic debate empowers and enhances our democracy.
  • We maintain that political violence has no place in our society.
  • We must ensure that everyone eligible to vote is afforded that opportunity as guaranteed by the Constitution and that all votes are fairly and accurately counted.
  • We will honor the results of our duly constituted elections.

 

The[1] https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/voting-laws-roundup-october-2021

 

[2] https://journalofdemocracy.org/articles/the-rise-of-political-violence-in-the-united-states/

 

[3] https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/columnists/story/2021-09-14/column-political-violence-is-a-growing-fear-lets-watch-the-rhetoric-during-the-recall-and-future-elections

 

[4] https://carnegieendowment.org/files/Kleinfeld_-_Political_Violence_in_the_U.S.pdf

 

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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