Why Are So Many Orthodox Pro-Trump?

Watch a mass Trump rally sometime. You stare at the audience and wonder.  Why are those people there? Why are so many not wearing a mask?

But then, you look more closely, whether they’re wearing masks or not. Why are there so many Blacks and Latinos applauding or seeming to support him? Is he their friend?  Does he support programs that help their communities?  Isn’t “Law and Order” a code phrase used by Trump for keeping minorities down? Am I missing something?

And then, still scratching your head, you move on from that and start talking up attendees at an Orthodox synagogue. And you are shocked to find how many Orthodox Jews are pro-Trump. Not because they’re being paid to say so, nor are they reluctant to admit it. Indeed, they’re reasonably well to do, and they don’t need a Trump campaign handout or to show up at a Trump rally. They’re just willing to admit, typically with a kiddush scotch in hand that, Trump’s bizarre behavior and often disturbing conduct notwithstanding, they prefer him for another four years.

But why? Why are they so willing to have a man in the White House who, they will  admit, is the poorest role model they could possibly have for their children or grandchildren? A man who doesn’t believe in God, except if it is him. A man who talks so derisively about women. A man willing to cast aside virtually everything we stand for as a people.

It can’t possibly be because Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is so demonstrably pro-religion, as if Orthodox Jewish traditions and practices would be undermined by a Biden Administration.  Biden, after all, no one but Trump would deny, is an active and practicing believer in God and religion.

Many, maybe most, will tell you that it’s about “Israel” – that Trump is the only president who, after a long slog, moved the American embassy to Jerusalem (as if that’s so critically important). Or that he blew up the Iran deal, as if they’re experts on American nuclear policy.  Or it’s because Netanyahu says that the deal was an “existential threat” to Israel, and that’s enough for them. But maybe that’s their true reason.

Some will tell you that they’re concerned about Biden’s mental stability  (Biden’s?) – that Kamala Harris is actually going to run the country after two months of a Biden Administration (as Trump says), and that she’s the real problem – because she’s a “Commie.”  But what do they mean by that?

If they’re doctors, they despise Obamacare, and that’s understandable (maybe). Still, what are all of those pro-Trumpers truly worried about with Harris? That she’s soft on crime? Not a chance – she was a tough District Attorney and then Attorney General.  You can’t have it both ways as the Trump Campaign tries to make it – that she was too tough on criminals, but yet, at the same time, she is willing to “defund” the police and unwilling to denounce violent protests, especially on the West Coast.

And yes, there are different reasons for different people, I suppose.  But what is it really – what lies at the core? Is it because Trump is pro-religion, and Orthodox Jews are concerned about too many Pro Choice justices on the Supreme Court?  Not a chance.  Is it because Trump’s grandchildren are Jewish, and so therefore he’s “good for the Jews”? No way. Is it because he threatens to blow Iran off the face of the earth? Because he had some indefinable role in a Bahrain deal? Because “nobody believes in God more than me”? Nobody believes that.

Is it because he personally managed to beat the tax system for so many years? Because he’s willing to help the rich in his tax plan for America, and that helps those Orthodox Jews who are “comfortable”?

Or maybe it’s simply that there’s a cultural divide in America – that there’s a belief in America, particularly, here, on the part of many Orthodox Jews, that Obama took the country far to the left, particularly in the direction of minorities — black and brown people. Yes, Trump has tried to “take it back” in the opposite direction, and  Biden/Harris – more directly, Harris – will take it back, even further, in the direction that Obama took the country.

Everyone has a right to vote his or her conscience when they go into the voting booth or sign their voting card. But if we’re truly voting our conscience, let’s admit, at least to ourselves, precisely why we’re voting for someone. And that’s true on both sides of the aisle.

About the Author
Joel Cohen is a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at Stroock in New York and previously a prosecutor. He speaks and writes on law, ethics and policy (NY Law Journal, The Hill and Law & Crime). He teaches a course on "How Judges Decide" at Fordham Law School and Cardozo Law School. He has published “Truth Be Veiled,” “Blindfolds Off: Judges on How They Decide” and his latest book, "I Swear: The Meaning of an Oath," as well as works of Biblical fiction including “Moses: A Memoir.” Dale J. Degenshein assists in preparing the articles on this blog.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Stroock firm or its lawyers.
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