The voice of Republican Jews remains silent on presidential race
Jewish donors are overwhelmingly supporting former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this election season. That comes as no surprise given that President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney received 71 percent and 29 percent, respectively, of Jewish donations in 2012. However, according to FiveThirtyEight, only 5 percent of Jewish donations to the major-party presidential candidates have gone to Donald Trump.
FiveThirtyEight’s findings are the latest evidence that American Jews are not joining the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) this election cycle in supporting Trump for president. Given that Shelden Adelson, the RJC’s most influential board member, is giving a fraction of what he pledged at the beginning of the cycle, why would anyone else? It calls into question the RJC’s commitment to its party’s presidential nominee.
After Trump formally won the Republican primary, the RJC, in addition to bashing Clinton for 63 words of its 135-word statement, half-heartedly endorsed its party’s standard-bearer. “The Republican Jewish Coalition congratulates Donald Trump on being the presumptive Presidential nominee of the Republican Party,” the RJC wrote. “Along with the Presidential race, the RJC will be working hard to hold on to our majorities in the Senate and the House. It is critical that these majorities be preserved.” That sounds like the RJC was less than thrilled about Trump’s success.
Ever since the RJC’s endorsement, the group has not publicly supported Trump with any kind of real action. Outside of Trump’s recent meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the RJC has tweeted about Trump or his campaign exactly once — to welcome Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as the vice presidential candidate on the GOP ticket. And since May, it hasn’t mentioned Trump’s name in any advertising materials.
Throughout the 2012 election, on the other hand, the RJC loudly supported Romney, posting videos on YouTube, buying billboard ad space, and actively seeking media coverage. RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks and former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, an RJC board member, both wrote pieces in support of Romney. They have not done the same this year. In fact, in March, Coleman wrote an op-ed in the Star Tribune titled, “I will never vote for Donald Trump.”
If the voice of Republican Jewish Americans is not supporting Trump, then Republican Jews should not vote for him. Throughout the campaign, Trump has proved he is not worthy of the Jewish vote. At the RJC’s Presidential Candidates Forum, he raised eyebrows by saying, “I’m a negotiator like you folks, we are negotiators,” Trump said. “Is there anybody that doesn’t renegotiate deals in this room? This room negotiates them — perhaps more than any other room I’ve ever spoken in.”
Two months later, Trump again sparked controversy by saying that he would be “neutral” on negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. During an MSNBC town hall, when asked about the conflict, Trump said, “If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you [my choice] and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved.’” He elaborated, “Let me be sort of a neutral guy.” Trump has since tried to walk the stance back, despite having repeated it multiple times over the course of the campaign as well as in an official campaign video.
Then, perhaps most damning, in July, Trump tweeted the now-infamous image of Clinton’s face on top of a pile of money next to a Star of David with, “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” Trump’s campaign, of course, took the image down and then tried to explain the tweet by claiming that the star was a sheriff’s star. Instead of allowing the story to die, however, Trump said at a rally, “I said: ‘Too bad. You should have left it up.’ I would have rather defended it — just leave it up and say: No, that’s not a Star of David. That’s just a star.” He said this in spite of the original image having come from a white supremacist website.
Throughout all of this, the RJC has remained silent. It hasn’t explicitly endorsed Trump’s actions, but it hasn’t condemned them either. If the organization claiming to be the voice of Republican Jews opposes its party’s presidential candidate due to his history of reckless and reprehensible comments throughout his campaign and his career, it owes it to its constituents to say so. If the RJC continues to stand by quietly, then its staff and board members will have to reckon with the fact that they, too, stood on the wrong side of history.
Jason Berger most recently served as the researcher and writer for the Jewish Media Hub. He is a fellow at Bluelight Strategies and is pursuing his Master’s of Public Policy at the McCourt School at Georgetown University.