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With Three Months To Go

With Three Months To Go

After a chaotic Republican National Convention notable for who was not in attendance among party leaders as well as who was, the Democrats were hoping for a more civil affair. But the strains between the pro-Clinton and pro-Sanders factions were evident on the first day when mentions of Hillary Clinton drew loud boos from the Sanders activists. And even before the festivities started, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, was forced to resign over a leaked e-mail from a top DNC official. It indicated attempts to hurt Sanders’ cause

Clearly, e-mail problems have been a major cause of disruption for the Clinton effort this year. And in this case, there was a Jewish angle, with Wasserman Schultz and Sanders being Jewish members of Congress, and the e-mail in question from a DNC professional pointing out that Sanders may be an atheist rather than a practicing Jew. The notion being that if true, it would hurt the Vermont senator’s chances in key Southern states where religious practice is an important issue for voters.

In the end, Hillary Clinton will become the first woman to lead a major presidential ticket, anticipating a brutal battle against Donald Trump. The visions, policies and strategies of the two candidates could not be more sharply distinct. Trump will play up fear and frustration, promising to shake up the status quo and promote himself as the “law and order” candidate who can save the country from dangerous attacks from within and outsiders. His primary focus will be on the white, working-class population, especially men.

Clinton, reflecting the emerging trends in the Democratic Party, will reach out to women, blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, emphasizing the need for unity and compassion, and making what she believes to be an already great society more equitable.

Today’s Democratic Party has become dramatically more progressive due to a mix of demographics (with a larger societal percentage of minorities), a swing to the left among many young people, and Sanders’ ability to tap into those strains and galvanize his followers. A Pew study found that the percentage of Democrats who identify as liberal almost doubled from 1994 to 2014, and is probably greater today. Those national trends are reflected in the Jewish community as well. Younger, educated Jews are likely to be more liberal than their parents, and that plays out in views on Israel. The Jerusalem government, a right-wing coalition moving further in that direction on political and religious issues, presents a serious problem for many American Jews — younger ones in particular.

A Clinton White House would most likely be more hawkish on Israel and foreign policy in general than President Obama’s, but not radically different in terms of the Iran nuclear deal — monitor it, don’t rip it up — and Israeli security — support Jerusalem but prod it toward dealing with the Palestinians.

If Trump wins, he sees working with Russian President Putin to contain and constrain Iran, according to David Friedman, a Trump adviser on Israel. (See Editor’s column, page 7). Trump would favor Israel over the Palestinians more openly and would look for alternatives to the two-state solution, Friedman said. But Trump’s inconsistency, lack of direct or deep knowledge of the conflict and isolationist tendencies are deeply worrisome to many Israeli officials.

For the next three months, on the road to Election Day, we can expect more of the unexpected as we brace ourselves for a raucous, nasty race. It may well be determined by personalities rather than policies, and emotions instead of logic. Neither candidate is trusted by a majority of Americans, but our future depends on using our best — not basest — instincts in choosing.

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