At least one of the following will not make it past 2016: Donald Trump, the Republican Party and Jews.
That was Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin’s prediction, echoed by other speakers, during “How Will the Jews Choose in the 2016 Presidential Election?” a conference held at Georgetown University on Oct. 20.
Trump, Rubin said, is “gonna lose, and by a lot.”
Trump’s nativist appeal to white voters, in addition to alienating racial minorities, has put a scare into Jews, Catholics and even Mormons, Rubin said. And while previous Republican presidential candidates have relied on white voters for their base, Trump’s effect on the country has led to the “ultimate ickiness for the Republican Party.”
Rubin said the party’s leadership recognizes that it has a problem appealing to women, minorities and millennials. She criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for not condemning Trump’s comments more vigorously.
Rubin said she was shocked by the anti-Semitism surrounding Trump’s campaign. She told the audience that she and other Jewish reporters have had anti-Semitic comments directed at them.
“I can’t tell you how many [anti-Semitic] people I have reported to Twitter,” she said. “None of their accounts were ever canceled.”
Later in the conference, conservative writer and former Justice Department attorney Clarice Feldman, who supports Trump, was asked why Jewish support for Republican nominee is so low.
“I have no idea,” she said, then argued against the idea that Trump is an anti-Semite.
“All of his grown children are married [to] or dating Jews,” she said. “Two of his grandchildren are Orthodox Jews. The notion that he could be a big businessman in New York and be anti-Semitic is preposterous.”
The conference then transitioned from the election itself to how the U.S.-Israel relationship might look under either a Trump or a Clinton presidency, the latter of which all agreed is more likely.
Analyst and former Democratic political advisor Aaron David Miller said very little about the relationship would change under a Clinton administration, although there will likely be less bad blood between her and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than there has been President Barack Obama and Netanyahu.
Miller said that no matter who occupies the White House, there is no chance for a U.S.-negotiated peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
“No one is going to compel me or convince me that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ready for prime time,” he said. “The conundrum for the United States is that we are stuck and trapped in a region that we cannot transform and we cannot leave.”
Elliott Abrams, who served as assistant secretary of state under President Ronald Reagan, said another looming issue is the growing gap between American Jews, most of whom are liberal, and the hawkish, right-wing Israeli government.
“The Democratic Party is moving away from Israel,” he said. “I think we saw that in the [Bernie] Sanders campaign.”
Abrams said that although Clinton is more pro-Israel than Sanders, she will need to win over Sanders Democrats. But he noted that, she, too has struggled over how to discuss Israel with her supporters, as revealed in hacked emails recently released by WikiLeaks.
The conversation he mentioned took place between Clinton campaign adviser Jake Sullivan and others.
“Would add a sentence on standing up for our allies and our values, including Israel and other fellow democracies, and confronting terrorists and dictators with strength and cunning,” Sullivan wrote.
“I thought this was largely for her TP (talking points) with public events not fundraisers,” replied media adviser Mandy Grunwald. “Do we need Israel etc for that?
After continuing to read from the email chain, Abrams expressed outrage that Clinton would use Israel as a ploy to win the hearts of wealthy donors, but not necessarily of others.
“What is that? Israel is to be mentioned with rich Jews but not with Democratic activists? Why is that?” Abrams said. “[Because] they don’t like Israel.”
Abrams added that younger Jewish voters are breaking toward the Democratic Party and away from Israel, due in part to the fading memory of the Holocaust and that era’s widespread anti-Semitism, but also because of the rise of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Just as she predicted Trump’s loss in the election, Rubin had other forecasts.
“There will be a thriving Jewish community 10 years from now, 100 years from now, I am certain,” she said. “I give the Republican Party a 50-50 shot [to survive] and I give Donald Trump no chance at being involved in politics in a meaningful way.”