Mitchell Bard 
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© Mitchell Bard 2016

Who is Good for the Jews?

This is one election where Jews could tip the election. Though we comprise only about 2% of the total U.S. population, roughly 89% of us live in 12 key states with enough electoral votes to determine the next President. With the race too close to call as we quickly approach election day, my grandmother’s question of which candidate is better for the Jews becomes all important.

Truthfully, there isn’t much question how Jews are going to vote. Other than African-Americans, Jews are the most liberal group in the country and most loyal to the Democratic Party. Jews also consistently vote against their pocketbooks. Jews rank higher than average on the socioeconomic scale and, logically, should tilt toward the Republicans, but their liberal values take precedence in their political decisions and that is why roughly three-quarters of Jews lean toward the Democrats. It would be a shock if George W. Bush received 20% of the Jewish vote, but whether he receives 15% or 25% could determine the outcome.

The candidates do present a clear choice on most issues. Many Jews and Jewish organizations believe that virtually everything is a “Jewish issue,” from abortion to school vouchers to gun control. While Jews may be concerned with lots of issues, I’ve never thought that made them “Jewish.” The only Jewish issues are those that directly affect us as Jews, not just as citizens. Only a handful of issues falls into this category, such as hate crimes legislation, affirmative action and Israel. On two of the three — hate crimes and affirmative action — the candidates are far apart. Gore is very supportive of both while Bush’s position on the former is fuzzy, but definitely less enthusiastic than Gore, and he opposes the latter.

In this election, you can’t make a decision solely based on the candidates’ public statements regarding Israel. They’ve both been as pro-Israel as you can get without tattooing a Magen David on your chest. Gore has a long record of support while Bush has no record and must carry his father’s baggage as perhaps the most anti-Israel president in history. Republicans offer reassurance that W is different and point to the Jews and other friends of Israel around him.

For many voters, one or two issues determine their vote. Abortion, gun control, tax cuts, medicare and all the other issues the candidates are talking about are going to swing many votes, but not mine. The core issue for me is whether I believe the candidate would help the Jews in their hour of need. Who would step in to stop another Holocaust?

This is the issue on which my support for Bill Clinton turned during his presidency. Forget Monica, what appalled me was that candidate Clinton had said he would stop the slaughter in the Balkans and President Clinton stood by and watched it for years before finally taking action. All along my question was: What if they were Jews instead of Muslims?

Given that candidates frequently say one thing during their campaigns and do another once in office, how can we really know what a president would do if Jews were in danger? Well, in this election the candidates have offered strong hints. Bush has repeatedly said the United States should not be the world’s policeman, the military should not engage in peace-building and that we can’t solve every conflict. Gore has waffled somewhat in response, agreeing the U.S. can’t do everything, but he does have a far more interventionist orientation.

Ironically, the Jewish attachment to the Democratic Party dates to the time of Franklin Roosevelt. Jews believed strongly in the New Deal and loved Roosevelt, yet he was the one who abandoned them in their time of greatest need. My vote will go to the candidate who I feel will be there when we need him.