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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

The 2020 U.S. Elections and the Jewish Vote

Filed under: U.S. Policy

Let me begin by suggesting the following themes: first of all, that what we have seen in this election is actually a battle over the Jewish vote in terms of why and what it represents. In many ways the polling data suggests that we have multiple Jewish expressions in this election. The Associated Press and the Republican Jewish Coalition provide one such response, suggesting that 69 percent of American Jews supported Joseph Biden and 30 percent President Trump. But as you see throughout this chart, you see a variation, certainly in the South, with Florida and Georgia reflecting a very different modality, at least based on these exit polls. What we again see in Nevada and by J Street as a counterpoint in a sense to what we saw from the Republican Jewish Coalition is a very different perspective.

Indeed, my summary of the 2020 election reads as follows: First, that American Jews did not place Israel as a central theme in much of their thinking outside of what I would call identity politics Jews, those who voted with core Jewish interests at heart, you do not see an overwhelming engagement with the case for Israel as part of this vote. In fact, what we are generally seeing is a kind of voice of American liberalism, on the one hand, speaking very clearly about the issues and concerns of the society at large.

On the other, we see a distinctive Jewish response especially as expressed in these polls in Florida and Georgia. This election, by the way, is not over and in many ways the January 5th runoff in Georgia for two Senate seats will again infuse a Jewish engagement, not only the hundred and twenty thousand Jews of Georgia but American Jewish communal financial support for the candidates of their choice. In fact, as you may recall, there is a Jewish candidate running in the Senate race as is an African-American. So it reignites the kind of attention and focus on the continuation of this election. My summary is that Donald Trump may have lost this election but received over 73 million votes, which tells us an extraordinary statement, that his ideas, his politics, and his imprint are not leaving the political scene.

The second principle here is that the Democrats will have to internally manage their politics, whether the left wing of the party or its centrist expressions will dominate in how this party will govern.

And an outcome of this election also suggests that the core issue for American Jews is the issue of anti-Semitism. Every poll that was developed prior to this election pointed to the strong sense of insecurity and concern by American Jews. Yesterday’s FBI study on hate crimes in America confirms this premise. My assessment here is that for American Jews, for the first time in their history they are weighing the pressures of having threats to their political right and to their political left. How that will redefine and shape American Jewish political behavior moving forward will be the core story as an outcome of this election.

Finally, I would suggest that we need to understand that there is a deep and abiding interest in and love for the State of Israel, but it does not and did not show up on November third in the context of most American Jewish voters. As long as Israel is not in crisis, American Jewish voters will not bring that issue forward in the same kind of intensity as we have possibly seen in the past. We are now in the fourth and fifth generation of the American Jewish experience and as a result we are increasingly going to have to deal with the re-engagement of Israel as an important theme in helping American Jews understand the mix of interests, the shared interests, that they have along with other competing identities and values that have and are redefining who and what the American Jewish polity is about.