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Trump Seeks to Maintain Traditional Support of Jews in 2020 Elections

“Being good to Israel has many, many political advantages in the United States,” notes Kraut. “The Jewish vote alone isn't going to put Trump over the top"

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FILE - President Donald Trump waves as he leaves the stage after speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition's annual leadership meeting, April 6, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada. VOA

Shelley Berkley spent 14 years in Congress representing the western swing state of Nevada. The lifelong Democrat is worried about her party’s ability in next year’s presidential election to maintain the traditional support of her fellow Jews.

“Growing up, I didn’t know anybody that was Jewish who wasn’t a Democrat. The two went hand in hand. If you’re Jewish, you’re a Democrat. Things have changed dramatically,” according to Berkley.

The party’s rising left wing is less inclined to reflexively support Israel, while President Donald Trump has decisively aligned with Israel’s right-wing president, Benjamin Netanyahu.

“There’s a lot of folks like Congresswoman Berkeley increasingly concerned about the direction and tone the Democratic Party is taking as it relates to the Jewish community and Israel,” says Matthew Brooks, national executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Staunch democratic

Throughout most of the 20th century, Jews were staunch Democrats, traditionally allied with the labor movement and religiously coming out to vote in force.

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Throughout most of the 20th century, Jews were staunch Democrats, traditionally allied with the labor movement and religiously coming out to vote in force. VOA

As important, according to American University professor of history Alan Kraut, “is the influence that Jews wield as opinion leaders, journalists, contributors and activists – as a people basically who are never afraid to raise their voices one way or another.”

Pollster Mark Mellman contends data show that has not changed, with the Jewish community remaining “strongly Democratic to this day, and certainly anti-Trump, even though some are appreciative of some of the things that Trump has done vis-a-vis Israel.”

Both Berkley and Mellman say most Jewish voters detest Trump’s policies in general, as well as his behavior and lack of intellectual curiosity.

But Trump is trying hard to woo them, portraying the Democratic Party as anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.

“The reality is, the American Jewish community is not going to be voting for Donald Trump. … And for him to invest so much time, effort, energy, in trying to create a wedge between the American Jewish community and the Democratic Party isn’t really a very good use of his time,” says Mellman, who heads one of the most prominent Democratic marketing research and polling firms. But he acknowledges “there are some increasing doubts and concern.”

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FILE – An attendee wears a “Make America Great Again” yarmulke before President Donald Trump speaks at an annual meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, April 6, 2019, in Las Vegas, Nevada. VOA

Berkley says her children remain strong Democrats but are concerned about whether they can continue to support their own party.

“Now that doesn’t mean they are embracing the Trump revolution. Hardly. But people like us, pro-Israel moderate Democrats, where do we go?” she asks.

At the RJC, Brooks is looking to lure those disaffected Democrats. He contends the rival party is overconfident about the Jewish vote.

“It’s going to be very hard for any of the Democratic candidates to have, like President Trump, an unvarnished pro-Israel agenda, because the grassroots in the base of the Democratic Party won’t allow it,” Brooks predicts.

Battleground states

“If we move 5% of the Jewish vote in Los Angeles or New York, it’s not going to make a difference,” Brooks says. “There’s no chance we’re winning New York state or California. So, our focus is very strategic and very targeted in the battleground states.”

At the forefront are Ohio and Florida, both with significant Jewish populations. Also seen in play: Arizona and Nevada out West, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Midwest.

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President Trump Approval Rating by Religion. VOA

“Since Trump has been in office, has he been able to attract and to peel away Jewish support from the Democratic Party? I believe the answer to that is yes,” says Brooks.

The head of the Republican Jewish Coalition says American Jews look not just at a candidate’s stance on Israel, but also at economic issues.

“I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to make these incremental gains,” Brooks tells VOA.

Mellman says Brooks and other Republicans are overly optimistic “when you have a community that has consistently voted Democratic for many years. And right now, even after all these things, hates Donald Trump. Now, could that turn around in 17 months? It’s possible. But there’s never been that kind of wholesale turnaround in public opinion.”

Kraut sees the best opportunity for Republicans with “older Jewish voters, men and women, who lean toward Trump because of Israel. And because he does seem to them to fly in the face of what they regard as the left wing of the Democratic Party that’s taking shape” around congressional first-termers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, according to Kraut.

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FILE – A supporter cheers as President Donald Trump addresses the Republican Jewish Coalition 2019 annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 6, 2019. VOA

“They don’t like these people. They don’t trust these people,” says Kraut of the older Jewish voters.

Berkley agrees.

“I’m apoplectic about my party’s response to the comments Omar and others have made,” she tells VOA. “Members of the Democratic caucus have made anti-Semitic statements that were no accident. They actually believe what they’re saying.”

Jewish populations

This sentiment likely will be more of a factor prior to the general election as Jews could have an outsized role in selecting the Democratic Party’s nominee.

While early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire have negligible Jewish populations, the big and solid Democrat states – New York and California – do.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is viewed by much of the Jewish bloc as stable and predictable with foreign policy, respected around the world, and representing their core social and moral values, according to Kraut.

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Party Identification by Religion. VOA

“If I were a betting man, I would say that if Biden is the candidate of the Democratic Party, the Jews are going to flock to him” in the general election against Trump, Kraut says.

He sees Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as struggling for Jewish votes, despite him being the only Jew running for president.

Some may find that ironic.

“It’s worse than ironic. It’s very unfortunate, actually,” laments Berkley, who says she opposes Sanders’ candidacy “because of his lack of support for Israel.”

Mellman says Sanders has stated he is “100% pro-Israel, that he believes Israel has every right to exist in peace and security without being subject to terrorism.”

ALSO READ: FBI Director Warns Russia Still Continuing to Meddle in 2020 US Elections

Jewish leaders acknowledge Trump’s embrace of Israel may also be motivated by his desire to retain the support of Christian evangelicals (who believe that Israel must continue to exist as a harbinger for the return of Christ as the Messiah).

“Being good to Israel has many, many political advantages in the United States,” notes Kraut. “The Jewish vote alone isn’t going to put Trump over the top.” (VOA)

Next Story

Trump to Pursue Higher Sales Age for Vaping Devices: ‘An Age Limit of 21 or So’

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details

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President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Nov. 8, 2019. VOA

President Donald Trump said Friday his administration will pursue raising the age to purchase electronic cigarettes from 18 to 21 in its upcoming plans to combat youth vaping.

Trump told reporters his administration will release its final plans for restricting e-cigarettes next week but provided few other details.

“We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we’re going to have an age limit of 21 or so,” said Trump, speaking outside the White House.

Currently the minimum age to purchase any tobacco or vaping product is 18, under federal law. But more than one-third of U.S. states have already raised their sales age to 21.

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FILE – A woman buys refills for her Juul at a smoke shop in New York, Dec. 20, 2018. VOA

A federal law raising the purchase age would require congressional action.

Administration officials were widely expected to release plans this week for removing virtually all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. Those products are blamed for soaring rates of underage use by U.S. teenagers.

However, no details have yet appeared, leading vaping critics to worry that the administration is backing away from its original plan.

Trump resisted any specifics on the scope of the restrictions.

Also Read- US Officials Identify ‘Strong Culprit’ in Vaping Illnesses

“We’re talking about the age, we’re talking about flavors, we’re also talking about keeping people working — there are some pretty good aspects,” Trump said.

Mint flavor

Underage vaping has reached what health officials call epidemic levels. In the latest government survey, 1 in 4 high school students reported using e-cigarettes in the previous month.

Fruit, candy, dessert and other sweet vaping flavors have been targeted because of their appeal to underage users.

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FILE – A man blows a puff of smoke as he vapes with an electronic cigarette, Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation’s largest e-cigarette maker, announced it would voluntarily pull its mint-flavored e-cigarettes from the market. That decision followed new research that Juul’s mint is the top choice for many high school students who vape.

With the removal of mint, Juul only sells two flavors: tobacco and menthol.

Vaping critics say menthol must be a part of the flavor ban to prevent teens who currently use mint from switching over.

‘Tobacco 21’ law

Also Read- Nobody Takes Serious Speeches of Movie Stars Seriously, Says Bollywood Star Shah Rukh Khan

Juul and other tobacco companies have lobbied in support of a federal “Tobacco 21” law to reverse teen use of both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products. The effort also has broad bipartisan support in Congress, including a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The logic for hiking the purchase age for cigarettes and other products is clear: Most underage teens who use e-cigarettes or tobacco get it from older friends. Raising the minimum age to 21 is expected to limit the supply of those products in U.S. schools.

Delaying access to cigarettes is also expected to produce major downstream health benefits, with one government-funded report estimating nearly 250,000 fewer deaths due to tobacco over several decades.

Still, anti-tobacco groups have insisted that any “Tobacco 21” law must be accompanied by a ban on flavors, which they say are the primary reason young people use e-cigarettes. (VOA)