The 1920 presidential election, in which women voted for the first time, saw Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge crush James Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. – 60 percent to 34 percent. Jewish Americans delivered 43 percent of their votes to the winning ticket, a 98-year peak in support of Republicans, with only 19 percent voting for the Democrats.
The remaining 38 percent went to Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs, who, in stark contrast to the wildly anomalous Jewish support, received a piddling 3 percent of the vote from the general American public.
Debs never hit the campaign trail, as he had been convicted in September 1918 for violating the Espionage Act of 1917 by urging American men to ignore the draft. After his appeal was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court in March 1919, Debs was incarcerated in an Atlanta federal prison until President Harding commuted his sentence in December 1921.
The 2016 presidential race, was in some regards, not that much different from the 1920 contest, with wildly popular Senator Bernie Sanders almost winning the Democratic nomination. In September 1918, Eugene Debs delivered a speech before a federal judge in Canton, Ohio, who then sentenced him to 10 years in prison. Switch a few words and it easily could have been given today by Senator Sanders, Mayor Bill de Blasio, or Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Debs, for example, denounced the “five percent” of super-rich American for controlling “two-thirds of our wealth,” and said America’s industries “ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all.”
Debs also advocated abolishing prisons (“while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”) – as do some of his spiritual heirs today. (Members of the Democratic Socialists of New York City have advocated for the abolition of profit, prisons, borders, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.)
But with the American economy booming, the number of factories increasing, and record low unemployment rates among black and Hispanic Americans during President Trump’s wildly successful 20 months in the White House, a majority of Americans are singing “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
President Trump, who received 24 percent of Jewish-America votes two years ago, can realistically aim to up that number by 50 percent in 2020, which would give him 36 percent of our votes. This projected outcome would place Trump among other successful Republican presidential candidates who received more than a third of Jewish American votes: Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 (36 percent) and 1956 (40 percent); Richard Nixon in 1972 (35 percent); Ronald Reagan in 1980 (39 percent); and George H.W. Bush in 1988 (35 percent).
In the 2016 election, Donald Trump received the overwhelming support of America’s Orthodox Jews, who have been rapidly gaining in numbers, prestige, and economic and political power during the last half-century.
Currently, 68 percent of Jewish-American women identify as Democrats and only 23 percent as Republicans (as compared to 54 percent of Jewish-American men who identify as Democrats and the 36 percent as Republicans). This enormous, 45-percentage-point chasm favoring Democrats among female Jewish voters must be narrowed if Republican presidential candidates in 2020 and beyond want to win more than a third of the Jewish vote.
One reason for this yawning gap, I believe, is the absence of prominent Jewish-American Republican women who command the national spotlight. Which is why a report in the Forward that the White House is dispatching the president’s older daughter, Ivanka Trump, to campaign in the midterm elections is welcome news. For the next two years, 36-year-old Ivanka Trump, the luminous mother of three and a practicing Orthodox Jew, can be the ideal emissary to persuade more Jewish-American women to vote for her father and the Republican ticket in November 2020.
In the 21st century, Jews in Israel, France, Great Britain and elsewhere have, wisely abandoned leftist parties and switched to conservative ones. We American Jews have of yet to follow this astute political path.
But with the Democrats rushing recklessly to the far-left of the political spectrum, and with a number of the party’s leaders despicably emulating their Labor counterparts in Great Britain by advocating anti-American, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israel policies, the migration of Jewish Americans to the Republicans may occur soon enough.