Douglas Emhoff: The Democrats newest Jewish star

#6 - On the side of a potential VP: Douglas Emhoff

Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff  (photo credit: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA)
Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff
The Democrats chose Florida last month to roll out their newest Jewish star, Kamala Harris’s Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff.
If Joe Biden and his vice presidential pick, Harris, win the presidency in November, Emhoff would become the nation’s first second gentleman
The vice presidential nominee’s partner opened up about growing up Jewish and his Jewish involvement, in a webinar organized by Biden’s presidential campaign, offering revelations about the Jewish components of his first date with Harris and his own current Jewish involvements.
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The two-hour webinar, which drew at least a thousand people, played up the themes Democrats will use in their campaign to woo Jewish voters, contrasting President Donald Trump as less empathetic to Jewish concerns and countering Trump’s pro-Israel policies with claims he makes the country less safe because of his isolationism.
The webinar also made clear that Florida remains critical for Jewish Democrats and Republicans. It’s widely held that Trump, who won the state in 2016, can’t secure reelection without its electoral college votes. The Jewish population in the swing state is an estimated 700,000 out of 20 million people.
“I can tell you that our so-called colleagues on the other side are going to attempt to make Israel a political football in this election; they’re going to continue to try to come after Jewish voters in the state of Florida,” Eric Lynn, a defense consultant who was a Pentagon official in the Obama-Biden administration, said during the webinar.
There were plenty of speakers on the Florida Democrats call, including the state’s entire Jewish congressional representation, but the star was Emhoff. He sat on a stool against a Biden-Harris background and occasionally grinned when the voice and laughter of his wife, who apparently was on her own call, came drifting into his.
The path to such a high profile has been an unlikely journey for the 55-year-old Los Angeles entertainment lawyer, who now finds himself in the inner circle of a presidential campaign. Emhoff has seen his national profile swell, complete with his own fan club, the #DougHive — women who are thrilled by the novelty of a man comfortably taking a back seat in politics.
According to the Los Angeles Times, he has more than 250,000 followers on Twitter, where he identifies himself as: “Dad, @KamalaHarris hubby, lawyer, wannabe golfer, advocate for justice and equality.” His posts, sometimes addressed to the #KHive, can tend toward the goofy.
At the Florida webinar, there was a lot of Jewish trivia: He went to Cedar Lake, a Jewish camp in New Jersey, and excelled in tennis and soccer, before soccer was popular in the United States, he said. As he did in another call he and Harris had earlier this week with Jewish donors, he described the three-piece brown velour suit he wore for his bar mitzvah.
On their first date, Emhoff said, Harris “reeled off her Jewish bona fides,” including trips to Israel, fundraising for the Jewish National Fund as a teenager and the fact that her mother worked for the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, where Harris spent her teenage years.
Emhoff, a prominent entertainment lawyer in California, where Harris is currently a Democratic senator, also spoke of his own Jewish commitment, including his pro bono work with Bet Tzedek, which provides free legal services for the poor.
Emhoff embraced a central theme of the Biden Jewish campaign, and the campaign overall: Trump is unfit to be president in part, he said, because he coddles right-wing extremists.
“We have a president, right now, who has repeatedly used antisemitic dog whistles,” Emhoff said. “But worst of all, when marchers in Charlottesville came out of the woods, carrying torches and spewing the same antisemitic vile that we heard in the 1930s in Germany, before the Holocaust, this president called some of them ‘very fine people.’” He was referring to Trump’s remarks in 2017 after a deadly neo-Nazi march in the Virginia town. Trump called the marchers “very fine people” but also condemned neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the same remarks.
The call also offered a strategy to push back against Republican attempts to tie Biden and Harris to a cadre of Democratic progressives who are questioning the US- Israel relationship, including two – and likely three in the next Congress – who support the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.
That strategy had three parts, according to people on the call: reject BDS; argue that Trump poses a greater danger to Jews than the Left; and make the case that while Trump made radical changes to US policy in line with Israel’s right-wing government, including moving the embassy to Jerusalem, his overarching foreign policy weakens the United States.
Harris, Emhoff said, would appropriately balance defending Israel while making clear the differences she has with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has pledged to annex parts of the West Bank.
“She’ll continue to reject BDS at every turn, denounce efforts to delegitimize Israel and condemn incitement, and she will not hesitate to call out leaders who deny Palestinian rights or threaten unilateral annexation that would effectively cut off the hope of a two-state solution,” he said.