Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The Jewish residents of Florida, a consequential voting bloc in the swing state, are likely to vote overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in November, Rep. Ted Deutch told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.
In an interview, the Democratic representative from Boca Raton based his claim on two political trends he believes serve to his party’s advantage.
The first is that Clinton benefits from a strong baseline of Jewish support for Democrats in a state where Jewish voter turnout is reliable and high; and the second is that the rhetoric of Trump, the GOP presidential nominee, has made it “very difficult” for American Jews who might otherwise be on the fence to vote Republican this time around.
“It seems clear that the divisive rhetoric and the reckless statements of Donald Trump will make it very difficult for the Jewish community to support him,” said Deutch, who predicted Clinton will “exceed” expectations in the Sunshine State. “There will be support, but the Jewish community has a history with Secretary Clinton – she’s been a leader in fighting anti-Semitism and in fighting BDS and standing up for Israel as first lady, as senator from New York, and as secretary of state.”
Deutch worries Trump has tolerated support from the political far Right, where white supremacist and neo-Nazi organizations have rallied behind his campaign. Scores of their members have taken to social media to express bigoted views of Jews, Muslims, blacks and Hispanics, allegedly under the banner of the Trump movement.
But whether Trump himself is anti-Semitic is the wrong question to ask, Deutch said.
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“Because he refuses to ever acknowledge a mistake or to ever apologize for statements that were made,” Deutch said, “it’s an ongoing challenge that we all face in figuring out where he stands. On this issue of anti-Semitism that he seems to tolerate, do I think it means that he’s an anti-Semite? I don’t, but on the other hand, I have to wonder how it is that he’s decided that it’s somehow acceptable to tolerate the sort of naked anti-Semitism among so many of his followers.”
One prominent such Trump supporter is David Duke, a white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader.
“The issue is not whether or not Donald Trump is an anti-Semite. The issue is whether a candidate so divisive that he’s willing to accept the anti-Semitic social media and statements of others can have a broad appeal in our Jewish community where the history speaks for itself,” Deutch continued.
“We’re letting Donald Trump off the hook if the question becomes whether or not he himself is anti-Semitic and has Jewish family members. It’s about what kind of society we as Jews want to live in the United States.”
While only 2 percent of Florida’s total population is Jewish, roughly 5% of its voter population comes from the constituency.
But fear of Trump by Hispanics and Latinos – who account for 23% of Florida’s population – may render marginal shifts in the Jewish vote irrelevant. Especially high turnout from this massive demographic can easily swing the state’s electoral college votes to Clinton regardless of how Jewish residents decide to vote, Deutch said, noting a report published this week showing a marked increase in Florida Hispanic voter registration since 2012.
But “there’s never a question about turnout from the Jewish community,” Deutch said. “I don’t think the [Clinton] campaign would ever treat the community with anything less than the respect it deserves.”
Deutch opposed the nuclear deal reached between world powers and Iran last year in a rare break from his president and party leader. That choice reflected his personal convictions, but also the controversial politics of the deal in his district, where Jewish Democrats in particular were torn over the merits of the agreement.
Deutch said Clinton’s public statements on the nuclear deal suggest she will strictly enforce the agreement – and work to manage its sunset years, when Iran will be allowed under the deal to grow its nuclear infrastructure to an industrial scale.
“The most important job that we have is to work to ensure we don’t reach that point,” Deutch said.
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