Washington Watch: A place to call home

Voters apparently knew it was another Trump lie because they gave Democrats 40 more seats in the House of Representatives.

U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq December 26, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air Base, Iraq December 26, 2018.
I’m old enough to remember way back in 2015 when Donald Trump promised, “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid.” He did it again last fall before the midterm elections, repeatedly telling campaign rallies, “We’re saving Social Security; the Democrats will destroy Social Security. We’re saving Medicare; the Democrats want to destroy Medicare.”
Voters apparently knew it was another Trump lie because they gave Democrats 40 more seats in the House of Representatives.
This week he unveiled his 2020 budget and titled it “Promises Kept.” Like so much out of Trump, this was fake news. It should have been called “Promises Broken.” It’s a budget almost certain to guarantee that there will be no movement of Jewish voters to the Republican side of the partisan divide in 2020, and possibly that Trump could receive even a smaller proportion of the Jewish vote. The programs he wants to decimate are precisely those that are at the top of most Jewish voters’ electoral priority lists.
In it he breaks his promise to protect Social Security and Medicare and many others. Remember when he said he would balance the budget and pay off the national debt within eight years? Now he’s saying it will take at least another 15 years.
The encouraging news is that this budget has already been declared dead on arrival on Capitol Hill, and it will help keep Jews firmly in the Democratic fold, notwithstanding the president’s wishful lies.
Trump likes to boast of setting records and he did it with this record-breaking $4.75 trillion budget and historic budget and trade deficits. The deficits will be much worse because independent economists say the administration’s estimates of economic growth range between greatly exaggerated and sheer fantasy.
Trump’s budget priorities, which are a preview of his 2020 campaign, aren’t those of the overwhelming number of Jewish voters.
He wants $8.6 billion more to build his wall, $750 billion for defense (more than the Pentagon asked for), including building his Space Force, and big hikes for border security and more tax cuts.
To pay for this he intends to shred the social safety net. Over the next decade, he wants to cut $818 billion from Medicare while raising premiums, plus another $1.5 trillion from Medicaid for the poor.
Also on Trump’s chopping block are programs for the elderly, the poor and the disabled, plus many others that similarly enjoy broad support among Jewish voters. Food stamps, federal housing support, health and safety regulation, student loan forgiveness, the fight against AIDS, the Special Olympics, environmental protection will also face deep cuts.
In a huge gift to the fossil fuels industry, Trump proposes a 70% cut in renewable energy research and the elimination of climate science programs.
This budget is also a threat to Trump’s pipedreams of a Jewish exodus to the GOP. Less a dream than a crude effort to poison relations between Jews and Democrats. Last week, he called the Democratic Party “anti-Jewish” and “anti-Israel” and told a GOP fundraiser at his Florida resort that the party “hates Jewish people.”
PREDICTIONS OF imminent Jewish migration to the Republican Party have been going around for the nearly 50 years that I’ve been on the Washington scene, and there’s still no evidence of change.
CNN reports a variety of polls over the years consistently show Jews vote Democratic 3-to-1 or greater. There are 34 Jews in this Congress; only two are Republican. Trump, notwithstanding his boasts and gestures to Israel, remains unpopular among American Jews.
Democrats and Republicans both have their antisemites on the fringes along with assorted other bigots, racists, Islamophobes, homophobes, xenophobes and otherphobes.
If anyone has an anti-Jewish, anti-minority record it is Trump himself. The man who saw “many fine people” wearing KKK hoods and carrying swastikas in Charlottesville may be the most bigoted occupant of the White House in the past century.
Antisemitism in this country has actually grown since Trump became president, according to the ADL.
His Twitter account is awash with antisemitic slurs, tropes and dog whistles; his 2017 White House Holocaust remembrance statement made no mention of Jews; his “America First” slogan hearkens back to the antisemitic, pro-Nazi movement 1930s; his talk of “our proud American heritage” is a code to many white supremacists.
He arrived on the political scene by demanding a ban on non-white immigrants across our southern border and Muslims from the rest of the world. He has called countries in the Caribbean and Africa “shitholes,” threatened to cut disaster relief to blue states.
He has accused a Jewish philanthropist of financing caravans of Central American refugees, joining in one of the most widespread antisemitic tropes, and tweeted graphics showing Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of $100 bills and the Star of David reading “most corrupt candidate ever.”
Trump’s defenders say he can’t be an antisemite because his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren are Jewish. Sorry, but that does not give him a dispensation. Trump is an equal opportunity bigot.
And that is another big reason why Jews are unlikely to flee the Democratic Party.
Jews voted Democratic 71-24 in 2016; after two years of Trump that went to 79-17. Trump’s 2020 budget could widen that gap despite – or because of – Trump’s accusing Democrats of being anti-Jewish and anti-Israel.
Trump will continue his attacks and Republicans will try to exploit the issue with a lot of help from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whose antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks sparked friction within the Democratic caucus. He may not seriously expect to win over many Jewish voters, but it’s the deep pocket donors he’s really after, and many already travel in Republican circles.
Republicans, particularly Trump, don’t seem to understand that most Jews are not single-issue voters. In fact, polls have consistently shown Israel is somewhere in the middle of their top 10 priority list. One reason is, despite all the bloviating, most Jews consider both parties to be reliable friends of Israel and they make their decisions on other issues.
The real differences between the two parties are spelled out clearly in Trump’s 2020 budget, and they show why Jews like the Democratic Party and will continue to call it home.