Why so many Jews don't like Trump
Last night, I listened to a speech on YouTube by the historian Victor Davis Hanson. In it, he describes attending high school in a place where only four people of his graduating class went on to college.
In large part, that was because it was possible to graduate at 18, get a high-paying industrial job, get married and support a family at 22, and own a house by age 30.
As "globalization" swept through his part of America, it decimated the manufacturing sector, killing the jobs that had supported the lives of his high school classmates and their children.
His thoughts, expanded upon in his book The Case for Trump, brought home to me why so few in my family and among my co-religionists see things from the right rather than the left.
The neighborhood where I lived from second grade through a commuter college degree was 95 to 100 blocks south of Downtown Chicago, in the area under Lake Michigan toward Indiana. Near our high school was the former U.S. Steel South Works (our teams were called the Boilermakers), and south of us was the Chicago City Incinerator.
Left on our own in gym class, we sometimes chose teams as the Jews and the Mexicans.
A half-century later, the steel mill and many other manufacturers are gone, the neighborhood is crime-ridden, and murders are rampant. Michelle Obama grew up a longish walk from the high school but went to a downtown magnet school.
Barack Obama may have won the presidency on Hope and Change, but these days, there is very little hope in my old neighborhood. The only change there is spare change, and there's very little of that.
The Democratic Party of my youth reflected working-class people of my neighborhood and the many that were like it all over the city.
Hanson's point is that today's Democrats are made up of the very, very rich and the very, very poor. The rich have profited mightily by globalization, which stripped some of my classmates and their families of jobs and holds on the American Dream, and those at the lower ends who depend on government checks and programs.
How implausible is it that a billionaire builder from Queens arose among Republicans to connect with middle-class Americans in the middle of the country to vanquish all those fairly competent Republicans in the primaries, and HRC in the general election, for the presidency?
Outcomes were never going to change, Hanson believes, in the coastal areas such as New York and California; the election was going to be won or lost in the industrial heartland of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Into this fray came a cheeseburger-eating, business suit–wearing fellow from Queens, who connected with the heartland. He spoke of enforcing the borders and getting jobs and treasure back from China.
Unexpectedly — to some — he won.
My siblings and cousins, and a large number of my co-religionists, despise the guy. This despite the support he has shown for Israel, the policies that until the coronavirus have brought wealth and growth to the country. They just hate him.
A century and a half ago, much of my family lived in Frankfurt am Main in what was just then becoming Germany. Until the 1800s, most Jews were deeply religious, observant people. But industrialization in Germany led to secularization and the Reform movement. My ancestors chose holding onto the old ways, moving to the hinterlands — East Prussia and Lithuania, where religious life could go on as before.
It wasn't that simple, and many of them moved farther on, to South Africa, to England and Australia, and most of all to America and Chicago.
Today, we are a world away from the folks who tended crops, traded horses, and drove wagons between the village and the sea. One of my brothers has degrees in accounting and law; another was instrumental in the success of his wife's actuarial practice. My mother's grandchildren include two medical doctors, a biomedical engineer, an accountant, a photographer, and a Ph.D. in physical therapy. Distant cousins are investment bankers, real estate developers, college professors.
As a group, we aren't the folks who connect with Donald Trump's message. We don't really care whether borders are enforced, and many of us, and even moreso our children and grandchildren, don't really care about Israel. What the president has done to recognize sovereignty in Golan, move the embassy to Jerusalem, or support the Israeli government, doesn't move the needle. We still despise him.
In a few short months, the nation convenes again to choose its leader. In the face of Chinese-originated viral death, does enough of the electorate still connect with the funny-talking, cheeseburger-eating, orange-haired man from an outer borough of New York? Stay tuned.
Image: Fox News via YouTube.