So, I’ve read lately that Jews are leaving the Democratic Party in droves that haven’t been seen since the Hebrews crossed the Sinai. Pardon me if I don’t pack up quite yet. This so-called “Jexodus” is led by our modern-day Moses, Ms. Elizabeth Pipko, a 23-year-old swimsuit model and self-described “fiercely proud millennial Jew.” Good for her. The whole thing would be a joke if President Trump hadn’t latched onto the concept like a lamprey eel after seeing her on Fox News.
Where to begin?
Let’s start with how offensive the term “Jexodus” is. “Jexodus” is a portmanteau of “Jewish” and “Exodus.” Brilliant. But I actually thought that it was Jews that took part in the Exodus, so why the need to make up this new term? Since it was the Hebrews that fled Egypt, maybe she should have called it “Hexodus.” I suppose that does not have the same ring.
The term trivializes the Exodus, reducing it to a cheap, political slogan. We left Egypt to flee slavery, and this collective memory and yearly remembrance are a central part of our opposition to slavery everywhere in the world today in whatever form it may take. Perhaps realizing this slight misstep, Ms. Pipko has changed the name to the Exodus Movement. That’s a fix.
There must be something to the Exodus Movement though, right? She would not make it up out of thin air. Taking a look at Jewish voting patterns, she must have clearly seen a trend toward Jews voting Republican. In 2012, 69 percent of Jews voted for Obama. In 2016, 71 percent of Jews voted for Clinton. In 2018, 79 percent of Jews voted for Democrats. So, Ms. Pipko has clearly seen the trend line moving toward Jews voting for the GOP. Ah, … wait a sec. Forget that. I guess she got that backwards during her analysis. Oh well, science and math have never been a priority in the GOP.
Most Jews identify as Democrats, and that is unlikely to change under the current policies of today’s GOP. According to a Gallup poll, in 2018, 16 percent of Jews identified as Republican versus 52 percent who identified as Democrat. But why? It simply comes down to Jewish commitment to tikkun olam, implemented often by present day Jews in the form of social action. We are naturally attracted to the social justice aspects of the Democratic Party. Commitment to equal rights, universal health care, a living wage, and worker rights is at the forefront of Democratic Party politics and its platform.
Yes, the GOP offers policies that can be attractive to us and that we can support. Lowering taxes, reducing government regulations, and supporting entrepreneurship can all be seen as worthy goals. In addition, the GOP’s unwavering support of Israel probably has and likely will continue to draw Jewish supporters, despite support for Israel being one of the few bipartisan policies since Truman recognized Israel in 1949. But the present attempts to turn Israel into a partisan issue are best left for another day.
Also, the rise in anti-Semitism in the left, as evidenced by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the U.K., has not been adequately dealt with by the Democratic Party. Certainly, the Democrats’ feckless response to Rep. [Ilhan] Omar’s repeated anti-Semitic remarks may drive some of us from the party. Jewish identification with the Democratic Party is down from 55 percent in 2008, but that is in keeping with the general population’s shift away from party identification.
The GOP will not be an attractive party for the majority of Jews until it changes from attacking social justice programs to, at the least, proposing legitimate conservative alternatives. Eliminating the Affordable Care Act without proposing a replacement will never win Jews over. Refusing to oppose the repeated reelection of Steve King, a GOP representative reciting Mein Kampf on the House floor, gutting government funding for Special Olympics, and shouting that “there are good people on both sides” won’t do it either.
There is nothing wrong with Republican outreach to the Jewish community. A legitimate program that promotes social justice through conservative ideas would be welcome. But let’s not pretend that “Jexodus” is anything other than an offensive gimmick.
Doug Weinstein is an intellectual property lawyer and a former board member of Democrats Abroad – Taiwan.