If the Democrats hope to beat President Donald Trump in 2020, they probably will have to achieve that without winning Florida.
The country’s third most populous state and most crucial battleground has a sizable Jewish population. Best estimates are that approximately 7 percent of ballots in Florida during presidential election years are cast by Jews, a demographic that historically has been reliably Democratic.
That hardly will be the case next year, thanks to Republican efforts to woo the Jewish vote and the Democrats, through a series of political pratfalls, supporting or ignoring blatant anti-Semitism in its ranks under the guise of advocating Palestinian rights.
The influence of Jews in American politics and the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate in the past 2 1/2 years have goose-stepped to the forefront of “progressive” concerns. Democratic officeholders -- albeit a tiny few -- and a larger, quite vocal group of that party’s voters have become obsessed with criticism of the Jewish lobby, most notably AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
Maybe bipartisan AIPAC is expected to apologize for being far more effective than CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), the Muslim advocacy and civil rights group, or J Street, the self-hating, liberal Jewish lobby. CAIR, in fact, was labeled a “terrorist organization” by the United Arab Emirates and with good reason.
Leftists have been carpet-bombing social media with memes superimposing a swastika on the Israeli flag, and the unfettered use of “Nazi” to describe the Israeli government. That’s more than insulting and inaccurate; it’s blatantly anti-Semitic.
These bigoted posts are not Russian “bots.” They are being instigated by real people who mostly identify themselves as Democrats in the Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, or Tulsi Gabbard camps.
It’s true white supremacists, likely not Democrats, defaced Jewish cemeteries and scribbled anti-Semitic graffiti on schools and other public buildings. But here’s the important difference: they are a tiny minority on the fringe. Their heinous acts have been going on for a century or more. They are not officeholders representing a major political party.
Further, House Republicans joined Democrats in condemning the statements of one of its own, Rep. Stephen King of Iowa whose controversial comments about immigrants include comparison of undocumented people to livestock. He was also stripped of his committee seats.
But when Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar spewed anti-Semitic rhetoric, the best Nancy Pelosi and House Dems could do was pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and Islamophobia without mentioning Omar by name.
Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, a member of the House GOP leadership who voted against the measure, nailed it, calling the resolution “a sham put forward by Democrats to avoid condemning one of their own and denouncing vile anti-Semitism.”
Mainstream Jewish voters are livid about Pelosi’s capitulation to the anti-Semitic forces within the Democratic Party. Holocaust survivors or families of relatives who died in the Holocaust cannot, will not excuse this new breed of Democrat and their votes will reflect that. If history is any indication, the Democratic nominee, whomever he or she may be, will not receive anywhere near 75 percent of the Jewish vote.
Let’s look at some electoral examples as compiled by the Jewish News Syndicate :
-- It could be concluded that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis owes his razor-thin 2018 victory to the Jewish vote. Though Andrew Gillum won that demographic 65-35 percent, DeSantis performed better with Jewish voters than Donald Trump who got 20-25 percent. DeSantis campaigned as a friend of Israel and since taking office, he hasn’t dispelled that notion. That alone should boost Trump’s stock in Florida.
-- Jimmy Carter received 71 percent of the Jewish vote in 1976 but when he expressed open hostility to Jewish concerns during his first term, Ronald Reagan benefited, receiving 39 percent of the Jewish vote to Carter’s 45 percent. That is the most anemic total of any Democratic presidential candidate since such statistics have been compiled.
-- George H. W. Bush received 35 percent of the Jewish vote in 1992 against Michael Dukakis, but after Secretary of State James Baker alleged that Israel did not care about peace, Bush’s support in the Jewish community plummeted. He received 11 percent of the Jewish vote in losing his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.
The Democrats have more problems than seeing Florida’s 29 electoral votes slip away.
Their hopes to capture Republican House seats in Florida have been severely damaged. As an example, six-term Congressman Vern Buchanan of Sarasota is perceived as vulnerable by the Democratic Party and will be challenged by one-term state Rep. Margaret Good. She won in a state House district that gave Trump four-point plurality in 2016.
The larger Congressional district, which went for Trump by 10 points in 2016, includes Sarasota, with a significant Jewish population, Manatee and southern Hillsborough counties. Good has been posturing as a moderate.
Buchanan has been a staunch supporter of Israel. He opposes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed to cripple the Jewish state. He addressed the regional AIPAC dinner last year, supported the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, and backed a bill sanctioning Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and their supporters.
Margaret Good? Who knows, but she needs to be questioned about her record, past rhetoric if any, and associations in this regard. She has been allowed to skate by talking in generalities on all issues, both during her first campaign -- against Buchanan’s son -- and since she announced for Congress.
The Democrats have lit their own house on fire. When did critical issues such as the economy, education, income inequality, the environment, and health care become marginalized by our country’s leftists and its obsession with Israel?
Since Donald Trump’s “upset” election in 2016, it seems.
The party that touts itself as the champion of the underdog is quickly and quite willingly transforming itself into one.
Jim Bleyer, a former reporter at the Orlando Sentinel and Tampa Tribune, writes the Tampa Bay Beat blog. He is of the Jewish faith and writes this piece from that perspective.