President Donald Trump has branded as “disgraceful” the resolution passed after Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments suggesting House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. (March 8) AP
WASHINGTON – When Democrats argued about a House member’s comments on Israel and U.S. lawmakers, many saw it as an emerging dispute between the party’s old guard and some of its younger members.
President Donald Trump saw it as a political opportunity with Jewish voters.
In tweets, public statements and speeches to supporters, Trump and his aides are trying to use claims of anti-Semitism to pry Jewish voters away from their longtime allegiance to the Democratic Party.
In his latest effort, a Friday morning tweet, Trump said Jewish people were leaving the Democratic Party in what he called a “Jexodus,” though he did not cite evidence for such a shift. He said Republicans were “waiting with open arms” for Jewish voters. “Remember Jerusalem (U.S. Embassy) and the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal!” he tweeted.
The phrase “Jexodus” stirred controversy on Twitter with some users calling it offensive to Jewish people.
Democrats increased their share of the Jewish vote between the 2016 and 2018 elections, from 71 percent to 79 percent. A new Gallup report, based on tracking poll data from 2018, said that “one in six U.S. Jews identify as Republican.” About half described themselves as Democrats.
“‘Jexodus’ is a Republican fantasy that will fail,” said Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Soifer was among many who said they were offended by Trump’s term.
Divide and attract – it’s a familiar tactic for the politically aggressive president who has also tried to woo members of other familiar Democratic constituencies, including women and African-Americans.
“He’s always stirring the pot,” said Stuart Rothenberg, senior editor at the Inside Elections newsletter.
Trump’s efforts to paint the Democratic party as anti-Jewish came after tweets and comments by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who suggested that pro-Israel lobbying groups controlled U.S. lawmakers through political money.
While some Democrats said the remarks played into anti-Semitic slurs about how Jewish money controls American politics, Omar said they were “not intended to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.” Several Democrats said Omar was being attacked unfairly.
Trump, meanwhile, went on offense.
Seeking to foment Democratic discord, Trump issued a March 5 tweet that described Omar’s “terrible comments” as “a dark day for Israel!”
Three days later, after a fractious House debate over a resolution condemning hate, Trump raised the stakes while speaking with reporters as he left the White…