I believe in the secret ballot. So I do not make a habit of disclosure as to whom I voted for in a given election. I am willing, however, to say whom I did not vote for. I did not vote for Trump or Clinton. Some might call that a cop out, a punt, or an abdication of citizenship. But I have my reasons.
I am neither a Trump Jew nor a Clinton Jew. These labels have been foisted upon our community as the partisan divide deepens. And these labels, and the division created by them, is lamentable.
There is no question that the Jewish community overall continues to lean towards Democrats. But there is an increasingly significant and growing Republican minority. The NYC electoral map shows heavily Jewish deep blue and deep red Jewish neighborhoods side by side. The best performing Republican areas in NYC are in Orthodox and Russian Jewish precincts in Brooklyn and Queens.
Clinton Jews cannot understand how Trump Jews were attracted to such a scary candidate, while Trump Jews saw the potential continuation of the Obama Middle East policy as misguided and hopelessly naïve. These two groups of Jews – you and I, and our parents and children – are side-by-side but looking right past each other. Like much of the country they are unable to find common ground
Bridging the divide has not been helped by the prominence of Jewish issues in the first weeks of this presidency. Promises to move the Embassy in Israel, a slow response to bomb threats against JCC’s, a nominee for Ambassador to Israel who used less than admirable adjectives about Jews on the left, the proposed cut of the State Department envoy for anti-Semitism when that sickness is on the rise, and the bizarre kicker of omitting Jewish suffering when remembering the Holocaust.
At the same time, Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, have prominent White House positions in the new administration. Ivanka and Jared, Jason Dov Greenblatt, David Friedman, and Boris Epshteyn have put the Jewish concerns, sensitivities, and even anxieties at the forefront of the first two months. This had led some Clinton Jews to be even further alienated with some questioning Trump Jews’ “Jewish values”.
At the same time there are many positives for Jews. Ambassador Nikki Haley has challenged the UN’s anti- Israel excesses. The Secretary General and others have taken notice. The President has made a strong and public commitment to Israel even if he did it by throwing a knuckleball in opening the door to a one state solution.
This conservative not–Trump not-Clinton Jew would like to see our 45th President succeed. The success of the president is vital for our country. At the same time, I am disappointed that he has not been ready willing or able to grow into the job.
I want what is best for America, which is for our President and to look at the office of the Presidency as something bigger than himself. And if I want that for Washington, I also want that for my fellow American Jews. Jews should look at our community not with the political labels that we have worn as of late determined to beat and discredit the other side, but as Americans who care deeply about the values of this country and the future of our brethren in Israel and around the world.
As a political strategist I know that we will not all vote the same way or support the same team, but when the game is over we should be able to take off the uniform, shed the labels, and drink a l’chaim together.
Michael Fragin is a Republican political consultant who has worked with candidates and on issues at every level of government throughout New York.