For years, Jewish Republicans have prophesied a migration of Jews from the Democratic Party to the GOP. I myself worked that line during the Reagan administration. Our view was that President Ronald Reagan's strong support of Israel would wean away Democrats who supported Israel. We had hopes because the Jewish community was so negative on Jimmy Carter--in part because of his support for the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and dissatisfaction with his ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young. The Jewish vote for Reagan in 1980 was circa 40 percent--still a modem high.
But it was not to be. The 1984 Jewish vote for Reagan was only 31 percent. The reason was not a Democratic or Republican view of Israel but rather issues of church and state and Christian America. After Reagan's 1984 nomination in Dallas, he spoke to a group of Texas evangelicals. His speech today would be considered tame, but at the time it was seen (by the Jewish community at least) as an affirmation of Christian America. I vividly remember a panel on which I appeared in September 1984 with Tom Dine, then executive director of AIPAC, and Deborah Lipstadt, the expert on anti-Semitism. In the 1980s version of the "green room," Tom expressed to me his frustration that the Jews did not seem to want to talk about Israel, only about church and state. I responded that the question of the role of Christianity in America went directly to the extent to which Jews felt at home in the United States--and that this, for most Jews, was a more immediate issue than Israel.
In every election since then, Republican Jews have trumpeted that this is the year, finding hope, for example, in scattered polls that showed younger Jews more open to the GOP message. But in the main, they read the entrails wrong. Sixty-nine percent of Jews voted for Obama in 2012, 71 percent for Hillary in 2016 and a whopping 79 percent for Democrats in the 2018 midterms.
The latest iteration of the dream came this spring when a 23-year-old figure skater, model, political activist and poet, Elizabeth Pipko, announced a new group, Jexodus, designed to wean Jews away from the Democrats. The actual architect of the effort (and its title) was apparently a longtime conservative activist named Jeff Ballahon.
Pipko took her cause to Fox and Friends, where she declaimed, "We left Egypt, and now we're leaving the Democratic Party." Fox's number one viewer took up her cause, retweeting her mantra. And the White House is clearly...