The US presidential election was still too close to call as Jewish News went to press on Wednesday evening, with the country’s ideological and political split exposed and exacerbated as never before.
Polls showed that 77 percent of America’s 7.5 million Jews opted for Democrat Joe Biden, compared to 70 percent voting Democrat in 2016, but the big Jewish population in Florida – where Republican president Donald Trump won convincingly – was much less convinced.
Exit polls showed that 41 percent of Jews there voted for Trump this week, up from 24 percent in 2016, leading the Republican Jewish Coalition – which spent £4 million targeting Florida’s “undecided and persuadable” Jewish voters – to celebrate its “success” in the influential state.
In the strictly Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey, Trump was the clear favourite, garnering up to 80 percent of Charedi support, as anger over state Democrats’ coronavirus lockdowns registered at the polls, yet across the country, far more American Jews voted for Biden than voted for Hillary Clinton four years ago.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the progressive Jewish group JStreet, said: “In this historically pivotal election, Jewish voters have just totally repudiated Donald Trump and a Republican Party that has catered to the most far-right, xenophobic elements of the country.”
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Even before the final count, Biden had the most votes in any US election ever, but the complexity of the electoral college system means that this is not enough. In 2016, Trump beat Clinton despite her winning three million more votes.
As many feared, the vote-counting was beset by legal wrangling, fraud allegations, suggestions of dishonesty and unsubstantiated claims of victory, with Trump at one point ordering a halt to vote-counting, directly contravening the US Constitution.
The day before the vote, the widely respected Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations issued an unusual security briefing, urging caution among US Jews both on and after election day.
“It remains likely that violent extremists will target individuals or institutions that represent symbols of their grievances… which increases the potential of politically or ideologically motivated threats against the Jewish community,” it said.
If the result is disputed, as expected, the world’s oldest democracy will join Tanzania, Belarus and the former Soviet state of Georgia in having its recent election challenged, but it may be midweek next week before the true picture is known.
Pennsylvania’s result may be in by Friday, but the deadline for postal votes in Nevada and Alaska is Tuesday 10 November, while the deadline for North Carolina is Thursday 12 November.
Whatever the outcome, American Jewish groups were this week left harbouring concerns about the more extreme wings of each party, after Democrats Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib – who both favour a boycott of Israel – were re-elected.
Meanwhile new Republicans Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert became the first Congressional adherents of the antisemitic QAnon conspiracy theory, the content from which big social media companies have vowed to remove.
Amid the election hubbub, Trump quietly withdrew America from the 2015 Paris climate agreement obliging states to limit their carbon emissions. The US produces 15 percent of the world’s emission but Trump supports the US fossil fuel industry.
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