JPVP | Where Do We Go From Here?

Our Jewish Political Voices Project voters share their thoughts about the state of the Democratic and Republican parties, the legacy of the Trump presidency and America’s future. As always, there’s deep disagreement mixed with hope. Their responses serve as a mosaic of how American Jews feel and think today.
American Jewish voters

Since August 2019, Moment’s Jewish Political Voices Project (JPVP) has been following 30 politically engaged American Jewish voters from battleground states. In this issue, we share the opinions of 20 of them. To read the full interviews, to see what our other participants have to say and to learn more about the project, visit momentmag.com/jpvp.

Do you feel optimistic about America’s future? 

Mark Goldhaber (NC-R)
I remain very optimistic. The voters did pretty well in this election. In electing Biden, they judged President Trump’s overall performance on the pandemic as unsatisfactory. The voters rejected the anticipated blue wave in congressional and down-ballot state legislative races. I interpret this as an endorsement of private-market capitalism versus massive new government programs and controls.

Ariana Mentzel (MI-D)
Hopeful with a smidgen of bleakness regarding the divides: Left-Right, Right-Right, Left-Left, etc. The difference of opinion isn’t what’s disconcerting, but rather, the inability to listen, explain and understand each other.

Janice Weiner (IA-D)
Cautiously optimistic, but we have so much work to do. We must look at education and science and ask: Why do so many people latch onto conspiracy theories? Why are “facts” optional?

Eliot Strickon (WI-D)
The future is suspect. It looks like the road might be rocky for a few hundred more years. Look at the progress made in the United States since 1865. We are still sorting out the Civil War.

Lavea Brachman (OH-D)
We have deep-seated issues that the past four years only brought to the fore. My biggest concern is that the next generation learn that character and honesty matter—and that these are critical traits for operating as a democracy.

Sander Eizen (MI-R)
The two-party system is broken. If you look across history, two-party republics don’t last because not everything is a binary decision. The fact that we have a two-party system creates this false dichotomy that you must choose one or the other. I hope Americans wake up and try to break the two-party system. At the end of the day both parties need to compromise. This idea that everything is either my way or the highway is just unhealthy. It’s not the way that the country was built. The best presidents have found ways to compromise.

Beth Bendheim (VA-D)
Not too optimistic for the next year. The COVID-19 virus has shed light on so many broken things in our country, how people really live from paycheck to paycheck and the lack of sufficient funding for education so that schools cannot safely reopen.

Hannah Rosenthal (WI-D)
The hate and distrust that Trump not only fostered but encouraged during his presidency are so insidious and dangerous that I am amazed that almost half the country believes him. That is why I still worry about our country’s future. As a Jew, I believe in “If I am only for myself, what am I?” I believe in community and our responsibility for helping the vulnerable in the world. The selfishness and lies that have been promulgated over the last four years are harmful and destructive. Domestically, I worry about the treatment of immigrants, especially refugees. I am the daughter of a refugee, as are many of your readers. I worry about how many politicians are trying to make Israel a partisan issue, which threatens its future. I know Joe Biden and his lifelong support for Israel, but Congress enjoys playing games, and our Jewish homeland could be at stake.

Harvey “Svi” Shapiro (NC-D)
Not feeling good about our future. It is amazing that in the election so many voted for Trump. I’m not sure what Biden can achieve when Republicans have created such a divisive, corrosive environment.

Harlan “Bud” Hockenberg (IA-R)
America’s future freedoms (speech, press, religion, peaceful assembly and petitioning government for redress of grievances) are threatened by big tech, biased media, cancel culture, fiction of systemic racism, and academic censorship and suppression of free speech.

Nina Stanley (OH-D)
No. More than 70 million thought Trump did a good enough job to vote for him. Over a quarter of a million dead, but a lot of people voted for him. I feel very sorry for Biden. There’s no hope.

Nancy Santanello (PA-D)
I frankly am quite concerned: More than 80 million people voted for Joe Biden, which shows an increased engagement in the election process, but more than 73 million people voted for Trump, which is more than voted for him in 2016. I consider what is being said on Twitter a level of delusion that I am worried about. The people who support Trump are delusional in that they believe his lies. They don’t believe the media. They don’t believe that the election was fair or not rigged.

Dan Levin (FL-D)
I yearn for a time when both parties can put aside partisan advantage and come together to find meaningful, rational, effective solutions. American government was built on a foundation of conflict and compromise. In a compromise, no one gets exactly what they want, but it creates incremental improvement. I fear the lack of respect across the partisan divide may destroy the United States. Abraham Lincoln was right—a house divided against itself cannot stand. At the same time, I am hopeful that we can work to restore hope and faith in each other and the democratic experiment that has been so sorely tested.

What are you concerned about as we move forward?

Janice Weiner (IA-D)
The pandemic—because nothing can be done until we deal with it; shoring up our democracy—because it just barely held, and we are seeing constant efforts still to undermine faith in voting and those who carry out the elections; and some combination of dealing with climate change and shoring up the social safety net. The Supreme Court and courts in general—there is no constitutional mandate for these all to be lifetime appointments. Let’s take this out of the political calculus by creating a new system that does not depend on one elderly woman beating cancer.

Andrew O. Smith (OH-R)
Health care recovery—largely transitory; economic recovery—many ruined lives and industries; moral and spiritual recovery—many forces are tearing at the fabric of American society. If we don’t fix it we will wither away.Internationally: Biden will have to tame North Korea, Iran, Russia and China (all bad actors). Domestically: Biden will have to address the concerns of a large swath of our population who are despairing, hopeless and disillusioned.

Stuart Baum (MI-D)
First and foremost, with the one-sided voter suppression tactics and the attempts to undermine the legitimacy of our recent election, I have never felt more strongly about the continued need to fight for voting rights. We also need to fight for a more resilient system of democracy that can help us prevent the abuses that we have seen over the past four years from taking place again. Second, as we saw so clearly this past summer, we need to come to terms with our legacy of systemic racism and remove its stain from our justice system. Lastly, though we have made tremendous progress in expanding the recognition of LGBTQ rights, recent comments made by members of the Supreme Court show these recent wins are not considered settled questions by all, and there are still many avenues of discrimination that we haven’t even touched yet. Apart from these issues, I don’t want to neglect recognizing the need to take bold action to address climate change by enacting the Green New Deal.

Glenn Hamer (AZ-R)
We need immigration reform, starting with legalizing Dreamers and giving them a path to citizenship.

Dan Levin (FL-D)
We are a nation of immigrants, and our immigration system remains broken. The Jewish people know better than any the anguish and fear of the refugee, and the aspiration and hope for what hard work and determination can achieve in this land. We will need policies that reflect our Jewish values to address the millions of undocumented people in the United States and the millions more who seek access to the American dream. America needs to restore a commitment to its motto: E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One.

Felipe Goodman (NV-D)
All the issues we faced last summer with racial inequality and law enforcement, abuse of power, these are issues that we still have to deal with. Also, the issue of foreign powers interfering in our elections, which was not taken seriously under Trump.

Harvey “Svi” Shapiro (NC-D)
Will Trump be held accountable, in a legal sense, for what he has done or will it hang over us for the next few years? I am referring to a number of dubious, illegal or potentially illegal issues. These certainly include his baseless attempts to overturn the 2020 election and its long-term erosion of trust in the electoral process; his repeated refusal to divulge his tax returns with its implications for the legality or ethical propriety of his business dealings; his rejection of the intelligence services’ claims about Russian interventions in the 2016 elections and beyond; his use of presidential pardons in cases of egregious and immoral actions; and more generally, behavior that violated basic norms of social behavior such as his support for white nationalism and his deplorable history of misogyny.

(Photo credit: The White House, Flickr, Wikimedia)

What do you think former president Donald Trump’s legacy will be?

Lavea Brachman (OH-D)
I suppose the movement in the Middle East among some Arab nations recognizing Israel is an accomplishment of this administration, but I am loath to state that since his legacy is otherwise deeply, deeply destructive.

Felipe Goodman (NV-D)
When it comes to Israel, there were very concrete accomplishments. He was instrumental in normalizing relations with the UAE, Morocco and Sudan. That will be part of his legacy. On the other hand, not addressing the tremendous amount of racism in this country is also part of his legacy.

Ruth Kantrowitz (WI-R)
The list is long and includes peace deals with Israel. He also did so much for communities of color.

Ariana Mentzel (MI-D)
His legacy is chaos with a hint of hope for the Middle East—at the last minute—on the backs of over a decade of diplomacy. His COVID-19 response will not even be the largest stain on his record—his total lack of respect for the Constitution and his public mistreatment of women and journalists are shameful.

Sander Eizen (MI-R)
He did sign big deals in the Middle East, and his ability to stand up to NATO is part of his legacy. Unfortunately, I think that his tweeting will also be a part of his legacy, as well as his deference to his instincts rather than data. We will be relitigating the Trump presidency for years and years to come.

Beth Bendheim (VA-D)
Shedding light on the amount of hatred in this country and the lack of education. Additionally, his legacy is to show that money and property are more valuable than human lives.

Stuart Baum (MI-D)
His greatest achievement, and what may actually outshine his legacy, is how he has driven so many Americans to pay attention to our systems of government and take a more active role in every level of government than ever before.

Janice Weiner (IA-D)
I’m glad he launched the vaccine challenge (although I will be forever suspicious that somewhere he and his allies believe they will profit from it). I’m sure some of the regulations he got rid of needed to go. He passed a good judicial reform bill. His legacy: trying to dismantle and destroy government (turns out we need government when there is, for example, a pandemic) and use it for his own profit; tax reform for the rich; a stress test for our democracy. He also created the resistance movement—grassroots political activism and voter turnout like we have rarely seen—as people realized they could not just sit on the sidelines.

Lou Weiss (PA-R)
A great and less regulated economy (pre-COVID-19). Despite his unhelpful persona he did get a vaccine in under a year; identified China as the threat that it is; everything in the Middle East from properly identifying friends and enemies, to standing with Israel, fighting Iran.

Harlan “Bud” Hockenberg (IA-R)
A people’s Democratic Republic; an exceptional, not an apologetic, America; a robust economy interrupted by Chinese COVID-19; the American dream: personal success by performance, not entitlement; and the Abraham Accords based upon a strategic U.S.-Israel partnership, for a Mideast peace with a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Nina Stanley (OH-D)
The legacy he leaves behind is hundreds of thousands of people who died and children separated from their parents. They’ll be scarred for life.

Nancy Santanello (PA-D)
Things that I consider protections, like COVID-19 public health protections, Republicans consider as restrictions. Having public health directives that protect the greater population is important rather than seeing it as a restriction on you as an individual. If we don’t think about our entire society, lift everybody up, all of us together, then what are we?

Josh Mandelbaum (IA-D)
His big legacy is going to be his COVID-19 response or lack thereof. At the end of the day, I think that’s going to be one of the things that this period is remembered for most.

Dan Levin (FL-D)
The administration has accomplished much, though for me, these accomplishments are not necessarily for the good. The conservative imprint on the judiciary will be felt for generations. Second, the administration has rolled back more than 100 rules that protect the environment and seek to control pollution and emissions. The administration’s signature accomplishment was a tax bill that dramatically reduced the corporate tax rate and whose benefits skew to those at the top of the ladder. The Trump administration challenged the status quo in the Middle East by putting its thumb squarely on the scales for Israel against the Palestinians. The Trump administration’s strong stance against Iran promoted stronger ties between Israel and new Arab allies such as the UAE and Morocco, but because we pulled out of the Iran nuclear accords, Iran is now closer to having an atomic weapon than at any time before. Lastly, one of the truly unfortunate legacies of the Trump administration is the erosion of integrity and trust in American government.

Mark Goldhaber (NC-R)
His appointments to the Supreme Court and lower federal courts will be a long-lasting and defining element of the president’s legacy.

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Michael Vadon, NRK Beta)

As a democrat, how are you feeling about the current state & future of the Democratic party?

Hannah Rosenthal (WI-D)
I feel good about our new president and vice president. Biden is the right person for this time. He is a healer, a compassionate and caring man. He is a uniter and has already reached out to Republicans to work together. The Democratic Party has a big tent and is full of varied opinions and life experiences, religions, races and sexual and ethnic identities. I think its future is strong.

Lavea Brachman (OH-D)
The Democractic Party showed remarkable unity coalescing around Biden because it recognized that the stakes were so high for this country. Governing will be much more difficult, and splintering is already occurring around nominees and “identity politics.” The party absolutely needs to address the needs of the working-class, blue-collar population. That said, I think the future of the party is relatively strong, as the primary season revealed some real depth with smart and savvy up-and-coming leaders who understand they will grapple with these challenges.

Stuart Baum (MI-D)
The Democratic Party needs to truly listen to the grassroots leaders who won the presidency for Biden and invest in supporting their community-driven efforts if we are ever going to expand and hold our base.

Janice Weiner (IA-D)
The Democractic Party failed at the local and state levels for the most part, and we have a lot of work to do. A big-tent party has to both have room for everyone and be able to sort out its differences. Organizing has to be a year-round effort. We need to take a good, hard look at right-wing media, and not just Fox, but the far-right radio stations that dominate the landscape in rural areas. We need a way to counter that messaging. We need the fairness doctrine reinstated.

Felipe Goodman (NV-D)
There needs to be a young center-leaning power in the Democratic Party now that all the young people in the party seem to be coming from the left. I would like to see the party balanced in the center and renewed by youth. People like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are despicable. They are anti-Semitic. This cannot be the future of the Democratic Party. This is one of the reasons why so many people voted for Trump. I want them to be challenged and stopped.

Nancy Santanello (PA-D)
I still see the younger generation and some older people in the party who don’t think Biden is going to be a progressive enough president. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have the pressure from the progressives but have a more moderate president.

Dan Levin (FL-D)
I worry for the future of the Democratic Party. I think too often the Democrats lack the discipline to come together as a party and a movement to advance their ideas effectively. They cannibalize themselves in the name of ideological purity and hurt their ability to galvanize the unity necessary to get things done. The pursuit of “identity politics” hurts the Democrats’ ability to speak to centrists. The effort to empower historically marginalized communities—African-Americans, immigrant and LGBTQ communities, women and others—makes white men wonder if they have a place in the Democratic Party. The challenge for the Democrats is to restore a sense of trust among rural and blue-collar Americans while still working effectively for justice and equity for historically marginalized and persecuted groups.

Nina Stanley (OH-D)
I’m hopeful, but I don’t have a good feeling. I don’t know what progressives want Biden to do. Put stuff out there that he knows will get knocked down? What would that accomplish? The Democratic Party has some great people in it, but we have to band together.

Josh Mandelbaum (IA-D)
The party lost seats in the House and didn’t make up much ground in the Senate. The party’s got work to do to be able to govern and to respond to what are pretty unique and challenging circumstances.

As a republican, how are you feeling about the current state & future of the Republican party?

Ruth Kantrowitz (WI-R)
It is growing stronger all the time, with so many Democrats walking away to join the Republican Party daily, and that will only continue.

Mark Goldhaber (NC-R)
Reasonably positive. While it is unclear in the short term if the party will move beyond Trump, this election saw the Republicans significantly increase the number of women elected to the House and several diverse candidates also won elections, in addition to very strong performances in the state legislative races across the country. This demonstrates both effective campaigns and effective recruiting of more diverse candidates but most importantly demonstrates that voters are not seeking radical change. While there is a great deal of work still to be done, the incoming class of Republicans in the House of Representatives gives me cause for optimism.

Harlan “Bud” Hockenberg (IA-R)
The Republican Party is a big-tent, broad-based movement anchored in middle America, with Main Street faith values. As the East and West Coasts embrace globalism, the future of the Republican Party is America First.

Glenn Hamer (AZ-R)
The party needs to unify and return to the spirit of the Reagan Big Tent that was successful for the party and for the country for many years.

Sander Eizen (MI-R)
The party is at a crossroads. The Trump brand of the party is sticking around. A couple of things we learned from this election were that the Republican Party made huge inroads with minority populations in places like the Rio Grande Valley and Miami, with Hispanics as well as with African Americans. The Republican Party has to decide whether it wants to continue building that coalition, and truly start making more inroads in minority populations, which I think is a good thing. But it also has to figure out how to balance that with traditional Republican beliefs of free trade, a strong national defense, making strong military and trade alliances with our allies, things that Trump didn’t really show a lot of love for. The Republican Party also needs to be taking climate more seriously.

Andrew O. Smith (OH-R)
Concerned and anxious. Trump did not have the character or temperament to be a good president, and if he stays active in politics it will deepen the schism in the Republican Party and lead to continued Democratic gains. Without Trump, and with a dynamic figure at the top, the future can be bright.

Lou Weiss (PA-R)
The fight against woke culture and identity politics needs to be waged. Trump was too crude of a leader for that fight and in many ways exacerbated the problem. I am so thrilled to see him go away as the head of the party that stands for great principles but has been led these past years by a narcissistic buffoon. I hope that the mantle of Reagan is picked up by Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Ben Sasse, Tom Cotton, et al.

As a democrat, how do you feel about the Republican party?

Felipe Goodman (NV-D)
I have no problem with conservative politics or with the Republican Party. I do have a problem with what Trump did to this country and the way in which he completely disgraced the office of the President of the United States. So I think that until the Republican Party uncouples itself from Trump, it is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Eliot Strickon (WI-D)
I have been heartened by the few responsible Republicans I have heard speak up against Trump’s post-election shenanigans. I can only hope that Republicans can reclaim their voice as the party of small government and fiscal conservatism and abandon their current platform of wacko internet conspiracies.

Stuart Baum (MI-D)
If they ever want to regain legitimacy, they will have to fully reject Trumpism and repair the harm that they have caused over the past few years.

Janice Weiner (IA-D)
I remember after Nixon resigned, suddenly it was really hard to find anyone who had voted for him (in his landslide win). I don’t think memories will be so short this time. I am always willing to talk—but Republicans have a lot to answer for. And I’m not seeing a lot of actual contrition, especially with regard to the pandemic. In our tradition, people have to feel it in their hearts, ask for forgiveness and make amends—not slink off to lick their wounds and fight again.

Hannah Rosenthal (WI-D)
Republicans are at a turning point. Are they going to remain beholden to Trump and his misinformation and personal attacks, or are they going to rebuild, recognizing the demographic changes in our country and the needs of real people? Are they going to continue to allow the spread of hatred and continual isolation of our country in the world? Are they going to welcome and embrace the white nationalists in their midst, such as QAnon, the Proud Boys, Neo-Nazis and the like? They have some heavy decisions to make, and time is running out.

Dan Levin (FL-D)
The Republican Party has put its faith in minority rule—using gerrymandering and voter suppression to keep power. You have states where voters are split nearly 50/50 between the parties, and yet the Republicans enjoy super-majorities in state legislatures through gerrymandering. Republicans are likely to still control the U.S. Senate even though millions more Americans vote for Democrats.

Nancy Santanello (PA-D)
What the GOP and Trump did leading up to the election was based on fear—fear of socialism, fear of Black Lives Matter, fear of protesters, fear of people who aren’t white—and that fear hasn’t gone away. They believe that progressives are socialists or communists. What democratic socialism means to Republicans is Venezuela, a failed state. One of the reasons that some people voted for Trump, even if they did not like him, was that they were afraid.

Josh Mandelbaum (IA-D)
I’m worried about the Republican Party’s lack of political courage and the fact that you had 17 Republican attorneys general, and 126 members of Congress, actively petition the Supreme Court to throw out legally cast ballots. The fact that we saw so many folks descend into conspiracy theories when an election didn’t go the way they wanted and so few people stood up within the party is also really concerning.

Nina Stanley (OH-D)
The Republicans are traitors to the country. There were some decent ones, but very few. Trump lost big, but a lot of Republicans won! Trump lost and they can’t get over him. They wanted to sacrifice their country for him.

As a republican, how do you feel about the Democratic party?

Harlan “Bud” Hockenberg (IA-R)
The Democratic Party, led by a third-term Obama cabinet, reflects identity, intersectionality and socialist/Marxist policies outside of traditional American constitutional boundaries.

Mark Goldhaber (NC-R)
The energy within the Democratic Party has clearly drifted to the left; ideas appear to focus on bigger government and more top-down control from Washington. It doesn’t represent me, but it does provide a clear choice for the country.

Andrew O. Smith (OH-R)
More concerned and more anxious. The Democrats continue to elect and promote left-wing zealots who espouse fringe policies that are impractical, not widely supported and that would hurt the country. They are also home to anti-Israel (and anti-Semitic) politicians; and while Biden does not agree with these views, he will not be able to suppress these voices or limit their influence.

Ruth Kantrowitz (WI-R)
I’m sad about the Democrats’ need to make people so dependent.

Sander Eizen (MI-R)
Just as unhealthy as it is that a lot of Republicans did not accept this election, let’s not forget that there were tons of Democrats who did not accept the results of the 2016 election. This is not something that’s exclusive to the Republican Party. A lot of people lose perspective on that.

Glenn Hamer (AZ-R)
We’re all Americans. We need to respect each other regardless of political party and work together to advance the national interest.

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