100 Days, 100 Opinionsby Eva Beim April 3, 2017
When I spoke with Mark Hirsch at last year’s Republican Jewish Coalition gathering in Las Vegas, he was a “never Trumper” who didn’t believe that the man he described as an arrogant egotist with ridiculous policies could actually win. But win he did, with the eventual support of Hirsch and many others who changed their minds about the controversial figure at some point during his campaign.
“I went from being a ‘never Trumper’ to being never Hillary; and then to pro-Trump with reservations. I had no choice but to support him,” Hirsch explains when I get back in touch with him in early March.
His harshest critiques of Donald Trump came before he was the official nominee of the Republican party. Now that Mr. Trump is the president, Hirsch thinks that he has matured in many ways. But the New Yorker still has his reservations.
“When he goes after [Chuck] Schumer as a lightweight,” Hirsch offers as an example, “that’s too much. He needs to cut that out, [and] all the tweeting.”
In our earlier conversation, Micha “Mitch” Danzig said he left the Democratic party after 9/11 over concerns for the security of both Israel and the United States. As an outspoken Jewish Republican, Danzig still didn’t vote for his new party’s candidate.
“I live in California,” he said, “so I decided to make a statement with my vote and voted for the Independent, Gary Johnson. But a day before the election, I told my wife ‘There are probably many people who would never tell a pollster they would vote for Trump, but did vote for him anyway.’”
Despite the hunch, Danzig says he was still surprised by Trump’s win.
“I listened to the media. … I certainly expected Hillary to win.”
On Nov. 9 2016, the Pew Research Center issued it’s preliminary analysis of 2016 voting. The group found that 71 percent of Jews voted for Hillary Clinton and 24 percent went for Trump (out of the total 3 percent of Jews in the U.S. electorate). A higher percentage of Jews voted for the Republican candidate in both the 2012 and 2004 elections. But the Jewish Republican base may be growing, especially as right-leaning sects increasingly applaud forthcoming Trump policies like education vouchers, immigration restrictions, and his pick for Israel ambassador David Friedman.
“I’ve been called a Nazi” when discussing support for Trump, Hirsch says. “I try to remain calm and explain my thoughts to people, but hatred is not part of my world. I’m a child of a Holocaust refugee, and I’m compassionate. … To label people who voted for Trump with names is to not understand why they voted for him in the first place.”
Despite being a minority within his faith group, Danzig says he is very open about his political preferences.
“I’ve never been a right or wrong guy for either party. I still take those positions now. If Trump says something I don’t like, I’ll say it. But I’m not ashamed to openly say I think people are over the top [with their outrage against Trump].”
He calls it “Trump derangement syndrome” but admits he has concerns with the president’s foreign policy agenda, noting he hasn’t seen Trump show a firm grasp on the complexity of geopolitical issues. Specifically, Danzig mentions the way President Trump has spoken about the South China Sea, the Mideast conflict and Crimea as areas of unease for him.
“He will need input from all of the experts in those areas. It doesn’t mean he won’t listen to the right advice,” Danzig says. “Certainly Obama got it all wrong with the foreign policy, but Trump has to know what the good and bad advice is.”
Danzig says he’s happy with most of the experts the president has surrounded himself with, but after Trump’s comment that his son-in-law Jared Kushner may be the only person capable of bringing peace to the Middle East, Danzig raised an eyebrow.
“[Kushner is] only 35 years old, and I don’t know how much experience he has. It’s so over the top, it does give me pause,” Danzig says.
Hirsch thinks of Trump’s exaggerated style as in line with his New York state of mind. “He’s uber New York style,” Hirsch, who was also born and raised in the city, says, “like a street fighting guy from Queens.”
The focus on a president’s first 100 days started with Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. He mentioned it in his radio address, in reference to the 100-day session of the 73rd Congress, which took place from March 9 to June 17 that year. He wanted to measure the legislature’s progress in working with him to end the Great Depression. A remarkable 76 bills were passed into law during Roosevelt’s first 100 days, and so the time table for measuring a president’s performance was set. Now “the first 100 days” are mentioned in almost every presidential campaign speech, promises are made and statisticians diligently keep track of the score. This three-and-a-half month period continues to be a way to check presidential productivity, although no president has ever passed as many bills as President Roosevelt did. President Trump reaches the 100th day of his presidency on April 30.
Looking at some of the other flashpoints since Jan. 20, Hirsch turns to the executive order issued on Jan. 27 that barred refugees, immigrants and green card holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for a period of 120 days (and indefinitely for Syrians).
“It is not a Muslim ban,” he says flatly. “[Trump] used the same countries of concern identified by Obama. Europe has been infiltrated and a lot of people have died. Americans don’t want that here.”
On the domestic front, Trump’s “America First” policy is leading to talk of increasing import and border taxes to spur American manufacturing and offset the cost of tax cuts on businesses, which has some Republicans divided.
“I’m all for growing American businesses,” Danzig says, “but I hope we don’t see him grow American business through tariffs.”
In keeping with the hallmark issue of the Republican party, both Hirsch and Danzig are proponents of the free market. With that, they believe the President’s impacts, positive or negative, on climate change are likely to be minimal.
“We have to try” to limit pollution and improving air quality, says Hirsch, who works in real estate investments, “but I don’t want to shut down industry.”
Danzig is more optimistic.
“We’re going to go green anyway. I don’t think a president determines that.”
Saying that an Environmental Protection Agency is important, Danzig thinks it needs to reach a balance between protecting the climate and protecting business growth.
For those who find themselves on the “socially liberal” side of the Republican party, there are many issues that have so far riled up the left without causing much of a flurry in the hearts of people like Danzig and Hirsch.
“I’m a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Republican,” says Hirsch, who has three daughters, “but it’s not my priority issue. There are [people] who feel that pro-choice is number one, but without security and the economy, nobody will have any choices.”
Danzig, a lawyer, says he’s comfortable deferring to the Supreme Court on the abortion issue.
“It’s more important that I can put food on the table and that we can defend ourselves against the threat of terrorism,” he says.
Despite the polarized rhetoric and heel-digging on both sides of the political aisle, there continue to be gradients of opinion within individuals. The Jewish Republican vote is a complex one that may well continue surprising people the more vocal it becomes.