Opinion |

If You're Set on Voting for Donald Trump, Don't Read This

The Trump campaign can win in ways you never dreamed of. It can win in ways no one's ever seriously tried before. Here is just one of them: Absentee ballots from Israel.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 16, 2016.
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the James L. Knight Center in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 16, 2016.Credit: Evan Vucci, AP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

If you've made a conscious, unshakable, undoubtedly courageous decision to vote for Donald Trump for president of the United States, you can stop reading this right now.

If you see Donald Trump as the savior of America, or the megaphone of your innermost thoughts, read something else.

If you're a woman who's voting for Trump, if you're a confirmed Trump voter who is African-American or Hispanic, if you're a Jew or a Muslim or a Mormon or an Evangelical who makes excuses for Trump's behavior and is locked onto voting for him anyway, if you are a person concerned with climate change who's in any case going Trump, or a person who simply and feverishly and permanently hates the guts of Barack Obama and/or Hillary Clinton nothing I say here will do anything for you, or to you.

But if you're anyone else who happens to be a citizen of the United States, it's time to look an unprecedented reality straight in its orange face:

The Trump campaign can win in ways you never dreamed of. It can win in ways no one's ever seriously tried before. Here is just one of them absentee ballots from Israel.

The Trump campaign backed to the hilt by Sheldon Adelson and his Israel Hayom newspaper, the highest-circulation daily in this country believes that American citizens in Israel have the opportunity to turn the tide for Donald Trump in a number of crucial swing states, among them Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The changing demography of Israel and American Jewry says they may well be right.

With American Jewry ever more polarized over Israel and other issues, the minority of American Jews who are Orthodox has become increasingly hardline in its political outlook, with support for settlements, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Republican Party three central pillars of Orthodox doctrine.

Where once American immigrants to Israel reflected the left-liberal leanings of the majority of North American Jews, in recent decades rightist and Orthodox newcomers have come to predominate.

Now, one of this country's lowest-profile population segments, American Israelis, is suddenly in the spotlight, the subject of an intensive multi-media campaign to get out the vote for Donald Trump.

Among the campaign's primary targets: tens of thousands of West Bank settlers who hold American citizenship and who are presumed to be a rich vein of potential hardline Trump and Republican support.

To be sure, many American-Israelis are strong supporters of Hillary Clinton. They are actively working for her election. They trust Hillary Clinton with their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Many find the prospect of a Trump presidency terrifying, and these are people who do not terrify easily.

But in Israel, it's an uphill fight. Strong undercurrents of sexism, coupled with a local political and media landscape custom-made to make Trump look as qualified, successful, entertaining, and attractive a candidate as possible, are just the beginning.

On Monday, Trump's team in Israel announced that for the first time in the history of U.S. presidential elections, the Trump campaign was actively enlisting as many as tens of thousands of non-American Israelis as "honorary" Republicans, in an effort to get U.S. citizens in Israel to vote for Donald Trump.

There is also the cumulative impact of Sheldon Adelson's overwhelmingly pro-Trump Israel Hayom newspaper, the largest circulation daily in the country, handed out by the thousands, free of charge.

Some of the same techniques with which Israel Hayom has long buoyed the political fortunes of Benjamin Netanyahu, are now in full play in the service of the Trump campaign.

Trump appears in heroic poses and hagiographic prose. Clinton, by contrast, is portrayed as a crone, unwell, justifiably unlikable, and colossally unfit for high office.

Plugs for Trump even pop up in the midst of stories which have little or nothing to do with the Republican candidate, as in a featured interview with writer Tuvia Tenenbom, who tells Israel Hayom:

Trump "will save America by placing a 'this is what we think' mirror in front of it. It's very important."

A pro-Hillary volunteer effort is now underway. But it doesn't have the luxury and power of having a major newspaper all to itself. It doesn't have the presence and access and clout of a prime minister and ruling party so enmeshed with the Republican Party, that before moving to Israel from the United States, Netanyahu's ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer was a protégé of GOP strategist and pollster Frank Luntz, with whom he worked on the Republican's signature "Contract with America."

And, for Israelis accustomed to the brawling, vulgar, gut-punching, often racist style of successful local politicians, it lacks one other thing. In the words of Tzvika Brot, the Likud-linked Trump campaign director in Israel (who does not hold U.S. citizenship) it lacks a candidate with "a big mouth."

If Hillary Clinton is level-headed, diligent, a policy wonk, a nerd well-versed in the workings of governance, her signal shortcoming is clear: Donald Trump simply o'ver masach he comes across on the screen. Only he is Great Television.

Day after day, Trump surrogates and aides some of whom were vehemently opposed to Trump until he clinched the nomination have appeared on Israeli broadcasts to stump for the media star.

Senior Trump adviser David Friedman, who is also president of American Friends of Bet El settlement, has become a recent Israeli television fixture, with anchors on major stations serving him respectfully fluff-ball questions.

On Sunday, Republicans Overseas Israel co-chair Marc Zell of the settlement of Tekoa, was featured on a popular Army Radio interview program. Anchor Razi Barkai asked Zell, who believes that there could be as many as 400,000 people in Israel holding American citizenship, how prospective voters could have their vote counted in battleground states like Ohio.

"You have to announce that either you or your parents once lived in Ohio. That's all," Zell replied. "You don't need to submit anything, except the last numbers of your Social Security Card, or a driver's license, or even, in some states, just the number of your U.S. passport is enough."

As recently as April, it should be noted, Zell denounced Trump as "dangerous, in more ways than one." Trump, in Zell's view, "wasn't qualified" for the White House.

“No one really knows where he stands on anything regarding Israel,” Zell said at the time, adding that the candidate whom Zell grudgingly endorsed when he became the party's nominee displayed a “fundamental lack of understanding about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

This is not just another election. Donald Trump is not just another risk. Listen to what's coming out of his mouth. Americans in Israel have seen what happens when politics turns deadly, when despair takes the place of vision, and when it's become too late to stop it.

When Donald Trump backs his supporters in committing violence, when he signals that the right to bear arms could be literally aimed at Hillary Clinton, when he suggests that he could and perhaps should do violence to the foundation institutions of American democracy, the right to vote becomes a right of self-defense.

Defend yourself. Vote for Hillary Clinton.

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