LAS VEGAS, Nevada—Maybe I should have called this article “Yalla Brandon at the Kosher Cattle Call” but too many readers would have no idea what I was talking about.
“Yalla Brandon,” as former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer explained during a press gaggle at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual leadership conference in Las Vegas (the former White House press secretary is on the board of the organization), meant “Let’s go, Brandon” in Hebrew.
We had all been hearing a lot of “Let’s go Brandon’s,” mostly in English, during the conference speeches from a group of around one hundred Southern California college students (UCLA, Cal State Long Beach and so forth) bussed in from Los Angeles for the event and seated near the back at tables labeled “Young Adults.”
Their jubilant cries were soon taken up by the other six hundred or more older attendees during a barn burner speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, filling the mammoth ballroom at The Palazzo with a literal cacophony of chandelier-shaking “Let’s go Brandons” with most of the audience jumping to their feet. It was like a football game in a Vegas hotel.
From his sour expression, the New York Times reporter sitting next to me in the press section was not amused.
As for the “Kosher Cattle Call” that was a phrase used by Fleischer and RJC executive director Matt Brooks during that same gaggle. For many years, this event has been used as an early try-out for aspiring Republican presidential candidates. It was again, this time with possibly more import, since the Jewish Republican group has grown, seemingly exponentially, since the days I covered some of their events for PJMedia around 2008.
I will come back to my evaluation of this year’s “cattle call”—yes, all, or almost all, of the usual suspects were there, including frontrunner Donald J. Trump via video—but first I will turn to my headline assertion “the Jewish Vote May (Finally) Be Changing.”
Yes, this might be wishful thinking. Back when I was a kid in New York, the joke went “Jews dress like Brits but vote like Puerto Ricans.” (The Puerto Rican vote may be changing too.) But there was evidence, both actual and anecdotal, that Jews are beginning to move right.
The actual evidence comes from the very recent Virginia gubernatorial election. (It was referred to triumphantly by almost all speakers.) According to a flash poll from the American Jewish Congress, fully 37 percent of Jews voted for Glenn Youngkin. That constitutes a roughly ten percent gain for Republicans in the Jewish vote, a significant number in this time of close elections and likely instrumental in pushing Youngkin over the line in that narrow contest.
If you factor in the numerous Northern Virginia Deep Staters of Jewish background who would rather commit hari-kari than vote Republican (they could be fired from their government jobs after all), it’s an even more significant number.
Also worth thinking about is just how few people of any religion or ethnicity ever change their voting patterns or views. Many, if not most, people are even afraid to consider it because of the potential alienation of friends, family, and employers.
Taken in that context, ten percent is actually a lot.
This Republican trend should continue because the American Jewish community is becoming increasingly orthodox—they’re the ones that have babies—as the secular intermarry and identify less with Judaism or any religion. The orthodox largely vote conservative.
My own, admittedly very anecdotal, survey of the attendees, I submit was also at least interesting and arguably evidentiary in its own way. I took the opportunity to ask those at the conference whether they had seen any movement in their communities.
Their answers were often hilarious. Conservative Jews, at least, are still funny in this age when comedy, except Dave Chappell, is nearly dead.
I got an indication of that with the first couple I spoke to, West Coast Florida retirees to whom, like the others, I promised anonymity.
With these two my question ignited a Bickerson’s-type argument straight out of the old Jackie Gleason show. As Floridians, they assumed I was actually asking about their highly-regarded (controversial to some) Governor Ron DeSantis, causing the wife to exclaim emphatically, “Liberal Jews hate him more than anybody!” The husband just as immediately took umbrage, defending the Jewish people and vehemently insisting liberal gentiles hated Gov. DeSantis at least as much. The argument went on with no resolution in sight as they skipped over my initial question entirely.
Also amusing was a conservative lawyer from Brooklyn who told me his liberal wife, after decades, had finally given up on the Democratic Party due to the Biden administration’s behavior toward Israel. He acknowledged this was an improvement in their marriage.
A man who attended a synagogue in New York’s West Village whose congregation was, not surprisingly, somewhere to the left of Trotsky, said that he doubted any of the members were really changing deep down, but for once they were shutting up about politics.
Evidently embarrassed by the current administration’s incompetence on all fronts, they had stopped their endless rants and adopted silence. He hoped it would last more than two weeks. Several others told me similar stories of new-found quiet. They seemed relieved.
In all, my survey broke down about 70-30 in favor of those who had seen movement, some of it significant like the lawyer.
Most of these attendees were also exceptionally patriotic Americans, very concerned with the future of our country. The accusation one hears about American Jews having more allegiance to Israel is repellent slander employed by antisemites to justify their Jew hatred.
Of course they were worried about the Biden administration’s retrograde policies regarding the Jewish state, the threats to a unified Jerusalem and the Abraham Accords, which the Bidenistas are pathetically trying to rename “normalization” something or other, and the increasingly anti-Israel attitude infecting the Democratic Party even beyond “The Squad.” And then there’s the little matter of renewed interest in the Iran Deal.
But the attendees I spoke with were equally worried about what was going on in this country with education (critical race theory kept coming up), the open border, inflation and, needless to say, the pandemic. A number of people rolled their eyes about the conference’s requirement to mask up.
‘Kosher Cattle Call’
But what of the “Kosher Cattle Call”?
I will take the possible candidates in order of appearance, but first note they were all at least pretty good. These folks know how to work a crowd.
It’s also worth noting they all acknowledged, tacitly or overtly, the elephant-not-in-the-room, Donald Trump, universally thought of as the most pro-Israel president ever, who had addressed this same gathering personally the year before COVID. Most of them clearly would not run if Trump decides to do so, so in one sense this was an if-come “cattle call.” If Donald steps down, I’m the man or woman to fill his shoes.
Okay, the cattle. (I am omitting speakers who were not auditioning for higher office like Kevin McCarthy.):
Governor Chris Sununu of New Hampshire: First up but not considered presidential material, he surprised me. Very friendly and folksy in his delivery, he is more appealing than his more formal father who was also a N.H. governor. Everyone appeared to like Chris despite a reputation for Never Trumpism—perhaps they didn’t know about it. He was being pushed to run for the Senate to break the fifty-fifty tie and “retire Chuck Schumer.” He could do it. Not clear he wants to.
Governor Kristi Noem of South Dakota: This is the second time I have seen Governor Noem and, like many politicians, she repeats her speeches. The first time—at CPAC—I was very impressed, this time not so much. She has been touted as a vice-presidential possibility. I wonder. Still, she deserves some credit for managing her state that is doing well by a number of metrics, including the lowest unemployment. A vice-presidential maybe.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas: Everyone knows Ted Cruz is one smart cookie. We also know he has had presidential aspirations for some time, possibly since junior high. As noted above, he gave a barn burner of a speech. The subject was how Trump faced down the stodgy bureaucrats of the State and Defense Departments who were advising against pulling out of the Iran Deal and moving the embassy to Jerusalem. In all instances, Mighty Ted was the crucial person, standing right by POTUS, urging him on. Or so he says. The audience at the conference at least was buying it. As for his future, much more likely the Supreme Court than the White House. And probably a better fit. Extra credit for Ted: He stood by Trump on Jan 6.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida: The consensus not-Trump candidate appeared the next morning right after Trump himself on video and got the welcome you would expect: Big! DeSantis has talked the talk and walked the walk on all the major issues from election integrity to COVID. He also has a grasp of foreign policy, which he demonstrated in his speech without pandering to the audience and talking exclusively about the Middle East. And he batted .345 at Yale! What more could you ask? Caveat: Has he peaked too early? One more thing: Florida, for the first time, is a Republican majority state, apparently because of DeSantis’ policies.
Former Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey: I was surprised he still had these ambitions but if at first you don’t succeed… well, you know the rest. Politely received but you had the sense the audience was wondering as well. Made joke about his weight but in the time of COVID, when excess girth is a one-way ticket to rigor mortis, it wasn’t very funny. The world could use some fat-shaming right now. Was glad when his speech ended.
Former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley: I have had mixed feelings about Haley, but she spoke very well, particularly about her sojourn at the United Nations. Reminded me of some of the good work she did in opposition to the organization’s execrable Human Rights Commission. She has had her disagreements with Trump, so, assuming he is the nominee, it’s unlikely she is a vice-presidential option. If he’s not, she’s in the running. She’s obviously eager (for the presidency too). Copies of her latest book were being distributed gratis to all attendees.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: Like Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham has had his eye on the presidency for years and, like Ted, he’s a fine speaker, which he demonstrated at the conference and, of course, when he famously tongue-lashed the Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearing. On the other hand, during the heat of Jan. 6, he urged the demonstrators be shot! Also, he keeps promising this or that will be investigated and it never is. Would I trust this man with higher office? Of course not and neither should you.
Former Vice-President Mike Pence: Pence was received royally despite memories of when he and Trump were dueling over the election. Perhaps because of this, I was unimpressed by his talk that seemed pretty much by the numbers. He’s one of those politicians who wants us to think his “public service” was a great sacrifice as if he were Cincinnatus. I don’t buy it. It’s hard to see where he fits in in the 2024 schema.
Those are my opinions and, as Groucho put it, “If you don’t like them, well, I have others.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.