“Law and Order” and the Jews: How it started a shift in Jewish voting

By Rafael Madeoff

“I am your president of law and order,” Donald Trump declared in his June 1 address to the nation. The president and his speechwriters chose a phrase with an important role in American political history—including the history of the Jewish vote.
The phrase “law and order” originated in the 1968 presidential campaign. That was because in the year leading up to the campaign, America was wracked by riots. Some of the violence was connected to racial clashes. Some was related to the intensifying protests over the Vietnam War. And some of it was the work of a far-left terrorist group known as the Weathermen.
During the summer of 1967, there were more than 150 riots in what became known as America’s “long, hot summer.” The worst violence took place in Detroit, where 43 people were killed, and in Newark, where 26 died. Jewish businesses in those cities suffered extensive damage. In Detroit, Jewish merchants suffered losses estimated at $50 million.
“The riots spell anarchy,” Samuel Silver, a Jewish syndicated newspaper columnist, wrote at the time. “They make us all feel insecure. Who knows whose home will next be struck, whose children will next be shot, whose establishments will next be plundered?”
The following spring, violence erupted in nearly 200 cities following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., leaving 43 dead and several thousand injured. In Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Washington, DC, and elsewhere, the National Guard had to be called in to restore order. The violence was so bad in Wilmington, Delaware, that the National Guardsmen remained there for an entire year.
In the aftermath of the violence, Republican presidential nominee Richard Nixon made “law and order” the major theme of his 1968 campaign. In his acceptance speech at the GOP national convention in Miami Beach, Nixon vowed to “restore order and respect for law in this country,” and in one of his most frequently aired television commercials, he concluded by declaring, “I pledge to you, we shall have order in the United States.”
Among Jewish voters—especially in the Orthodox community—there was growing criticism of the Democrats for emphasizing the “root causes” of the rioting. Rabbi Samuel Turk, co-founder of the Iggud Harabbanim, denounced those who were focusing on “bad economic conditions” in order to “exonerate and even justify arson, looting, and bloodshed.”
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