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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Democrats and Republicans: Who Supports Israel More?


When I was growing up in the US, it was almost gospel that if you were Jewish you voted Democratic. The Democrats were the party that supported Israel (Harry Truman recognized the Jewish state over many objections) and the separation of church and state, while the Republicans were the party that was 'too Christian,' and was also considered to be less interested in Israel, or worse. Not to mention that most Jews agreed with the Democrats on most other 'social issues.'

Over the last 25-30 years, that has started to change, as parts of the 'liberal agenda' on social issues became more widely accepted, as many Jews came to believe that Republican economic policies (Reaganomics and its progeny) were better suited for them personally than was the welfare state, and as the two parties started to compete for the pro-Israel vote. As an American Jew to whom support for Israel was issue number one, I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 (and would have voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 if I'd had the right to vote then), because I felt that the Democratic candidate that year (Dhimmi Carter and George McGovern, respectively) was not pro-Israel, and would have sold this country down the river had they been given the opportunity. For the record, I still lived in the US then.

But until very recently Jews who voted Republican usually did so quietly on their own and usually did so due to special circumstances (a particular candidate on the Democratic side with whom they were disenchanted). Outside of the ultra-Orthodox community, Jews were often embarassed to admit it if they voted Republican. And most Jews were registered Democrats regardless of what lever they pulled in the elections. Most Jews who made political contributions contributed only to Democratic causes. No one ever openly questioned whether the Democratic party as a party supported Israel; it was taboo to even raise the issue. Some people would like to keep it that way.

In the last eight years, the Democratic party has veered sharply to the left. Organizations like MoveOn.org and blogs like DailyKos and Huffington Post are only a small part of a radicalization of the Democratic party that includes the rise to prominence of the likes of Cindy Sheehan and Al Sharpton. The radical left has gained a strong influence on the party - the only time that comes to mind in which the radical influence on the Democratic party was anywhere near as strong is the late 1960's. The Internet has spread that radical mindset through the core of the Democratic party. (If you question that statement, follow some of the links above). Much of the Jewish community - especially the 'organized' Jewish community for whom the Democratic party has always been a comfortable place - is trying to pretend that the Democractic party is still the party of Lyndon Johnson and Scoop Jackson (for whom I campaigned in 1976). But it's not.

For me personally, this came home with the defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut by radical leftist Ned Lamont. Although I have voted Republican several times, I have never felt as uncomfortable with the Democratic party as I have felt since that primary. Jimmy Carter could be dismissed as a bitter one-term President. Lamont's ideological hold on the Democratic party (along with that of George Soros and Michael Moore and others) cannot be dismissed.

Through a series of ads in Jewish newspapers, an organization called the Republican Jewish Coalition is trying to make the Jewish community confront reality. I am reproducing some of the ads in this post - the rest may be found here.

These ads have set off a debate within the Jewish community: is it okay to question the Democratic party's support for Israel? And if it is okay to question that support, has it really fallen among the Democratic rank and file, or is it just radicals like Sheehan and Kos founder Markos “Screw Them” Moulitsas who can be dismissed as radicals not in tune with the rest of the Democratic party. My personal view is that it's healthy for the Jewish community to question its support of the Democratic party, because it is to our benefit that neither major party should ever feel that they have us in the bag (cf. the religious parties in the Israeli political system). Furthermore, the results of two polls taken in July 2006 show that support for Israel among Republicans is significantly higher than the support among Democrats, even though most Jews still vote Democratic. But many Jews feel very uncomfortable with the fact of the debate itself (in my opinion because they have adopted the 'religion of liberalism') and that discomfort hit the pages of the Jewish newspapers this week.

Among the articles that you may wish to look at on this subject are an editorial and duelling op-eds in this week's Los Angeles Jewish Journal.

But the best summary I have seen is in an article by Jonathan S. Tobin, the executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, which was reprinted in today's Jerusalem Post:
What Jewish Democrats do need to do is confront the strain of anti-Zionism growing on the Left and in the anti-war movement and ensure that it is kept out of the mainstream of their party. That task will be even more important if, as seems likely, the Democrats prevail in next month's congressional elections.

But Democrats are seeking to delegitimize the entire Republican campaign with their claim that GOP attempts to use Israel as a wedge issue will undermine the bipartisan consensus on the issue. Some go even further and assert that by identifying support for Israel with the Bush administration the ads may have the effect of making it less attractive for Democrats and liberals to sympathize with an Israel that is linked with a president and a party they hate.

What Democrats seem to want is for the entire issue to be taken off the table. That would give them a tactical advantage, but behind it lies the dubious notion that holding either party accountable for its performance on Middle East issues is itself somehow not kosher.

...

TAKING ISRAEL off the table today is no more legitimate a stance than a call for keeping church-state separation off the agenda would be on the part of Republicans. And if anyone thinks that having a conservative president support Israel will turn off liberals, maybe the problem is more with the liberals than the president.

No matter which party American Jews support, what we should strive for is accountability from it. And the only way to hold political parties accountable is to make them pay for mistakes, or reward them for good behavior at the ballot box. By contrast, if a key issue is taken out of the discussion, the parties will inevitably stop prioritizing it.

If there is a bipartisan consensus in support of Israel in America it is because the two major parties have spent the past 30 years or so actually competing for Jewish votes on this basis. The moment we tell them to stop will be the time when those who would break the consensus will have a leg-up.
Read the whole thing.

As you may or may not already be aware, members of the Watcher's Council hold a vote every week on what they consider to be the most link-worthy pieces of writing around... per the Watcher's instructions, I am submitting this post for consideration in the upcoming nominations process.

Here is the most recent winning council post, here is the most recent winning non-council post, here is the list of results for the latest vote, and here is the initial posting of all the nominees that were voted on.

6 Comments:

At 12:47 PM, Blogger westbankmama said...

Excellent roundup Carl.

 
At 3:38 PM, Blogger Bob Miller said...

It's not even necessary for Jewish Democrats to join another party. What they need to do is to vote for and fund the candidates on the correct side of the well-known life and death issues. It so happens that lately most of these candidates are Republicans. Long-term, who knows?

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger Debbie said...

An excellent article. I have been following what the Democrats have been saying about Israel, specifically since the 'summer war' with Lebanon. I'm Christian, but if I were Jewish I would be very upset with them right now. it seems the Democrats have turned into an 'anything but Bush', 'anything but Republican' party. This leaves them with, what? No foundation, no real concrete beliefs or platform. They are like the sands, shifting day by day as the tide rolls in.

Excellent article and I always like reading Tobin.

Debbie
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

 
At 10:49 PM, Blogger Douglas V. Gibbs said...

The Dems have lost the Bible Belt because of their Godless agenda, the African-American Vote because of their claim that illegals are the new civil rights movement, Jewish-Americans because of their economic agenda and loss of any support for Israel - in fact, only Hollyweird and the "enlightened" types seem to be hanging on as the Democratic party swings farther and farther left. Pretty soon, even the average Democrat will recognize the liberal marxist agenda gaining strength in the Democratic Party.

 
At 8:53 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Came through WBM - great piece.

 
At 12:27 AM, Blogger The Town Crier said...

This entire ad campaing by the republican jewish coalition was discraceful not to mention incorrect. As a frum jew and a registered democrat i am offended and embarassed.
i have my own take here
http://tinyurl.com/sql6v

 

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