|They said the Republicans would not be able to make a dent into the liberal Jewish vote – and they were right [GALLO/GETTY]|
They said it couldn’t be done. They said that no matter how well the Republicans run with other groups, they would not be able to make a dent into the consistently liberal Jewish vote.
Well, they were right.
According to polling, a whopping 31 per cent of American Jews voted for Republican congressional candidates.
Some call that 31 per cent Jewish vote for Republicans significant. The Republican Jewish Coalition said that the 31 per cent was “encouraging and reinforces that the GOP is making inroads among Jewish voters”. It then noted that traditionally the high water mark for the GOP among Jews was 30 per cent (obviously, that “encouraging” one per cent shift is well within any poll’s margin of error).
But the Republican Jewish partisans will take what they can get, which is apparently about 30 per cent. And this is something they crow about.
Two out of three Jews
But, by now, they are getting used to a pattern that was established in 1928. Two out of three Jews vote Democratic because they are liberal. One out of three Jews vote Republican because they are conservative. The single-issue Israel crowd insults Jewish Republicans by saying that they are Republicans out of loyalty to Israel. They obviously think that it is impossible that any Jewish voter is a Republican because he actually believes in Republican economic policies.
Similarly, according to the polls, Jews voted Democratic because they agree with Democrats on the issues. Sixty-two per cent say it is economic issues that most influence their vote. Then there is health care with 31 per cent. After that, the numbers drop down pretty quickly with 7 per cent basing their votes on Israel policy and the same number citing environmental policy. Not even 1 per cent cast their votes based on US policy toward Iran.
Liberal Jewish attitudes, not surprisingly, also extend to political figures and movements. While 40 per cent view Barack Obama unfavourably, 78 per cent view Sarah Palin unfavourably. Seventy per cent have negative views of the Republican Party, 71 per cent hold negative views of the Tea Party Movement, and 67 per cent don’t like Glenn Beck.
That is why the Republican Jewish Coalition ignores domestic issues and tries to convince Jews that Democrats are anti-Israel.
This year, the coalition targeted two Democrats – Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA), who was running for the Senate, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who was running for re-election to the House. In both cases, ads distorted the candidates’ records by stating that their support for Middle East peace efforts meant they were anti-Israel and pro-terrorist. In both cases, the ads and the smear campaigns were lies right out of Joe McCarthy’s playbook. And in both cases, Jewish voters voted overwhelmingly for the Democrat.
And there you have another reason why the GOP Jewish effort will never succeed. Not only do just 7 per cent of Jewish voters cast their ballots based on Israel policy, the overwhelming majority of Jewish voters support the two-state solution and US leadership to achieve it. They do not consider peace, by definition, to be anti-Israel.
Asked by pollsters if they “support a two-state solution that declares an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, resulting in all Arab countries establishing full diplomatic ties with Israel and creating an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem,” 78 per cent either strongly agree or somewhat agree. Only 22 per cent either strongly or somewhat disagree.
That same split resurfaces on every question about how best to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Eighty-two per cent believe that the “two-state solution is necessary to strengthen Israeli security”.
This is bad news for the single-issue types. And it cuts several ways. One, Jewish Democrats vote Democratic because they are liberals on domestic issues. Two, the one-third of Jews who are Republicans vote Republican because they are conservative on domestic issues. And, three, most Jews who care about Israel want to see the US put its weight behind the two-state solution.
In short, American Jews are Democrats or Republicans. They are not Likud.
What Americans want
This drives the single-issue crowd crazy. And they go through so many intellectual contortions to deal with it.
Take Josh Block, the political consultant and longtime (now former) Aipac spokesman. He says that he is a Democrat and that, as such, the 31 per cent Jewish Republican vote is troubling.
“For Democrats, getting just 66 per cent of the Jewish vote is deeply distressing, and it will be increasingly difficult for Democrats to win if we alienate a core constituency, one which is critical not just at the ballot box, but in helping candidates get the support they need to run effective campaigns,” Block says.
Wait a minute. Getting 66 per cent of the Jewish vote indicates that Democrats are alienating Jews?
How so? Jews voted overwhelmingly Democratic.
The longtime Aipac-er is distressed because it is getting harder and harder to convince candidates that the way to get the Jewish vote or campaign contributions is by being hawkish on Israel. That means there is less need to fear Aipac or to pay political consultants to craft a message that will position them to the right of Binyamin Netanyahu.
No. American Jews will vote Democratic unless and until such time as they believe that the Democrats are not the right party for the US. And that is bad news for people who need politicians to believe that American Jews care primarily about Israel’s rights to the West Bank. That would be anti-Semitic if a non-Jew said it; it is almost as bad when Jews suggest it. American Jews are Americans and that is anything but distressing.
Block should cheer up. The Democrats will probably do even better in 2012. And they don’t need Aipac and its associated political consultants either. They just need to offer what Americans want. And, contrary to what Josh Block believes, that does not include the West Bank.
Note: This Washington Jewish Week article is evidence that Block is distressed, but not about the state of the Democratic Party. It’s J Street that has unhinged him. The WJW piece also includes J Street’s response.
MJ Rosenberg is a senior foreign policy fellow at Media Matters Action Network. The above article first appeared in Foreign Policy Matters, a part of the Media Matters Action Network.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.