I was once a Jersey boy. I grew up in Nutley, N.J., just about 20 minutes from Manhattan. I still wear my T-shirt from Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, N.J. — known to many as the maker of the best hot dog in America.
New York City voters appear to be moving beyond the era of their three-time mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has long dominated the city’s politics. With the Sept. 16 concession of William C. Thompson, the winner of New York’s Democratic mayoral primary is the liberal Bill de Blasio, who ran as the anti-Bloomberg and finished well ahead of the mayor’s choice, Christine Quinn. De Blasio’s Republican opponent in November will be Joseph J. Lhota, running as a supporter of the mayor, and as a distinct underdog.
Leroy (Lee) Baca, the 71-year-old sheriff of Los Angeles County, is facing a rocky road to re-election in 2014. The Los Angeles Times has called on him to retire, as has L.A. County Supervisor Gloria Molina.
The Trayvon Martin case has once again reminded us that racial divisiveness isn’t going away any time soon in America.
What do the recent city elections that saw Jews step into the three top citywide offices — mayor, city attorney and city controller — mean for the role of the Jewish community in Los Angeles?
This year, for the first time, the Pat Brown Institute at CSU Los Angeles went into the polling field.
The political struggle over school governance is now the most significant internal conflict in the Democratic Party, at the city, state and national levels. With gun control, gay marriage and immigration now uniting Democrats as never before, education reform remains a main dividing line.
A remarkable thing happened in Washington, D.C., last week. National leaders of business and labor hammered out an outline on immigration reform. This might not only give a major boost to a new immigration policy; it might also show a path around the gridlock that has driven the nation into budgetary face-offs month after month.
While Washington obsesses about cliffs, ceilings and other metaphors for budget catastrophe, we should keep an eye on the issue of immigration.
Does the Jewish vote still matter and if so, how? Exit polls indicate that 70 percent of Jews voted for President Obama, compared to roughly 39 percent of white voters overall. However, with California and New York, which have large Jewish populations, guaranteed to go Democratic, the Jewish vote may have mattered only in Florida.
On Oct. 28, 1980, a beleaguered President Jimmy Carter stood on a debate stage with his Republican challenger, former California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Carter’s one chance to save his presidency depended on his ability to portray Reagan’s views as extreme. The best levers appeared to be Reagan’s criticisms of Social Security, but especially his vocal opposition in 1961 to a federal program to provide medical care to seniors — a plan that became law, as Medicare, in 1965.
Even though this is going to be a very close presidential election, maybe closer than in 2008, the Democratic convention of 2012 revealed a party that is stronger today than the dynamic gathering of hope and change that nominated Barack Obama four years ago. For the first time since Ronald Reagan won the White House in 1980, Democrats seem to be emerging from Reagan’s shadow.
If Barack Obama is re-elected as president, the overriding purpose of his second term will be the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Implementation and the use of executive power have not been Obama’s strengths, but he is going to have to get better very quickly. A powerful presidency mixes the “bully pulpit” with a maximum use of the president’s authority, from conception of a policy to its implementation.
We Californians love to use direct democracy to perform amateur surgery on our state government. As heirs to a century-old tradition of progressive reform, we believe that if we tinker with the rules, we will get much better outcomes.
It has been less than a decade since Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the special election to recall and replace Gov. Gray Davis. Schwarzenegger finished nearly 1.5 million votes ahead of the second-place gubernatorial candidate, Democrat Cruz Bustamante. Schwarzenegger won the votes of 43 percent of women, 31 percent of Latinos, 42 percent of union members and 18 percent of Democrats, according to the CBS/Edison/Mitofksy poll. At the same time, Schwarzenegger won the great majority of Republican voters, who turned out in large numbers.
In the midst of the never-ending debate about whether this will be the election that moves Jews to the right, an intriguing new poll is just out from the Public Religion Research Institute. Titled “Chosen for What? Jewish Values in 2012,” it found that 62 percent of Jews want to see President Barack Obama re-elected, compared to 30 percent who favor a Republican candidate.
I was too young to see Hank Greenberg play. That was my father’s generation. But growing up in New Jersey, I well remember the day when Sandy Koufax, playing for the Dodgers, announced his electrifying decision to sit out a 1965 World Series game on Yom Kippur. Koufax’s action was a great source of pride to a Jewish kid with a baseball glove perennially at hand and who had heard way too many jokes about the thin book of Jewish sports heroes.
Sitting here in Paris, where I am spending a month as a visiting professor at the Université Paris 8, Institut Français de Géopolitique, I’m struck by how, once again, American presidential candidates are denigrating their opponents simply by calling them “French” or “European.”
As reports circulate about an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iranian progress toward building a nuclear weapon, issues of foreign policy and
The redistricting process going on at the state, county and city levels is a major signpost of changing power for Jews and Asian-Americans in the Southland.
At President Barack Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress a week ago, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sat in an honored seat near first lady Michelle Obama.
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, who govern the most populous county in America, are entering a critical debate over redistricting that pits Latino empowerment against the stability of district lines. The nature of the board’s majority is also at stake.
The battle over raising the debt limit has raised a lot of concern about how Republicans act as an opposition party. They have shown that they are willing to risk crashing the economy to get their way with a Democratic president. But they won’t be in opposition forever. We have to start thinking about what they would be like if they were actually in charge.
Raphael J. Sonenshein is chair of the Division of Politics, Administration and Justice at California State University, Fullerton. Remember Osama bin Laden? Anyone who thought his death would determine the 2012 elections only had to wait a few weeks for the story to disappear and the bad new job numbers to remind us that the economy is still the main issue in American politics. The 2012 election is certainly looking more competitive.
As Americans anxiously waited to hear what their young president had to say, the words “national security” hung in the air. Then, when the president spoke on television,he seemed older and more in command than he had seemed the day before. And, as a result, his presidency was transformed.
In the midst of the near shutdown of the federal government, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) launched an attack on Democratic-created safety net programs. He proposed an entirely new budget, calling for the privatization of Medicare and the devolution of Medicaid to the states, where Republican governors would be able to cut health care for the poor at will.
During his 1948 presidential campaign against underdog Democrat Harry S. Truman, Republican Thomas E. Dewey was on the campaign trail. As a crowd surged toward the back of his train, an irritated Dewey told the crowd, “That’s the first lunatic I’ve had for an engineer. He probably should be shot at sunrise, but we’ll let him off this time since nobody was hurt.” Lee Tindle, the 54-year-old engineer, told a reporter, “I think about as much of Dewey as I did before, and that’s not much.” Democrats chalked “Lunatic Engineers for Truman” on train after train, and hounded the candidate with references to it until the end of Truman’s winning campaign.
The outcome of the decision by Jane Harman to quit her 36th congressional seat in the South Bay will likely be a signpost of the changing role of Jewish politicians and the Jewish vote in California politics and government. The Jewish presence in Southern California politics remains strong — after all, this is still a heavily Democratic state with two Jewish women as U.S. senators and a reliably Democratic loyalty among Jewish voters.
Watching Jerry Brown’s low-key but curiously dramatic press conference on the state budget Jan. 10 reminded me that the central task of Democrats, once they are in power, is to prove that government can work. Without that, all great ideas about equality and justice go nowhere. A Democratic leader has to be able to sell his or her own base on the idea that government can’t do everything in order to have a chance to prove to the rest of the electorate that it can actually do quite a lot. Today, with hatred of government running rampant and some being goaded into violence by reckless and irresponsible public figures, governing with reason is a hard but critical task. Furthermore, the federal government has largely abandoned the states to their own devices during this economic downturn. We’re basically on our own.
There is a sick feeling of demoralization settling over Democrats, like drizzle on a cloudy day. It’s not because of losses in the midterm elections; it’s the unnerving realization that we are on our own.
Everybody knows by now that California swam against the tide on Election Day, giving Democrats a near sweep of statewide offices. But what’s even more important is what this will mean for national governance over the next two years.
An election year that was looking hopeless for Democrats has taken a slight turn for the better. The generic ballot measure has tightened up. Since Labor Day, President Barack Obama has marked off a new, more aggressive political stance that is perking up the ears of demoralized Democrats. The interest level of younger voters, a key Democratic constituency, is picking up. Statewide races in California are looking better for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer.
I was going to write about the Glenn Beck White People’s March on Washington, but then I read Jane Mayer’s path-breaking article in the Aug. 30 New Yorker about the billionaire Koch brothers (David and Charles) and their financial backing of the anti-Obama movement. Why should I be paying so much attention to the paid clowns and crazies when it’s the quiet, hidden monied folks who are pulling the strings and will reap the real benefits of a Republican takeover of Congress in November?
Few people have a better grasp of the internal dynamics of the Jewish community than Steven Windmueller, so I take seriously his concerns about the angry Jewish voter. Something is clearly happening when the Anti-Defamation League opposes building a mosque near the Twin Towers. Whether this portends a turn to the right for the Jewish community, though, is another thing.
Few issues in American politics are more contentious than immigration. So, it was noteworthy that last week in a speech at American University in Washington, D.C., President Obama called for a new determination to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
We all know that California is a blue state, with two Democratic senators and a record of favoring the Democratic presidential candidate in every presidential election since 1992. Barack Obama won California by more than 2 million votes. But the governorship has tended to be more red than blue.
It was a very strange sight. There in The Washington Post was an article by reporter Dana Milbank making a case that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s excellent advice has been ignored by a naïve President Barack Obama and that Emanuel is the great unappreciated asset of a collapsing administration with a weak staff. Several other stories followed with the same theme, including a laudatory column by right-winger Jonah Goldberg in the Los Angeles Times, another article in the Post and yet another in The New York Times going off on the rest of the staff. While Milbank swore that Emanuel was not his source, it was obvious to anyone who knows how the Emanuel media network operates in Washington that the chief of staff’s “people” inspired this clumsy public relations blitz.
I have been feeling angry and alienated as I watch the Democrats in Washington fritter away their electoral mandate. I’ve been asking why Barack Obama can’t be more like Harry S. Truman. I’ve been watching the party’s fortunes cascade downward toward an electoral catastrophe in November.
The latest Gallup poll indicates that in September, President Obama’s approval rating held steady at 52 percent. He has dropped from the stratosphere into the rough-and-tumble territory of normal politics. Among Jews, his support level is still a healthy 64 percent. While Jews are still far more pro-Obama than whites in general (who are at 44 percent), Jewish backing of the president has declined from their 78 percent vote for him in November and their 83 percent approval rating in January.
Over the last 30 years, the great majority of Jewish voters have maintained their support for the Democrats. Jews are integral to the party’s current leadership in Congress and in the White House. And that party now faces its greatest opportunity in a generation to remake health care policy, and also its greatest challenge.
In 2009, the new U.S. Congress has the largest Jewish representation in its history, with 31 members of the 435 in the House of Representatives and 13 senators of the 100. More than a third of all Jews who have ever served in the U.S. Senate were in office as 2009 began.
Political analyst and Jewish Journal columnist Raphael Sonenshein interviewed California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass at the Jewish Journal offices on May 29, 2009, as California faces a dire budget crisis. She talks about her background growing up among Los Angeles’ Jewish community, her background in community organizing and her rise in California politics.
We all know our state is in fiscal trouble. Local governments, school districts, universities, service providers to the needy and disabled are all bracing for an all-out assault from Sacramento.
Many years ago, a conservative commentator, frustrated that Jews continued to vote largely for Democrats, said it best: “Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” That sentence nicely captures the odd fact that Jews and Latinos, often quite different in their socioeconomic positions, have much in common politically.
May 19, California voters will be asked to vote on a package of six ballot measures. What’s a voter to do? What’s a Jewish voter to do?
Arlen Specter may be a dinosaur. The senior United States Senator from Pennsylvania, one of only four Northeastern Republican senators, will soon become the only Jewish Republican Senator when Norm Coleman concedes the battle for Minnesota, and one of the few Republican moderates in a position of power.
The Los Angeles elections on March 3 turned out to be more interesting than most of us had expected, especially the role of the Fifth Council District.
The Republican Party once had a real shot at winning the support of Jewish voters.
Other than African Americans, no group of voters provided more support to Barack Obama than Jews.
June 6, 1944, may have been the most important day of the 20th century. The Allied invasion of France breached Hitler's Atlantic Wall and decisively turned the war against the Nazi regime.
The French now understand that Obama's election will set off a long overdue debate about the status of minority communities within their own nation. Why, people are asking, are there not more minority members of the national legislative bodies?
It is already ugly out on the campaign trail, and reporters in the field are feeling the heat of the rising anger of a Republican base on the ropes.
Biden is just naturally what the Democrats used to be, the party of lunch- pail-carrying working people, not politically correct, prone to saying inappropriate things, but with a great credibility
An African American candidacy is different. Obama can't easily be the racial middleman as Clinton was. And being aggressive carries its own special dynamics.
This assertion, which is totally irrelevant to the campaign of 2008, leads to a source saying that McCain would definitely not represent the third Bush term.
Leaks from Vice President Dick Cheney's office indicate that the veep does not favor an Israeli attack, only because Israel lacks sufficient force to eliminate the nuclear facilities. So Cheney is allegedly pushing within the administration for a U.S. attack.
In a society that has become less and less informed about politics and government, Jews remain a deeply attentive political community. Intensely concerned about Israel and the protection of the Jewish community, but alert to so much more, Jews offer a candidate a tough audience on policy
Barack Obama's presidential candidacy is providing a crash course on race in America.
What U.S. role in the world is best for Israel?
Is it to be loved, to be feared, or to be respected? The 2008 campaign provides a good lens for answering that question.
Obama needs to tell his story about the Jewish community and Israel before his opponents tell their version. If he waits to respond to Clinton's charges, it may already be too late. He needs to discuss his experiences in Chicago's Jewish community, talk about his personal connections to Israel and provide reassurance in his own words.
When California moved its presidential primary to Feb. 5, and other big states followed suit, the strategic role of Jewish voters in the nominating process was greatly enhanced.
The release last week of the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear ambitions stunned the nation's capital. After being buried for a year, the NIE has deflated the Bush administration's case on Iran by stating that Iran halted its program to develop a nuclear weapon in 2003.
Brief descriptions of Republican and Democratic presidential candidates and their likely appeal amongst Jewish voters.
In fact, Congressman Henry Waxman already did more oversight while in the minority than many Democrats have been able to accomplish with the majority. Back in 2005, David Corn wrote in the Nation magazine that Democrats considered Waxman to be their "Eliot Ness," and that many members wished the rest of the party would adopt his approach.
The Republican Party has a two-sided albatross around its neck, an unpopular president who is trying desperately to keep an unpopular war going past Election Day so that its disastrous ending can be on the next president's watch.
Republicans are now telling us that America (and Israel) face a mortal threat from "global Islamofascism." Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Vt.) has been blasting Democrats for not "recognizing" this threat. Get used to it, because this is going to be the frame for the Republican presidential campaign in 2008.
Today's neocons are far from the best and the brightest. They are largely amateur armchair warriors given to cheap rhetoric and bombast. They toss around "regime change" as if governments will fall when they snap their fingers.
Antonio Villaraigosa is coming up to halftime in his first term as mayor of Los Angeles. This is as good a time as any to assess the direction of his mayoralty and its implications for the Jewish community.
With California's early primary bringing unusual recognition to the Golden State, the Republican candidates are heading out West. They met in debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley on May 3. Do these Republicans have a shot at winning Jewish voters over in 2008?
As the wild ride known as the Bush Administration careens toward its end, the only question remaining is whether the president will order an attack on Iran. Mired in the endless quagmire of Iraq, desperate for some military success, Bush might try to salvage his wounded sense of mastery with one great roll of the dice.
Today, Jews remain a key constituency in Los Angeles politics and generate plenty of strong candidates. The dramatic rise of Latinos in local politics, though, has carved out another niche for minority candidates that once largely belonged to African Americans.
When the Republicans are in power in Washington, the Jewish political world is usually on the outside looking in, except in matters regarding Israel. With the exception of Israel, the Jewish political orientation (pro-science, pro-choice, favoring economic equality and internationalism) is completely at odds with the contemporary Republican agenda in national politics.
Israel is now stuck between Iraq and a hard place; those in the administration who most uncritically support Israel don't know what they're doing, and those who have better ideas are more critical of Israel.
The American political system is on the verge of a major change. The Republicans are in danger of losing to the Democrats in the November congressional elections. Foreign affairs will be central to the outcome. Are the Democrats ready for their big curtain call?
Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the first Jewish candidate for vice president, is in a world of political trouble. Facing a tight race for the Democratic nomination from Ned Lamont, he has already started to collect signatures to run as an independent, should he lose the primary on Aug. 8.
Democratic districts on Los Angeles' Westside and in the Valley, next week's primary will not only determine the Democratic winner but also the person who will almost certainly win in the fall's general election. And Jewish voters, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, will play a key role in the outcome.
The intensifying crisis of Iran's nuclear program is bringing into sharp relief the problems created for Israel by the radical foreign policy of the Bush administration.
Republicans once had high hopes that George W. Bush would draw American Jews away from their historic affinity with Democrats into embracing the conservative party. They believed that Jews would be drawn to Bush's intense support for the State of Israel.
Centrism seems to have its moment in the sun when there is a problem to be solved that the main parties cannot address and when one or more of the leading parties is rife with extremism.
On Nov. 8, the voters of California will have the chance to vote in a special election most of them did not want. That's no reason to stay home. After all, whether we like it or not, the election will take place, and all of California residents will have to live with the consequences.
As public support for the war in Iraq continues to deteriorate and as the Bush administration's political situation trembles on the precipice, Democrats are beginning to stir. Pushed by a party base that has long detested what it sees as timorous accommodation to Bush, national Democrats are trying out themes and approaches that they hope will bring them back to a share of national power.
In November 2003, California voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Arnold Schwarzenegger. White voters backed the recall by a large margin, but Jewish voters swam against the tide, with 69 percent voting against the recall. On the second part of the ballot, where voters chose a replacement candidate, Schwarzenegger collected a surprising 31 percent of Jewish voters.
I suggested then in these pages that Schwarzenegger might eventually do well with Jews: "Jewish voters aren't likely to abandon the Democratic Party anytime soon, but will likely give Arnold Schwarzenegger a chance to prove that he can govern in a bipartisan, moderate manner.... If Schwarzenegger truly seeks to solve the state's problems without being a tool of right-wing forces, and with an open-minded, progressive approach, he may find a surprising number of friends among California's Democratic-leaning Jewish voters."
Chance given, chance blown.
With his election as mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa now has the chance to deliver on the coalition approach he offered to the voters in the recent campaign. If he succeeds, Los Angeles government may start to find solutions to problems that have previously seemed intractable. If he fails, he will leave a city more balkanized than before, and one that will have a harder time than ever solving its problems.
The gap between Westside and Valley Jewish voters goes back at least to the busing controversy of the late 1970s.
There were two "Jewish" debates earlier this month, one in the Valley and one on the Westside. While Mayor james Hahn did not attend the Valley session at Temple Judea, all five major candidates came to the Westside debate at Temple Beth Am. My visit to the latter debate allowed me to look at one constituency: Westside Jews.
Once again, despite predictions to the contrary, Jewish voters stuck with the Democrats. By a 3-1 margin, Jews backed Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) against President Bush.
The latest Field Poll shows U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer coasting toward re-election to a third term. She leads her Republican challenger, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones 48 to 32 percent.
Jews are attentive, high-propensity voters. Nearly one in five Los Angeles voters are Jewish (with only 6 percent of the population). If past history is a guide, however, the Jewish vote will play a more important role in the expected runoff between the two top candidates than in the multicandidate primary.
From 1992 through the present, a remarkably consistent 50 percent of Jewish voters have called themselves Democrats, roughly one-third independents and 16-18 percent Republicans.
With former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg's entry into the 2005 mayoral race, the odds of a competitive battle for the city's top political job have increased.
Community activist Karen Bass' victory in the 47th Assembly District's Democratic primary provides a valuable opening for coalition efforts between the Jewish community and a new generation of African American and Latino activists.
The race for the Democratic presidential nomination has taken a fateful turn in the past several weeks. The rise -- or re-emergence -- of Sen.
John Kerry of Massachusetts, the decline of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and the withdrawal of Sen. Joe Lieberman make the quadrennial dream of Republicans that Jewish voters will vote Republican more difficult to achieve.
What does the capture of Saddam Hussein mean for Jewish voters in 2004? Will it shift the preferences of Jewish Democrats as they weigh the party's presidential contenders? Will it push Jewish voters closer to supporting President Bush for re-election?
Jewish voters are an important constituency in national elections, concentrated in such electoral vote-rich states as California, New York, Florida and Illinois. However, they are even more important in the struggle for the Democratic presidential nomination, comprising an important share of the vote in key Democratic primaries. For Jewish Democrats, the 2004 nomination race is providing some very difficult choices.
Can California's new Republican governor make inroads among traditionally Democratic Jews?
The immigration issue burst into state politics in 1994 when unpopular Republican Gov. Pete Wilson used Proposition 187, a measure to deny public services to undocumented residents, to save his reelection.
Jewish leaders continue to decry Mel Gibson's forthcoming Jesus movie for supposedly threatening to whip up anti-Semitism. Due out next April, "The Passion" identifies Jewish priests as instigators of the crucifixion.