January 31, 2008
So Cal Jews’ primary colors are red and blue
(Page 4 - Previous Page)While Joe Lieberman was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 2000 for going overboard in his references to the God of Abraham, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister who in January said we need "to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards," certainly seems to be missing the mark with Jewish voters.
Zero percent -- that's a bagel -- of New York Jews favored Huckabee over the other Republican front-runners in a mid-January poll by Siena College. And a completely unscientific search here in Los Angeles didn't yield better results. (Huckabee's press office did not respond to a request for info on any Jewish volunteers in California; Greenfield also was unaware of any supporters.) The only prominent Jew who has backed Huckabee was Bill Kristol, the neoconservative scion and Weekly Standard editor who spoke effusively of the man from Hope in his first weekly column for The New York Times.
"Jews have been conditioned to play it close to the vest and keep their religious sentiments to themselves," said Berlinerblau, an associate professor of Jewish civilization at Georgetown University. "It is so viscerally in our cultural DNA, I don't think we are very comfortable with public faith-and-values talk. Especially when it is coming from a Christian spokesperson."
Thanks to Bush's success at monopolizing the vote of evangelical Christians by casting conservatism as God's Ol' Party, religious incantations has become an integral part of presidential campaigning. Complete with faith strategists, spiritual language this year has been mixed into the Democrats' stump speeches, resulting in newspaper profiles that focus specifically on what Methodism means to Clinton and just exactly what religion Obama practices. ("I never practiced Islam," Obama said Monday. "I was raised by my secular mother. I have been a member of the Christian religion and an active Christian."). Still, the growth in God-talk has missed the point for many liberal Jews.
"Progressives need to find a way to refocus religious issues, and what better time to do that then election season, when the whole world is watching?" Margie Klein, an editor of a new book that is designed to start a movement, "Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice" (Jewish Lights, 2007). "We need to reframe the debate so that when people think how should they vote, they don't think, 'Morality. OK. Anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage.' Which we know is not correct."
It is clear that progressive politics don't mean as much to Jews as they did in the early days on the Lower East Side. Jewish politics have broadened, and, like most Americans, Jews are primarily worried about the economy. Really worried. Their next ranking political concerns are healthcare reform, the war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism, according to the American Jewish Committee's 2007 survey.
Jews contribute more heavily to political campaigns than other Americans on average; they vote with greater regularity and, largely by accident, are clustered in a few big states -- California and New York -- and a few crucial swing states -- Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio. That's why federal politicians often are quick to reach out to the Jewish community. Obama, Clinton, Giuliani and Romney have this connection built in by virtue of the locales they have represented or still do; McCain has a much smaller Jewish constituency in Arizona, but is appreciated for his years of supporting Israel, which is, for most, the key foreign policy issue.
More campaign talk has been directed Israel's way during the past 60 years than any other small strip of coastal desert. So it surprised Amanda Susskind, regional director of the ADL, when, at a recent campaign forum at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, none of the candidates' representatives needed the extra time she offered them to talk about plans for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and promises for protecting the survival of the Jewish state. They stuck to their allotted 90 seconds, giving equal time to the discussion of the future of Israel as to hate crimes and healthcare.
And that is because there really is no discussion on the campaign trail. Save each party's fringe candidate -- Dennis Kucinich on the left and Ron Paul on the right -- there is substantial support not only for Israel, but also for its right to defend itself against hostile neighbors and to negotiate a peace agreement that does not relent too much, or too prime, territory. Even the Democrats have talked tough, with Clinton saying Jerusalem should not be divided and Obama authoring the Iran Sanctions Act.
"All of the frontrunners, both Republicans and Democrats, are extremely supportive of Israel," said Howard Welinsky, former chair of The Federation's Jewish Community Relations Committee. "I don't think if you took a magnifying glass you can perceive any significant difference on the important issues of a two-state solution, supporting Israel's security, dealing with Iran -- whether it is McCain, Giuliani, Clinton, Obama or Edwards -- they are all extremely supportive of Israel. They are all very knowledgeable; they care. So then it becomes: What are the differences?"
|Brad A. Greenberg:
So Cal Jews' primary colors are red and blue
|Raphael J. Sonenshein:
And now the 'Jewish primary' begins
Hollywood conflicted on candidates
God, race, and politics
|Hillary Clinton||Barack Obama||John Edwards||Mike Huckabee|
|Rudy Giuliani||John McCain||Mitt Romney||Ron Paul|
|Why I back ______________|
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