October 14, 1999
Old Habits Die Hard
I make reference to Daniel Kurtzman's piece regarding Pat Buchanan ("Should He Stay or Should He Go?" Oct. 1). I must admit that my background is Ashkenazic, Jewish, New York City, 1930s, '40s, '50s. It was part of being Jewish at that time to be left of center politically. Our heroes were FDR, Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Fiorello La Guardia, Jack and Bobby Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt, etc.
Now that I am a septuagenarian, I still have trouble understanding the phrase "Jewish Republican" used by Kurtzman, and many others. Help me. Just what is a "Jewish Republican"?
I understand Republican core values: smaller government; states' rights; lowered taxes; family values; anti-choice; continued unrestricted manufacture of guns, even those clearly designed to kill only humans, and "cop killer" ammunition; etc. I cannot quarrel with a person, Jewish or otherwise, feeling that those issues are the purview of the Republican Party.
But to be Republican, one must accept the huge power of anti-Semitism within the party. Stopping right here, I do not claim the majority of the Republican Party to be anti-Semitic. But there are some notable, troubling exceptions:
Pat Buchanan, running for the presidential nomination every four years. Clearly an anti-Semite. If you have trouble believing you own ears, see quotes from right wing Jews: Bill Kristol, William Safire, and Mona Churn. Also quotes from Alan Dershowitz, Abraham Foxman, George Will, William Buckley, etc. I can find no reasonable explanation for the positions of Buchanan, other than classical, clear and overt anti-Semitism. To date, thankfully, Buchanan stops short of Kristallnacht.
George W. Bush, clearly the prohibitive front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, implores Buchanan to remain within the Republican Party. Bush accepts the anti-Semitic wing of the party. He states that he needs "every vote he can get." That, clearly includes, the militia vote, the gun wacko vote (even the NRA which supports the manufacture, among other things, of "cop killer," body armor piercing, bullets), the religious right, and the admittedly small anti-Semitic wing. Bush is saying that these anti-Semites have their voice, not in the Reform Party, but in the Republican Party. I know the Reform Party. Bush is correct. Incidentally, the anti-Semitic wing, is not nearly as small as was Hitler's following in 1928.
Bush has said only believers in the divinity of Jesus are welcomed in heaven. This is anti-Islam, anti-Buddhist, anti-Hindu, anti-Shinto, anti-Atheist, and yes indeed, anti-Semitic.
The portion of the Republican Party that follows the leadership of Reverends Falwell & Robertson is not nearly so small. They fall into the same category of anti-everything, other than Christian, including anti-Semitic.
How does the "Republican Jew" explain Congressman Barr and Senator Lott speaking to and expressing clear approval of the CCC. CCC is 1990s speak for KKK. Overtly, an anti-African-American, anti-Roman Catholic, and anti-Semitic group.
I have a personal litmus test for candidates, parties, groups, factions, etc. If an entity is anti-Semitic, consorts with anti-Semitic colleagues, aids and abets anti-Semitism, or does not denounce anti-Semitism when it arises, that entity cannot have my support. In the name of the 6 million, I believe it is our sacred duty to apply this litmus test.
Is a "Republican Jew," by definition and political alliance, an anti-Semitic Jew? Or is a "Republican Jew" merely accepting of his party's anti-Semitic wing? I know I'm old fashioned, but I have trouble computing this.
Or is "Republican Jew" or "Jewish Republican" an oxymoron?
Sanford M. Walkes is a businessman in Encino
A Kinder, Gentler Party
By Rabbi Dov Fischer
I have voted primarily for Republican candidates throughout the past 25 years. And I have felt Jewishly good about doing so, even though I would not call myself a "Jewish Republican" per se. I vote Republican because my traditions have imbued me with traditional social values and conservative political leanings. Moreover, I have become persuaded through years of watching the failed liberal agenda of the 1960s that true compassion aims at results, not merely at sympathy.
The "Great Society" that Lyndon Johnson's Democrats pushed down the American way in the mid-1960s created a burgeoning welfare state. Welfare breeded dependency. Democrat liberalism taxes hard-working wage-earners like me to pay government bureaucrats to spend my money as they see fit to prop-up the finances of someone else who has become dependent on welfare.
Conservatives believe in another way -- encourage able-bodied people to work. For a quarter of a century, liberals demurred that our way would cause social dislocation, sending hordes of starving families and scavenging children into the streets. But we stood firm, and we pressed a Democrat president to change welfare as we knew it. The result was nothing like what the liberals had predicted. Now, instead of collecting a check, they contribute their own taxes. They have pride in the achievements of their own minds and hands. And a new generation -- their children -- grows up seeing a new model: parents who get up every morning to go to work.
Much as with social welfare, the criminal justice system was destroyed by liberal compassion for criminals. With Democrats in Washington and Democrat governors in state houses appointing liberal judges to federal and state benches, criminals benefited from compassion. Sentences were suspended. Parole was available easily. So the law-abiding members of society became the people living behind bars, locked up behind security gates. Downtown shopping areas closed early, as night fell. The conservatives had a different idea. Get tough. Name tough judges who will impose the law, will impose sentences, and will stop the revolving doors of the parole system. Further, to keep the judges in check, federal sentencing guidelines were crafted by a bipartisan commission, with the purpose of creating defined, uniform prison sentences for wrongdoers. Do the crime; do the time. Parole ended on the federal level.
It is no coincidence that the American economy turned around only after the American people cleaned House and swept out the Democrat majorities in Congress and in the Senate. It is no surprise that American crime statistics have turned around with such dramatic effectiveness in the generation of an American judiciary comprised primarily of Republican conservative appointees. As on the federal level, so on the state level. Californians have benefited from the safer streets that have emerged after decades of Deukmejian and Wilson judicial appointments.
The Republican agenda is compassionate because it helps the disenfranchised to join with the rest of this nation in becoming part of the American dream. It brings African Americans, Latinos and others into the economic mainstream. It allows people to feel pride in the work of their hands. And it creates safer streets and communities. When streets get safe, stores stay open later. So businesses need to hire more workers to staff the longer hours. More people get employed and pay taxes. Fewer need to collect public support. With more people earning, more of those same people have the money to fuel the economy further, creating even more jobs.
The Republican years have been good years for America, and that helps Jews, too. Anyone can point to Pat Buchanan on the right or to Jesse Jackson on the Democrat left. Buchanan is unacceptable to me as a Jew, and so is Jackson. I regard both as my haters.
Finally, Jews have never benefited by placing all eggs exclusively in the Democrat basket. When Democrats garner 85% of the Jewish vote in an election, the message is sent to the Republicans that they need not address Jewish issues. With Republicans ascendant these past two decades, it has been increasingly valuable to have Jewish participation and representation within the Republican Party. That influence saw Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, evolve into a terrific friend of Israel. Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, long perceived by our community as beyond the pale, in fact evolved into another stronger supporter of Israel, as Jews came into the Republican Party and gained access to him. Pete Wilson of California was a friend. In the east, New York Governor George Pataki, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Senator Alfonse D'Amato were great friends and allies on a range of issues important to the Jewish community.
Ultimately, Jews should move away from labeling themselves by party. An occasional vote for a Daniel Patrick Moynihan or a Joseph Lieberman -- if one has the fortune to be a New York or Connecticut voter -- can be good for the soul. And so it can be good to vote Republican, depending on the choice of candidates, the issues at hand, and the road that will most likely lead to results-based compassion.
Rabbi Dov Fischer is a member of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Relations Committee of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation. He practices complex civil litigation at the law firm of Akin, Gump, Hauer, Straus and Feld.