May 10, 2007
How will GOP fare with Jewish voters in ‘08?
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Democrats who remember their own party in the late 1960s and early 1970s can tell you what happens next. The party imposes its ideological will on its most centrist candidates. The centrist candidates buy peace by abandoning their previous views and once formidable politicians now appear to be "flip-floppers." The party base then abandons those candidates, because they are obviously not the genuine article they seek.
Polls show that many Republicans are unhappy with their current field of candidates and are actively searching for a real conservative, such as former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee. Thompson is drawing big poll numbers without even being in the race. But it is hard to see how a law-and-order, pro-life, deeply conservative Southern Republican is going to bring Jewish voters to the table.
One of the most interesting features of Jewish political participation is that what it takes to win Jewish support is usually good for a political party and for the nation. The Democratic down cycle ended when Bill Clinton had his "Sister Souljah" moment and proved that he could challenge his own party's base supporters. Clinton's ability to break the hammerlock of knee-jerk interest groups redefined and strengthened the Democratic Party and helped the nation in the process.
A Republican Party that breaks the hold of its current owners and paddles away from authoritarian ideas and narrow social beliefs can save itself, win over many Jewish voters and help the nation at the same time. But it may take a few more electoral defeats for that lesson to sink in.
Raphael Sonenshein is a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton. He writes a monthly column for The Journal.
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