Monday, May 12, 2008

Obama and the Jewish Vote

By Alan Caruba

Assuming that Sen. Obama is the Democrat nominee, it is going to be very interesting to watch the Jewish vote in the forthcoming national elections.

As Richard Baehr noted recently in a commentary on American, it “has got Jewish Democrat activists worried” and well it should. The notion of a Jew—any Jew—voting for someone named Barack Hussein Obama approaches the realm of fantasy.

The notion that all American Jews are Zionists is a fantasy as well. Whether significantly or merely nominally committed to the survival of Israel, it is well known in the U.S. Jewish community that it is Republicans who are the strongest support for Israel while many Democrats tilt, like Jimmy Carter, toward sympathy and even support for the Palestinians.

Jews know that it is the large evangelical community, a mainstay of the Republican Party that is Israel’s most staunch supporters, alongside of the Jewish community. While the economy, illegal immigration, and Iraq are likely to be the major issues of the 2008 elections, the theological alignment of both evangelical Christians and Jews should not be discounted. They share some important values.

American Jews have been polled and surveyed for a long time. Their political history is well known. I have many friends who ask, “Why are Jews so liberal?” A look at the way Jews have voted reveals that, “The Democrats’ 50 point win over Bush with Kerry is now but a 29 point lead for Obama over McCain (61-23 with 7% undecided.). Baehr points out that a state like Florida with approximately 400,000 Jewish voters in presidential election years represents a net shift of about 85,000 voters.

Recall now, the thin, but decisive margin that gave Bush his first-time victory. These days, McCain is ahead in virtually every poll in Florida.

Obama’s problem is compounded by his statements that he would meet with someone like Mamoud Amadinejad, the president of Iran, a nation that threatens the very existence of Israel. His view that America must meet with its enemies is not borne out by history that has many examples of the failure of such policies, though the long, patient negotiations with the former Soviet Union can be cited in its favor. The open hatred of Israel throughout the Middle East and elsewhere suggests this is a failed approach in these times.

His affiliation with a Chicago church led by a pastor whose views on Jews are not likely to be friendly is another concern of the Jewish community. That pastor, too, is a longtime admirer and friend of Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Black Muslim movement, a fact that does not go unnoticed in the Jewish community.

Jews and others will take note that Obama was sent initially to an Indonesian madrassa in his formative years and even when attending a Catholic school in Jakarta, he was identified as a Muslim. In a careful examination of Obama’s early years, Daniel Pipes, a Mideast scholar, cited not just his birth as a Muslim, but the fact that he and his family were perceived and understood to be Muslims. Pipes noted, “But if he was born and raised a Muslim and is now hiding that fact, this points to a major deceit, a fundamental misrepresentation about himself that has profound implications about his character and his suitability as president.”

The fact that Sen. McCain has a long record of support for the U.S.-Israeli relationship, plus his greater experience, will also play a large role in the way the American Jewish community will vote in November. At least nine key states with significant Jewish populations will determine the outcome of the 2008 elections.

Jews have a long history of identifying with American ideals. They have been in America ever since their arrival in New Amsterdam and their right to settle here was supported by the Dutch West India Company. From Washington to Lincoln, they found support in a nation that is based in part on the separation of church and state. Until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jews voted overwhelmingly Republican. Their long association with progressive ideas led to the change in their affiliation to the Democrat Party.

Today, however, they are no longer the guaranteed 90% Democrat vote. It is closer to 75% to 60% depending on the candidate. Their voting clout, too, is in decline as can be seen in states such as New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Illinois, and California. They constitute around 4% of voters.

The rise of anti-Semitism around the world will be on their minds in November and events in the Middle East will play a role in how they vote. When they step into the voting booth, most will hesitate to vote for Barack Hussein Obama no matter what their party affiliation may be.

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