What NY-9 Portends for the Jewish Vote
Many have commented on the rebuke of President Obama reflected in the Republican victory in NY-9, a district with a 3-1 Democrat registration. The pro-Israel Orthodox Jewish community in the Brooklyn and Queens sections of the district displayed its pent-up horror over Mr. Obama's never-ending derisive and hostile attitude toward Israel and its frustration over the passing, by mostly Democrats, of a law in New York State bestowing marital sanctity to homosexual unions.
The Orthodox have never been morally comfortable with the zealousness with which New York Democrats have pushed and whitewashed abortions, yet because abortions are done privately in hospitals, the issue has never been a decisive factor in how they vote. State affirmation of homosexual marriage, on the other hand, is seen as an in-your-face public assault on the traditional family and historic understanding of marriage -- both cornerstones of Orthodox life -- and is, therefore, personal. Homosexual marriage is a public display and something from which there is no escape, especially when the State tells the children that it approves.
One of the seismic revelations of this vote heretofore not mentioned is that the pro-Israel community has now decided that when it comes to support of Israel, a non-Jewish Republican is better than a liberal Jewish Democrat. Mr. Turner, the Republican, is not Jewish, whereas the Democrat, Mr. Weprin, is Jewish. Up until this election, Jews have always voted in a manner that assumed that a Jewish candidate would best represent the Jewish needs. This election broke that pattern and attitude. Orthodox and a goodly amount of non-Orthodox Jews have, for the first time, concluded that many of their moral concerns and especially the security of Israel are best-served not by a liberal Jewish Democrat, but by a Republican, though not Jewish. In other words, values count more than ethnicity.
What brought about this realization? It was the absolute silence throughout these last years by Democrat Jewish members in Congress unwilling to raise their voices against Mr. Obama's unrelenting pressure on Israel and his open disregard for the danger in which she finds herself, as well as his deliberate humiliation of Mr. Netanyahu during his first visit to Obama's White House.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the second-most powerful man in the Senate, was silent. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the spokesperson for Democrats in the House, not only was silent, but warned Mr. Netanyahu that he dare not raise the issue of Israel in any manner that could reflect poorly on Democrats. Even Congressman Gary Ackerman, who represents heavily Jewish eastern Queens and portions of Long Island such as Great Neck (the most Jewish municipality in America), was silent up until a few weeks before his reelection bid last November. Senators Bernie Sanders, Barbara Boxer, and Frank Lautenberg have been silent, as was ex-Senator Russ Feingold.
Too many of these Democrats have used their Jewishness as a tool to garner Jewish votes, but they demonstrate that, for them, loyalty to Mr. Obama and their ambition within the Democratic Party override the plight of Israel and the concerns of those Jews who voted for them thinking they would be strong defenders of Israel. When it came to standing up at the plate, they stayed in the dugout. What the voters learned, instead, was that for Jewish Democrats in Congress, representing Jewish interests means advancing a liberal social and economic agenda and tepidness regarding Israel.
Most of the pro-Israel Jewish community did not buy Mr. Weprin's assurance that as a Democrat, he had a better chance to influence President Obama behind the scenes. And that is because he was mouthing the exact refrain we kept hearing from Schumer and Ackerman these past Obama years. If there was any "behind the scenes," it evidently did not work and was certainly quite meager and half-hearted.
Those Jews in Congress who did forcefully speak out against Mr. Obama's anti-Israel policies were not Democrats. They were Congressman Eric Cantor, a Republican, and Senator Joe Lieberman, an Independent. Most of the heavy lifting in Congress for Israel in defiance of Mr. Obama was done by non-Jewish Republicans, such as Congressmen Peter King, Louis Gohmert, Allen West, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Senators James Inhof and Orrin Hatch, to name a few.
But beyond Congress, pro-Israel Jews have learned that, in general, non-Jewish conservatives are more dependable allies than liberals within the Jewish community itself. Throughout the last three years of Obama's cold war against Israel (his Israel Winter), it has been conservative Christians who have publicly and tirelessly gone to the mat for Israel, not the establishment Jewish community whose organizations are run by wildly liberal staffers and directors. The Jewish Community Federations have not been willing to take on Obama regarding Israel, not simply those in San Francisco or Boston. Even New York's Federation, run by John Ruskay, has been demonstrably AWOL.
Based on press releases and articles of its director, Abe Foxman, the ADL seems preoccupied more with defending shariah law and the claims of CAIR than defending Mr. Netanyahu, defending Israel, or protecting Jewish students on college campuses from harassment by Muslims and left-wing professors. These establishment organizations, as with Jewish Democrats in Congress, consider Obama their guy and his agenda basically theirs. Many in the grassroots Jewish community are beginning to wonder if the Jewish Establishment's silence is due to timidity, or worse, a leftist sharing of Mr. Obama's outlook regarding even Israel. Leftist liberals, Jewish and non-Jewish, now scare pro-Israel, pro- traditional family Jews. They have been jolted. In contrast, such questions and doubts do not abound when thinking about Republicans.
But what happened in NY-9 cannot as yet be an indicator for the general Jewish community. Brooklyn and Queens are highly Orthodox communities, and NY-9 may be the strongest pro-Israel Jewish community in America. The 40% of Jews who are secular and the 25% who are Reform, and live outside NY-9, are not nearly as pro-Israel, and among those, there are some so left-wing that they advance the Arab narrative to the tee or, as good liberals, expect Israel to make every concession so as to show that it values "peace" more than nationhood.
Nor should one expect much change in Manhattan, especially from those on the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, or the Upper East Side. Beyond Israel or even politics, their whole identity is tied to being liberal, no matter how absurd and dangerous such left liberalism is becoming. Many Jews have replaced Judaism with a new religion -- liberalism -- and they are as fervent and missionary-like in their liberalism as is the most devout Christian for Christianity.
One other consideration of the vote in NY-9 was the economy. Because Orthodox Jews do not work on the Sabbath and the many Jewish holy days, many are self-employed or own small businesses they can close on these days. Not only have they, like the rest of the country, been hurt by Obama's economy, but they are indeed the target of Obama's anti-business agenda. More than anyone else, the small businessman is the one Obama is gunning for and the one most adversely affected by his tax and regulatory policies. Such is not the case in Manhattan, where most either are professionals or work in some capacity with Wall Street. There is a vast difference between those who actually own a business and those who speculate in the financial world. Businessmen are generally conservative, whereas the world of finance is a very different category. Europe, for example, is full of socialist-types involved in the arcania of finance.
As things stand now with Obama and if Romney is the candidate, my prediction is for the national Jewish vote to drop from its 2008 Obama 76% percentage to 60% -- hopefully enough to assure Republican victories in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and thus the election.
Rabbi Spero is president of Caucus for America and can be reached at 212-252-6861.