America moves right, Jewish groups move left

America moves right, Jewish groups move left, Israel Hayom, Richard Baehr, December4, 2016

On January 20, the Republican Party will control the White House, both houses of Congress, at least 33 governors’ offices, and over two-thirds of state legislative bodies, including 25 states where the governor is a Republican and the GOP is the majority party in both branches of the state legislature. The Democrats will have similar control in four states. The other states will have mixed party governance. One would need to go back to the 1920s to find a time of similar dominance by the Republican Party. In but eight years, the Democrats have lost a dozen Senate seats, 66 House seats, near 1,000 state legislative seats, 13 governors’ offices, and the presidency.

The president-elect, Donald Trump, won 24-25% of the Jewish vote, according to the national exit polls and a J Street survey. Democrat Hillary Clinton won either 70-71% of the Jewish vote in these same surveys. The margin for the Democratic nominee was the second smallest for any Democratic nominee with Jewish voters since 1988. Only the 2012 Obama vs. Romney race among Jewish voters was closer (69% to 30%).

When the national popular vote total is finally complete (California, supposedly our most technologically advanced state, takes longer than any other state by a matter of weeks to complete its tally), Clinton will have won the popular vote by about 2%, while getting trounced in the Electoral College 306-232 (a 14% margin). Exit polls and final polls before Election Day showed Clinton winning by 4-5%. Given what some analysts are calling “shy Trump voters” who did not want to reveal their support for Trump to pollsters, it is certainly possible that Trump exceeded the percentage of support reflected in the exit poll or J Street survey among Jewish voters. In any case, it is safe to assume that Jewish voters were far more supportive of the Democratic nominee than almost any other group, which occurs in every presidential election.

What is clear since election day is that several major Jewish organizations have chosen to identify with those who seem panicked by the election results, particularly the election of Trump. Charitable organizations rely on contributions, and if two-thirds to three-quarters of Jewish voters went for the Democrat, it is not surprising that many Jewish organizations reflect this partisan split among their members and donors. Nonetheless, there is “a new sheriff coming to town,” and typically, most major Jewish organizations look forward to working with the new president on their issues of concern, rather than going to war with him during his presidential transition.

In the past few weeks, the Anti-Defamation League, led by former Obama staffer Jonathan Greenblatt, was one of the first organizations of any kind to aim fire at Trump’s naming of Breitbart executive chair Steve Bannon as an in-house adviser. The ADL leader was quick to label him an anti-Semite and a leader of the “alt-right.” Most of those scurrilous charges have been walked back after the ADL was hit with pushback by those who have worked with Bannon or for him, and knew him far better than his critics, with several Jews among his leading defenders. But it was clear that the ADL wanted to be early out of the box to show it was not at all concerned with striking a partisan pose, and was part of the team on the left who were committed to making life miserable for Trump, even during the transition period before he took office. Today, the ADL is playing the role of victim, claiming it is under attack from the Right for doing its job.

Accusing Republicans of bigotry is nothing new at this point, and has become part of the standard campaign fare by Democratic candidates and those on the left. A major reason why Hillary Clinton was defeated was the near total emptiness of her campaign in making a case for why she should be president, as opposed to electing her so as not to have Trump in office, due to his temperament, and of course, alleged bigotry. In the weeks since Trump selected Bannon, mainstays of the major media , such as The New York Times and major networks, have given a lot of coverage to a collection of a few hundred white racists meeting at a convention in Atlanta. Clearly, guilt by association was the order of the day — white-power racists equals Bannon equals Trump.

The Bannon selection, which does not require Senate ratification, drew attacks from predictable Jewish groups on the left — J Street, the National Council of Jewish Women, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Uri L’Tzedek (the Orthodox Jewish social justice movement), among others. But a collection of groups associated with the Conservative movement was similarly harsh in attacking Bannon — the Rabbinical Assembly, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Cantors Assembly, the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and the Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs issued a joint statement of condemnation.

Just days after the Trump victory and the Bannon pick seemed to create a certainty of a dystopian future for many American Jews and their organizations, a Minnesota congressman, Keith Ellison, had his name put forward as a candidate for the next leader of the Democratic National Committee. Remarkably, with the exception of the Zionist Organization of America and a few other politically conservative Jewish groups, most Jewish groups held their fire on Ellison, and seemed to think all was well regarding Ellison and Jews and Ellison and Israel. After all, New York Senator Chuck Schumer immediately endorsed him for the job. That Ellison once had ties to the Nation of Islam and its leader, Louis Farrakhan, and had called Israel an apartheid state, seemed to be of no great concern. Greenblatt’s first comment was that he had contacted the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota on Ellison, and they gave him a clean bill of health.

Greenblatt subsequently told The New York Times that he thought Ellison was “an important ally in the fight against anti-Semitism” but held a posture on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “on which we strongly differ and that concern us.”

Now, as other groups have continued digging into Ellison’s’ unsavory history with regard to Israel, the ADL has reversed course, and now argues that he is disqualified for the job. Greenblatt seemed disturbed that Ellison, in a 2010 speech to a Muslim group, had echoed the Stephen Walt-John Mearsheimer thesis that Israel controlled U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East: “The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people,” Ellison said in the recorded speech to his supporters. “A region of 350 million all turns on a country of 7 million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right? When the Americans who trace their roots back to those 350 million get involved, everything changes.”

Why the did the testimony by Jews who worked for Bannon or with Bannon, and knew of his support for Israel and Jewish causes, including establishing an office in Jerusalem for Breitbart, count for nothing with the ADL and its allies among Jewish organizations, but the presumption about Ellison was that all was well until the anti-Semitic stench got too large to ignore? In one case, the person in question was guilty until proven innocent, and in the other, the reverse.

How will the Democratic Party now deal with the DNC nomination? Will Ellison withdraw his name, or stand and fight, backed by the Sanders/Warren wing of the party for whom Israel is at best a minor issue or annoyance? Rumors were that President Barack Obama was not enthusiastic about Ellison as DNC chair from the start. But the Democrats seem to have concluded after having suffered their third decisive beating in the last four election cycles, that the solution to re-energize the party was to move even further left, and to solidify their identity-group politics and pandering. Jews and Jewish groups will soon find out that they are nowhere near the front of that line, despite their rush to join in the anti-Trump chorus.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2016 elections, Jewish left in America, Keith Ellison, President Elect Trump, Steven K. Bannon

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