The Politics Of Anger: Are Jews Becoming Republicans?
Tue, 09/21/2010
Special To The Jewish Week

The national anger found among the electorate concerns the economy, jobs, health care reform and foreign policy. In addition to recent primary victories around the country by Tea Party candidates, several national polls point to the depth of the public’s anger. A Fox News Poll from June noted that 83 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Independents expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the nation; in addition, 43 percent of Democrats expressed similar unhappiness with where the country is headed. Similarly, in the Rasmussen Reports published earlier this year, 71 percent of Americans were identified as being “angry at the federal government.”

American Jews are angry as well. Some have suggested that this response could be labeled as a contemporary version of the Maccabees — namely a revolt against the existing order. A number of reasons can be offered to explain this new phenomenon.

Many Jews are upset over how Israel has been depicted by governments, commentators and press reports. Others reflect the concerns that millions of Americans have over the domestic agenda and the economic crisis. Some within the Jewish community have directed their disappointment over these and other matters at President Obama. Still others remain angry over the Madoff affair and its impact in undermining the Jewish communal system and the economic well-being of thousands of families. Certainly, Jews are concerned over the rise of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activities on college campuses, across Europe and throughout the Middle East.

A Jewish political backlash, not unlike the Tea Party movement, has begun to emerge. There is growing momentum to mobilize support for Israel among the electorate and to hold politicians accountable for their commitment to the Jewish state. Clearly, some of this discontent is being directed against other Jews who hold views on Israel that align with Peace Now and J Street or other center-left groups. The positions espoused by these dovish groups are interpreted by the Jewish right as giving aid to Israel’s enemies and adding fuel to the negative image of the Jewish state around the world. Activists on the right have in effect created an Israel loyalty test that defines and measures one’s credentials as a pro-Israel advocate; the expression of nuanced positions on Israel has given way to a more definitive expectation of support.

As the divisions sharpen within the community, we are seeing a radicalization of the Jewish political right. At the same time, the Jewish liberal sector is disengaging from the Israel discourse. Of equal concern are those on the left who feel Israel has lost its moral compass. They, in turn, have abandoned their role as defenders of the Jewish state, preferring to align themselves with Israel’s most outspoken critics.

The once-understood communal principle of governing by consensus has given way to ideological clashes that have split the community.

The emerging cohort of angry Jewish activists has taken on the political characteristics of “red-state voters.” They have done this through their support of single-issue concerns, a values-based and at times a faith-defined political agenda, and a specific hard-line position on American security and military defense issues. These Jewish voters have opted to support candidates who more definitively support their policy views and who in turn question the current state of American democracy and politics. In particular, this group has sought to critique the Obama administration for what it perceives as its less than full support of Israel within the international community.

The divisions that now define American Jewish voting patterns are framed by a number of elements. The presence of a new generation of voters includes a significant Orthodox cohort, along with a growing presence of Russian, Iranian and Israeli activists, who generally reflect a more conservative political bent. An emerging base of support on the right can now be found among male baby boomers (55-64), whose voting patterns have increasingly trended right. This political transition is particularly significant among Jewish voters, as this age-cohort dominates the Jewish population-base. Not only worried about their own economic status, this constituency is deeply concerned by what it sees as eroding support for Israel. These trends have been confirmed by recent polls that show a shift of party loyalties among certain Jewish constituencies.

However, a more significant political transformation may be in play. As American Jews have assimilated into the mainstream of this nation’s religious and cultural life, they may be taking on the political characteristics of that mainstream. If “liberalism” and the politics of the left were seen as a representation of an earlier expression of Americanism and as a bridge from the community’s immigrant status to its integration into the mainstream, then today, for some Jews, this engagement with the Republican Party and conservative politics may be understood as a natural transition.

Dr. Steven Windmueller serves as the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Professor of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles campus.
 

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Just why does an American administration or president have a responsibility to Israel? How is that a measure of good or bad foreign policy? I am not pro or anti Israel; I am pro American. That is a legitimate position with no need of explanation. As the child of French immigrants, I would never consider the best interest of France over the best interests over the United States - yet, France, too has been a leading American ally - even before there was a United States of America. As I child I admired the stereotype of the "Jewish Intellectual Liberal". Their support for civil rights was inspirational to all. With so many PR agencies lead by talented Jewish Americans, I can't understand why as whole, Jewish persons have not figured that one issue dual allegiance is not a boost to public perception or support.

The only reason American Jews do NOT support Israel 100% is because they were NOT taught that all archeological evidence clearly shows that Israel has been the home of the Jewish people for 3000 years, 1500 years BEFORE the advent of Islam. That is why in 1920 the Sam Ramos conference decided that after 2000 years of illegal rule by others, ALL of Israel (Israel, West Bank Gaza) should be returned to the Jewish people. Hillel's solicitation letters almost alway says most Jewish students arrive on campus WITHOUT a Jewish identity. The reform rabbinate willfully does NOT teach Jewish history, leaving students open to all the left wing "Jews stole the land" lies taught on campus and promoted in the left wing media. Today's reform rabbinate is only interested in "social justice for everyone EXCEPT" Jews. There is no blood libel against Jews that they will fight. The worldwide defamation of the Jewish people and delegitimization of Israel is notonly of no concern to the reform rabbinate, many are taking part in it.
As is evident starting from the very title, this is another smug, condescending, and off-the-mark assessment of what is going on in our country. Liberals seem to think that by fixating on the "anger" or "radicalization" of opponents of the Pelosi-Obama-Reid agenda, that somehow they've successfully dismissed them as illegitimate and their grievances as unjustified. (As if the "Selected Not Elected" / "No Blood For Oil" / "Bush = Hitler" movement from a mere few years ago wasn't angry, radical, and unhinged.) Well, as an "angry" Jewish Tea Partier, I can say there is a lot to be angry about, and the left demonizes us at their own peril. And what of this accusation of "radicalization" of the right? I'm sorry but there is nothing "radical" about opposing historically failed socialist experiments that have been imposed upon an unwilling citizenry by this administration. There is nothing "radical" about not wanting one's children and yet-unborn grandchildren born already 5 figures in debt to a greedy overreaching federal behemoth. There is nothing "radical" about demanding our elected officials adhere to their oath to uphold the Constitution. Barack Obama received 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008. But, as with many other erstwhile dependable voting blocs, many of them are starting to wise up that the Democrat Party has *not* conducted themselves in the best interests of either the U.S. or Israel. Dismiss it as "anger" or "radicalization" if you want, Dr. Windmueller. I prefer to call it "It's about time!" http://VocalMinority.typepad.com The Jewish Republican's Web Sanctuary
I concur wholeheartedly - hopefully more of us will realize that this isn't the generation of 65 years ago. How any of us can vote Democrat boggles my mind; especially for the tool Schumer? Coming from the community he single handedly destroyed, and continues to support the policies of everything that hurts Jews, and the likes amaze me. A vote for a democrat is a vote for the Obama agenda, which is a vote for Obama, begets a vote against Israel, Jews, and Christians who share our beliefs that Jews are not the problem, and appeasing to the enemies of Jews, is appeasement to the enemies of democracy!

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