Jewish Republicans Seen On Edge About Tea Party

As movement gains steam and plans minority outreach, concern in GOP circles.

10/06/10
Washington Correspondent
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As the Tea Party wave sweeps across the nation’s political waters, Jewish Republicans are increasingly worried that the movement could wash away their hopes of winning over Jewish voters — even as leaders of the insurgency talk about expanded outreach to minorities, including Jews.

“The idea of the Tea Parties scares the hell out of the Jewish community, and I can’t tell you it’s unjustifiable in some cases,” said Fred Zeidman, a longtime Jewish Republican leader in Texas. “There are some candidates out there that are clearly unqualified; whether or not that hurts us, we just don’t know.”

So unqualified that the Republican Jewish Coalition, the central address for Jewish GOP activists, will not support some high-profile Republican candidates with Tea Party connections, starting with Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.

Republican sources insist the problem is one of perception and media spin focusing on a handful of candidates with less-than-stellar credentials and a penchant for sometimes outrageous statements.

Jewish Democrats disagree. By eagerly seeking to exploit a movement that has shown surprising strength at the polls, the Republicans are tilting the party in a direction even many Jewish conservatives will see as threatening, they argue.

“The Tea Party movement gives a public face to the fact that all moderation has been driven out of the Republican Party of today,” said David Harris, president of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). “Inevitably, that just further drives away Jewish support.”

But predictions are risky in today’s highly charged political environment.

“So much of this will depend on which face of the Tea Party movement emerges as dominant,” said University of Florida political scientist Kenneth Wald. “It’s an amazingly diverse and decentralized movement at this stage. We don’t know what it will look like in six months.”

Ryan Hecker, for one, believes the Tea Party movement has room in its tent for Jews. Hecker is a Houston lawyer and the godfather of the “Contract From America,” a Tea Party manifesto that is exerting a gravitational pull on this year's congressional contests.

And he’s Jewish.

Hecker, once a campaign staffer for former New York Mayor and GOP presidential hopeful Rudolph Giuliani, said Jewish voters should have no problems with the Tea Party phenomenon.

“I’m from New York — we elected Rudy Giuliani twice with huge backing from the Jewish community,” Hecker told The Jewish Week. “The reason is that he appealed to the idea that spending was out of control in New York, corruption was out of control, and that we needed to cut back and government needs to be more transparent.”

That’s the focus of the Tea Party movement, he said, not the social values agenda of the religious right faction of the GOP, a traditional choke point for Jewish voters.

Recent news reports suggest Tea Party leaders are planning active outreach to minorities, including Hispanics, African-Americans and Jews.

Hecker downplayed that idea.

“It’s good to reach out to everyone, regardless of race or religion, but at the end of the day it’s about ideas,” he said. “Personally, I think our focus needs to remain on promoting our ideas and getting away from the feeling you need to reach out just so you can say you have people. The real issue isn’t how diverse you are, but what you stand for.”

Yet Hecker conceded that even if it’s judged on the ideas it promotes and not some of its more controversial candidates, the Tea Party movement faces an uphill fight for Jewish support.

Jews remain strongly Democratic, he said, “and it’s hard to convince people to change. But we also see that across the spectrum, people — including a lot of Jews — are upset with the lobbyist power in Washington. That’s where we can reach out.”

Adding to the difficulty of Jewish outreach are the intemperate, sometimes incomprehensible statements of some Tea Party candidates and historic associations with angry populist movements that in the past have often turned against the Jews.

Jews tend to be “rational, policy-oriented voters,” said Colby College political scientist L. Sandy Maisel, “and the Tea Party candidates generally do not fit into that category. It’s very clear Jews don’t go for anti-intellectual politics, which is what we’re seeing in a lot of states.”

On Israel, some Tea Party candidates have made strong statements of support, and there’s little evidence of hostility to the Jewish state in the emerging movement.

But the Tea Parties are overwhelmingly domestic in focus, with hints of traditional American isolationism — not surprising in a nation that’s been at war for the past nine years. Opposition to all foreign aid is a strong undercurrent in some campaigns, most notably the Senate campaign of GOP nominee Rand Paul in Kentucky.

 

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More importantly, Jews are likely to be turned off by the many connections between Tea Party elements and old-line extremist groups.

The Anti-Defamation League has warned about “white supremacist infiltration of the right-wing Tea Party events” and protested extremist signs at Tea Party rallies. The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported on a growing confluence of Tea Parties and radical anti-government “militias” and a toxic mixture of gay bashing and “nativism” in some Tea Party quarters.

“Any movement that is unstructured and undisciplined, without a political tradition, becomes a magnet for people with all kinds of views, and can go all over the place” said ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. “So there’s a concern, and we continue to watch it closely.”

But Foxman also gave Tea Party leaders credit for limiting extremist outburst at movement events. “There are indications they have acted responsibly” after the initial criticism by the ADL and other groups, he said.

Those concerns — whether accurate or exaggerated by a press eager to describe the Tea Parties in sensational terms — make effective outreach to minority voters unlikely, many political scientists agree.

“That kind of outreach is very hard when there’s no recognized authority,” said University of Florida political scientist Kenneth Wald. “In highly decentralized movements, all the progress they make in one place can be undone by a single individual making inflammatory statements.”

“I see very little chance that any substantial minority vote of any minority will defect to the Tea Party,” said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “Will there be a handful of minorities here and there? Sure. So what? It may help the Tea Party image but that’s about it.”

The factors limiting minority outreach also pose a potential problem for a Republican Party that has made small, uneven inroads into the Jewish vote in recent years.

A number of “establishment” GOP incumbents and contenders were beaten by Tea Party insurgents in primaries this year. Some of those new faces — Christine O’Donnell in the Delaware Senate race, Mike Lee in Utah, Joe Miller in Alaska, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin (running against Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat) and Rand Paul in Kentucky — could become the new face of the Republican Party.

Then there’s New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who has garnered significant Tea Party support.

A new Sienna College poll shows Democratic nominee New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo with a huge lead among Jewish voters in a race in which some experts predicted a move of disaffected Democrats to the GOP column (see story on page 1).

Moreover, the poll revealed an unusual degree of certainty among the Jews supporting Cuomo — another possible indication of the Jewish Tea Party backlash.

If the Tea Party continues to advance as a force in the GOP, “even many Jews who have moved in the direction of the Republicans will shift back to the Democrats,” said Colby College’s Maisel.

“When I worked on reaching out to Jews in Florida during the 2008 [Obama] campaign, the single most effective communications strategy we had was talking to people about Sarah Palin,” said Mik Moore, public policy director for the Jewish Funds for Justice (and a Jewish Week board member). “She represented everything Jewish voters don’t like in terms of her qualifications for the job, her anti-intellectualism, her railing against ‘coastal elites’ as not being real Americans. And she is now widely seen as one of the leaders of the Tea Party.”

Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said in a Jewish Week interview that he admitted concern and confusion about the seething forces affecting Republican politics.

“This is all happening in real time; we’re all trying to understand this phenomenon as we go along.”

But in the end, he said, Democrats who are “using this as a wedge issue to scare folks” will fail.

“Even in the Jewish community, there’s a lot of angst out there about the unbelievable explosion of the debt and the deficit, about how we’re mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s futures.”

While conceding that some Tea Party Republicans will get little Jewish support, he denied that that the insurgent movement will cut into Jewish Republican votes except in a few instances — including the Delaware and Kentucky Senate races where the RJC has taken the unusual step of refusing to endorse Tea Party-affiliated GOP nominees who he said are “clearly out of the mainstream.”

But other GOP contenders, including Florida Republican gubernatorial nominee Marco Rubio, will “do very well with Jewish voters.”

Other Jewish Republicans say that in the long term, the Tea Party trend could help Jewish GOP outreach by diminishing the clout of the party’s Christian conservatives, traditionally a factor causing some Jewish voters to balk, and emphasizing the economic and fiscal issues.

Still, there’s an easily detectable current of unease running through the GOP establishment as the party tries to ride the political bucking bronco without getting thrown to the ground.

“Is there a chance Jewish voters will go out of their way to support Tea Party candidates? Not a chance in the world,” said GOP Jewish activist Fred Zeidman. “But I hope they will look at the individual races, at the opponents, and make decisions based on the issues. But it is a concern.”

Last Update:

10/11/2010 - 13:40

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Jewish Republicans SHOULD be worried about Tea Partiers and so should we all. This business about "big government" is absurd considerig the Bush years which completely blew away all the gains we'd made under Clinton. The lack of compassion concerning those in need, especially regarding health care, is appalling. Associations with white supremacists, anti-science elements, people who don't believe in conservation - groups who'd applaud while a neighbor's house burned down with his animals inside - believe me Jews should be very careful about the Right. And so should the rest of America including rational Republicans who care about our national values. Glen Beck actually tried to justify the aforementioned catastrophe in Tennessee; another demagogue tried to justify it as "Christian." This "small government" nonsense only goes so far. Obama has mishandled the Arab/Israeli situation, true. That doesn't make him an antisemite nor does he appear in any way to be hostile to Israel - Nixon was hostile both to Jews and to Israel, or maybe we have forgotten? Bush I forced Israel to eat SCUD missiles. The Reagan Administration was reportedly furious about the attack on the Iraqi reactor. Part of the awfulness of the Tea Party invective has to do with Obama's identity and this in and of itself should scare Jews period. It should also scare Republicans who haven't yet lost their minds or their moral compass.
There is no evidence that the Tea Party is driven by issues with Obama's identity. Nonsense repeated thousands of times is still nonsense. Don't parrot nonsense. Think for yourself.
I am a Long Islander, an 2nd generation Italian American, business man, professional, and have far more years of education than James Besser. As a Long Islander, like my parents before me from Brooklyn, 1/2 of everything in my life is a composite of jewish culture, thought and attitudes. From my childhood to this day, 1/2 of my friends, partners, girlfriends, family members, and associations of all kinds are Jewish. As my grandfather used to say Jews and Italians are two peas in a pod. I tell you this simply to hold out myself as expert on American Jews to the extent that the New York Jewish population is representative of the American Jews in general. The answer to the question is Yes. Tthe Tea Party makes the Jews unconfortable, because it is associated with hard line social conservatives of the religious right variety, not the Reagan democrats type. Of course, this is an obvious observation that any Washington correspondent could tell you. It the kind of simplistic thing they talk at correpondence dinner amongst themselves. However as a Long Islander, we have tea partiers but no political religious right in our neck of the wood. On Long Island, an issue like abortion consists of 4 seniors, 2 on one side of the street and 2 on the other, holding up signs yelling at each other, while 1/2 million people drive by in their cars, thinking seniors have too much time on their hands. No, the Long Island tea partiers are at worse, or best depending on your point of view, Reagan Democrats, but more likely liberterian constitutional types. If they have strong religious views on abortion, they will be the first ones to defend the individuals right to burn in hell. Given this, we find a more complex relationship between tea party people and the Jewish mindset. One that has nothing really to do with political ideas but really has to do with identity. Remember, we are not talking about progressive or Democratic Jews, but Republican Jews, which exist in my area in sizable numbers. To understand why a Republic Jew is not warm to the tea party, you need to understand who the tea party is? Unlike a Washington Correspondent, I can give you there first names and tell you what house they live in. But without naming names, I will make this very general, on Long Island, you have two ways of working, you either catch the LIRR and commute to the city to work for a large organization, private or municipal, or you work locally on the Island. The tea party people are almost exclusively from the latter group. This means nothing to you outsiders, but to us Islanders it tells alot about your livelihood. Excluding retirees, Tea Party people are either craftsman, professional, or local business owners. Accordingly, you see plumbers, carpenters, builders and other non-union independent workers. From the Jewish perspective, theses trades consist of work "Outsiders" do. People employed in those trades drive the wrong cars, and perform the wrong labor and are just considered different on a unconscious group level. On the other hand, you have local professional & business owners in the tea party. However, there is a little know ethic rivalry going on here that few Jews will not admit too outside of close friends. The lawyers, doctors, and business owners of the tea party tend to be of north European annestry, Irish, German & Anglo. As an Italian- American, I can blend in with both sides and what these two ethic groups say about the other when the other is not around is outrageous. Needless to say, politics is a very personal thing that goes to the basic identity of each of us. For my Jewish friends, this is even more the case. To many of them, Tea Parties are outsiders because they work the wrong job, drive the wrong car, or associated with their ethnic rivals. In the end analysis, whether for better or worse, this is far more important to their political associations than any political ideas. To talk otherwise ,in my opinion is really an excuse to spin for political gain. Of course, I am picking on Jews here becauseit is tht topic of Mr. Besser's article, and I will gladly comment on Republician Greeks, Cubans, etc should he wish to spin an ethic group for a political point of view. Thank you.
Read the Tea Party for what it is....entitled White Christians who can't handle the fact that our President is Black, a Citizen of the USA (Hawaii was a US territory then). They are scared to Hell by about one who does not meet their level of Americanism. They don't care about the Widow, the Orphan, the Stranger. Republican Jews forget that part of the Torah also. Jews should be aware..a Tea Party Hitler is a railroad car ride away.
Anybody who starts calling Obama and Clinton anti-Semites is a joke. Not to be taken seriously. You are to be ignored or sneered at.
Get your head out of your rectal aperture. Not to see what is happening conduces me to conclude either you are stupid or a liar. How could you be so dumb? Obama is pro-Arab and Hillary is an anti-Semite. Refer to the kiss on the check and warm embrace Hillary gave to Arafat's wife while Hillary was first lady to judge whether Hillary is an Arab lover or not. Kissing and embracing Arafat's wife was the same as if Hillary kissed and embraced Eva Braun--Hitler's concubine. You epitomize the self-hating American Jew who is a traitor to Israel and the Jewsih people all because you must remain a sychophant to your Liberal comrades despite the impending danger to the Jewish people and Israel. If you can get your face out of reading a menu and stop a moment from chomping in your feedbag, read some history. The very actions by weak Western European countries allowed Hitler to take the Saar in 1935, the Rhineland in 1936 without any confrontation by the British and the French --who appeased Hitler, and the travesty of Britain and France betraying Czechoslavkia allowing Hitler to aborb Czechoslavakia despite the Czechs willingness to fight Hitler. The Czechs were betrayed by the likes of you and your ilk of 1938 when the cowardly governments of Britain and France ceded Czechoslavkia to Hitler and also failed to confront the Germans prior to 1938 with regard to German land grabs. Appeasement of the Nazi devil and "Peace in Our Time" uttered so naively in 1938 after the betrayal of Czechoslavakia would preclude war in the minds of the craven British and French. That strategy succeeded, right? Britain almost collapsed the French capitulated without a fight, and millions of people were murdered--remember the 6 million Jews? Appeasement of the devil ended up killing over 50 million people in Europe and probably another 7-10 million in Asia starting 12/01/1941. Today's versuib if Britain and France is the USA government today's Czechoslavkia is Israel. Today's appeasers that make excuses for evil are you and your ilk. Seig Heil and Banzi to you. You should be ashamed of yourself for being so uneducated about history and the tenuousness of the Jewish people and the gift from G-D that is Israel.
hecker married an indian woman but does not practice at all. he's milking his loose affiliation with judaism to get positive press in a jewish community he knows will be exceptionally skeptical, even those jewish republicans he's likely targeting.
I am a Conservative Jew. The Tea Party does not scare me. What scares me are all the self-hating American Jews that kiss the behinds of the Democrats and do not have the guts to stand up for what is moral and ethical. The Tea Party represents moral values and the desire for the citizenry to live by the principles of the Constitution. What scares some Jewish people is that the gravy train may end for these moochers in the public sector, which there are too many Jewish people. Oh well, the salary for life pensions could end and people will receive actuarily the correct amount--about 20% of what is now received due to the subsidizyby the public. Well, if the pensions are lost or significantly reduced--TOUGH. If this will be a Tea Party issue--GREAT AND ABOUT TIME! The Jewish people better understand that Israel is in peril by the current anti-Jewish/anti-Israel president and the virulent anti-Semite secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. What scares me is that American Jews, even the conservative ones, are too stupid to grasp that the danger to Jews is with the current presidential regime and the anti-Semite secreatry of state. The Tea Party is the salvation of the USA and will support Israel.
Very funny. I almost soiled myself when I read about the so-called white supremacists, radical anti-[big] government militias and "gay bashing" "nativists". Why leave out other stereotypes: "racists", "restrictionists", "mysogynists"? I watched some of that great gathering in Washington on 10/2. Are we perhaps more attracted to the pro [big] government and anti-American hordes represented by so many socialist, Marxist, communist, Maoist, anarchist, radical environmentalist, "fetus-bashing", open society type organizations supported by the likes of George Soros? Were they the elites?...the uber-intellectuals looking to debate or are they the ones who play the race card, the gender card and numerous other identity cards from their victim's double deck?...anything to shut down open debate. Are we perhaps so busy hating those "tea baggers" with all their constitutional republic speak, their limited government speak, their morals and anti-intellectualism that we're blind to the fundamental transformation and constitution trampling being perpetrated under our noses? While Obama cries "thief" and points with his right hand after a fleeing supposed pickpocket, his left hand is reaching into your pocket and hands off his ill-begotten spoils aka your hard earned money, your property, to his Marxist kleptocrats, to be redistributed to their loyal constituents in the unions and public sector.
It's obvious that your only source of news is Fox. You're such a parrot of their nonsense that you should be on their payroll.
These are only the mid-term elections. But the notion that the Jews should support Obama, who has shown clear anti-Semitic and anti-Israel tendencies and relationships, over the tea party is ludicrous. Basically, this article is one of a long line of scare articles trying to make sure Jews stay loyal to the Democrat party even though the party has been extremely disloyal to the Jewish people and their interests.
You are correct. The problem is that American Jews are politically stupid.
Jews with a traditional background would feel very comfortable with the Tea Party movement if they served the tea in yahrzeit glasses with a nice plate of rugelach

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