If it's an election year, it must be time for my quadrennial column urging Jews to vote Republican. Though I feel a bit like Sisyphus, I'll try not to be a sourpuss.
Here are some of the questions I usually get on this subject:
Everyone knows that Republicans tend to be rich, snobbish and anti-Semitic.
This may have been true 25 or 35 years ago, but no part of that cliche is true today. In the first place, as Karl Zinsmeister has recently noted in The Wall Street Journal, most rich people are now Democrats, not Republicans. (Republicans tend to be the party of the middle class; Democrats the party of the rich and the poor.)
As to snobbery, it's been out of fashion for 50 years. Reverse snobbery tends to be more of a problem. But anti-Semitism has clearly migrated from right to left during the past several decades.
Think of Cynthia McKinney, former congresswoman from Georgia who slurred Jews but nonetheless was supported in her 2002 bid for re-election by Democratic Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Or consider that hero of the Democratic Party Al Sharpton, who rose to fame, in part, on the strength of riot-mongering aimed at whites and Jews.
It is simply impossible to imagine someone like Sharpton being welcomed and celebrated at the Republican National Convention. Further, a recent poll by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco found that more Democrats than Republicans hold anti-Semitic views. Only 12 percent of Republicans agreed that "Jews care only about themselves," while 20 percent of Democrats held that view.
Republicans support Israel only because they think it portends the Second Coming of Jesus
I've always had trouble understanding this objection. I don't think it's true, but even if it were, what's the problem? In fact, Republicans support Israel for many reasons. They tend to support all democracies fighting off non-democratic enemies (Taiwan and South Korea, to name two others). They sympathize with Israel's predicament as a tiny outpost of enlightenment and liberty amid a raging sea of fanaticism and backwardness. They appreciate Israel's loyalty to the United States. Democrats, by contrast, tend to see Israel as the oppressor of the Palestinians -- "a people of color," in the argot of the left -- and therefore as unworthy of support.
It is true that some Protestant Republicans have religious reasons for supporting Israel. They read the Bible literally and believe that the land was given to the Jews by God. Some (though I've never heard this said by any Christian, only by Jews) may further believe that Jewish sovereignty in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming.
Why is that troubling? It ought to be comforting to Jews. After all, would you prefer to have someone on your side because they like you (which can change) or because they believe it is part of G-d's plan for the world to have a Jewish homeland? As for the end times, maybe they're right, and maybe they're wrong. We can leave that part to G-d. For now, Jews should know who their friends are.
There was very little talk of Israel at the Democratic National Convention this year, probably because the delegates are not fond of Israel. The delegates are always to the left of the party regulars, and wherever you find leftists you find hatred for Israel. From college campuses, to some elements in the press, to the anti-globalization movement, to candidate Howard Dean calling Hamas members "soldiers," left-wingers have little love for the Jewish state.
In 2002, when Israel was enduring almost daily suicide attacks on its civilians, it was Majority Leader Tom DeLay who shepherded through a strong congressional resolution expressing solidarity with the people of Israel. On another occasion, when Sen. Mitch McConnell attempted to brand the PLO a terrorist organization, then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blocked it as "counterproductive."
At the Republican Convention, by contrast, Israel was invoked often and affectionately, and each mention was met with rousing ovations.
Finally, Israel has had no better friend in the White House than George W. Bush. It would be a well-deserved expression of appreciation if Jewish votes provided the margin of victory for this best of all friends to Israel.