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Jewish World Review
July 7, 2005
/ 30 Sivan, 5765
Jewish Dems: Last Chance to Save Your Party
Moderates must unite
The Democratic Party in the 1960s had two faces. One was the face of the idealistic liberal; the other the segregationist bosses who ran the "solid South." Woodrow Wilson, passionate idealist and vicious racist and segregationist, was the last leader to incarnate both aspects of the Party; it was up to FDR to forge an alliance between these groups which hard-faced men like Mayor Richard J. Daley kept together into the 1960s.
Not until the the tumultuous 1968 Democratic convention did the party finally and conclusively rise up against its own segregationists. Northern liberals and machine politicians alike supported the "freedom delegations" challenged the southern establishment seated them in their place. The Northern liberal wing of the party seized the moment and black voters have been solidly cemented to the Democratic Party ever since.
That party is now facing a similarly grave moment and the soul of the Democratic Party is once again at stake. This time the issue isn't desegregation and racism against blacks, but how the party perceives America's role in the world and racism against Jews. Do Democrats support the President's efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East or will are they content to retreat from that region leaving it to tyranny and terrorism? At home, the Democratic constituency that is at stake is the party's other ethnic cornerstone, Jewish Americans.
The loyalty of Jewish Democrats becomes increasingly eccentric as the the left wing of the Democratic Party, following the lead of left-of-center parties in Europe, has become the natural home of political anti-Semitism. Opposition to Bush's strategic aims more often than not today goes hand in hand with accusations against Israel and its supporters.
Of course, I hasten to add, It is "ok" to be "against" Israel. But when you are against Israel for specific reasons, and those reasons are either fictitious, or apply to other countries that you do not denounce because the inhabitants of those countries are not Jewish, and when your remedies for the evils you perceive involve the destruction not just of a regime but of a country then your opposition is anti-Semitic. And this is the case with the Democratic left. There, opposition to the State of Israel among House and Senate staffers, in the State Department, and in the mainstream Protestant churches is based precisely on this kind of anti-Semitism.
The Democratic Party's left has fixed its litany, much of it borrowed from the universities and the voices of the European left-wing elite. It runs thus: Sharon is a bloodthirsty tyrant, the Jew lobby and the Jew-owned media have too much influence, Israel is the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Blood libels, like Chris Hedges' assertion that the IDF kills Arab children for sport and that there was a massacre in Jenin, have become accepted truth, just as commonly believed as the blood libels of the European Middle Ages. The leftist consensus is that the U.S. must cease allowing Israel to dictate its foreign policy, and Israel as a state may need to be sacrificed. Both of these assertions are false, through and through but they provide rallying points for the Democratic Party's foreign policy-in-waiting.
The leaders of the three key states in which success depends upon not losing the Jewish vote, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, reacted with fury to remarks by the president's strategist Karl Rove last week. Poor Mr. Rove never compared any liberals to Nazi death camp guards or Hitler he merely and accurately described the distinction between the president's reaction to 9/11 and the policies prescribed by many liberals. The senators' fury was not at Mr. Rove's mild rhetoric but at his exposure of their morally precarious position within a Democratic Party whose vanguard despises them, Israel, and the U.S. war against terror.
The fact is that the Democratic Party is teetering on the brink of becoming an anti-Israel party and from there it is a short step to becoming the anti-Jewish party. But thanks to the timidity of American Jews, the six senators from the tri-state area are desperately fighting the wrong enemy. They don't trouble to keep this from happening to their Party. They are concerned instead to obscure not to confront the ongoing takeover of their party by anti-Semitic anti-Israel forces. If the six tri-state senators wait too long to exert their influence inside their party, they will become political anachronisms unable to influence anything. And Jewish voters within the Democratic Party will be, perhaps after 2006, and certainly after 2008, unnecessary to the Party's plan.
There is still time though, for Jewish voters, in those three bluest of blue states, to force their elected representatives to put a spike in the far-left anti-Semitic takeover of their party, before it actually happens. They have the power to demand that politicians in the blue-state Northeast must show the courage of Hubert Humphrey in the 1940s and the Kennedys in the 1960s: they must confront the truth rather than denying it. The stakes are extremely grave and not merely for the future of a political party that once welcomed free and democratic ideals.
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Sam Schulman Archives
JWR contributor Sam Schulman, a New York writer, is formerly publisher of Wigwag and a professor of English at Boston University. You may contact him by clicking here.
© 2005, Sam Schulman