Republicans Court Jewish with Little Success

By Sam Uretsky

It’s on the record, nobody likes the Jews more than the Republican presidential contenders, as long as it’s at a distance of 5,675 miles. On Dec. 7, the main Republican candidates for the nomination met with the Republican Jewish Coalition. The RJC states, in its Mission Statement, “We work to sensitize Republican leadership in government and the party to the concerns and issues of the Jewish community, while articulating and advocating Republican ideas and policies within the Jewish community.”

So far, the presidential candidates have made it clear that they are foursquare in their support for the State of Israel. After that, the opinions of Republicans and Jews veer off. Even so, the Republicans are interested in this group, in part because the safety of Israel is important to the Evangelical Christians who have a key role in the Iowa and South Carolina primaries, and because a Republican won the House seat vacated by Anthony Weiner.

That seat, representing New York’s Ninth Congressional District, is home to a large concentration of Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews.

This may have given some Republicans the notion that the Jewish vote might be in play. Although Jews represent a small minority of the overall electorate, the group has a high voter turnout and high voter concentrations in Pennsylvania and Florida, which are likely to be important in the general election.

It never occurs to Republican Jews that the interest in Israel may focus on Deuteronomy 30:3 (KJ): “That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.” The challenge to the Republican candidates is that, overall, Jewish voters are extremely secular, and in 2008, according to exit polls, went 80% for President Obama. Even when President Obama’s approval rating dropped to 41% nationally, he maintained a 54% approval among Jews. David Harris, chief executive of the National Jewish Democratic Council. said of the Republicans, “They can’t talk about the environment. They can’t talk about separation of church and state. And the American Jewish community is the most pro-choice demographic that you can design in America today, so they can’t talk about that.”

If the election of 2010 was primarily about the economy and liberal disillusionment with the President, even if the economy doesn’t recover sufficiently, the 2012 election may be determined by the lesser of two evils, and the Republican rush to stake out the far right for the benefit of the Iowa caucuses. Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have risen to a point where, if they hold, he is statistically likely to win reelection. This bump has been variously attributed to the Republicans blocking the reduction in payroll taxes and the signs of economic improvement, but may also reflect concerns about the Republican field of candidates.

Newt Gingrich may have come up with the most quotable phrase of the campaign by accusing the Democrats of wanting to impose a secular-socialist state. The quote, as given by, is: “I have two grandchildren — Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

While Jewish voters are strongly protective of reproductive rights, it has been estimated that as many as 98% of Catholic women use some form of hormonal birth control. This type of contraception would have been a felony had the Mississippi Personhood Amendment passed.

Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have signed the Personhood Pledge:

“I ____________ proclaim that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and is endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to life.” These secular concerns may have already united Catholics and Jews, at least in the privacy of the voting booth.

Prof. Gingrich, historian, never mentions that the Tudors, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Jane Grey (optional), Mary I and Elizabeth I alternated Catholic and Protestant, and burned anyone who disagreed with them. That may have been the basis for separation of church and state. Lest we forget, lest we forget.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living on Long Island, N.Y. Email

From The Progressive Populist, February 1, 2012

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