Election 2016: What’s a Jew to do?Election 2016: What’s a Jew to do?
by Donald Harrison
SAN DIEGO — Let’s imagine that you grew up in a liberal, self-identifying Jewish family. You’re pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-immigration, pro-diversity, and pro-Israel.
On the first four counts, it would seem, you are closely aligned with Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
But on the fifth count, Israel, you find that the leading Republican candidates—Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush–are far more attuned to your position than the Democrats.
So what do you do? How will you vote?
That’s the question facing many Jewish voters. And the answer likely will depend on whether the Jewish electorate perceives Israel to be facing an existential threat or whether it believes that come Democrat or Republican, Israel will be able to take care of itself.
If Jewish voters perceive Israel to be facing an existential threat – as it did in 1967 and 1973 – then I believe that many will reason that none of the other aforementioned domestic issues—not abortion rights, gay rights, immigration nor diversity–rise to the level of immediate emergency.
In such an event, I think that self-identifying Jewish voters, with images of the Holocaust giving them nightmares, would swallow hard and vote for a Republican – unless Democrats, recognizing the seriousness of the emergency, gave their heartfelt pledge of full support to the beleaguered Jewish State.
If these Jews did vote for a Republican for President, I believe they would simultaneously vote for Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives in order to safeguard what progress has been made on liberal domestic issues.
On the other hand, if Jewish voters believe that no matter who is in the White House that Israel will be safe, then I imagine that the overwhelming majority of them will follow their accustomed pattern of voting for a Democrat for President.
But which Democrat? Now there’s the rub.
Although the younger generation is enamored with Bernie Sanders, some of his fellow Jews are wary of him. Notwithstanding the fact that he spent some time during his youth on a kibbutz, Sanders seems to have distanced himself from present-day Israel. He was one of the senators who refused to even be in the chamber when Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu spoke to a joint session of Congress about the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran. And except for some shtick on Saturday Night Live with comedian Larry David, Sanders seems to deemphasize, even minimize, his connection to the Jewish people.
The fact that he is a Socialist seems far more important to Sanders than that he is a Jew.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton served as Secretary of State in President Obama’s first administration and in her four years as the President’s chief foreign policy maker, relations between the U.S. and Israel went from bad to worse. Of course, her supporters could argue that she was only carrying out the President’s orders, but her occasional outbursts against Israel seemed to reflect her own deeply held feelings as well as those of the President.
For many liberal, self-identified Jews, this election represents a no-win choice – a candidate with whom they disagree on Israel, or a candidate with whom they disagree on domestic political issues.
No wonder that so many Jews hope that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will get into the race!
Harrison is editor of San Diego Jewish World. He may be contacted via [email protected] This article is reprinted from San Diego Jewish World which, along with The Moderate Voice, is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.