Why Do Most Jews Stay with Obama?
It was implausible to me that Barack Obama never knew Rev. Jeremiah Wright hated Jews. At best, Obama made a deal with this anti-Semitic racist, who helped Obama launch his political career.
Still, back in 2008, Jews -- displaying the cognitive dissonance of a captive Democratic voter bloc -- gave Obama the benefit of the doubt for the same reason most Jews continue to support him: he’s (half) black. Jews favor underdogs and victims (though really, Obama is neither).
As many Jews assimilated into America over the last century, some downplayed their Jewish identity -- changing names, intermarrying and, most of all, converting… to the secular religion of liberalism. Although Jews became leaders in the civil rights movement, black anti-Semitism persists; leftist Jews don’t see to care that the Congressional Black Caucus is largely anti-Israel, as was the last Democratic National Convention.
There is a double standard. Obama’s first foreign policy act was his “apology tour” to the Arab world. Obama then favored the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and opposed its moderate successor government. Secretary of State John Kerry similarly snubbed moderate Arabs countries and bypassed the Palestinian Authority to curry favor with Hamas. Imagine if Secretary of State Jim Baker had done the same thing during George H.W. Bush's presidency.
Following World War II, the myth had persisted among Jews that FDR was a bold leader who helped save Jews, when, in fact, he was a feckless polemicist who was indifferent to the Holocaust. Republican Sen. Robert Taft’s principled opposition to the ex post facto Nuremberg trials was misinterpreted. That same older generation of Jews also thanked Democrat Harry Truman in 1948 for recognizing Israel and faulted Republican Dwight Eisenhower for pressuring Israel during the 1956 Suez crisis.
To this day, few Jews recognize that at Israel’s greatest time of existential threat -- the 1973 surprise attack known as the Yom Kippur War -- Republican Richard Nixon saved Israel: his friend, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir called in the middle of the night; Nixon unilaterally overruled the Pentagon to airlift massive military supplies to our beleaguered ally.
More background -- the Holocaust itself had produced a postwar disaffection among Jewish baby-boomers who were raised by parents in permanent recovery mode. These Jews, now middle-aged and older, tacitly rebelled against Judaism; how could God permit the extermination of millions of their pious ancestors? At the risk of irreverence, I would suggest that Jews in Europe should have been less trusting and better armed, and maybe God now wants American Jews to support the Second Amendment and oppose gun control.
Jews have long been seduced into generational mythology. It’s true that many European Christians hated Jews and collaborated with the Gestapo, as did many Polish Catholics, and the Polish government which oppressed Jews. But the Christian tradition in America is different, and also Catholics here are not hostile to Jews. Given the support for Israel among evangelical Christians, conservatives still cannot understand how “prayer in schools” sent alarm bells to some Jews who irrationally saw the slippery slope of a theocracy.
Also, how convenient for liberal Jews to forget that Nazis were national socialists who defamed the free market as Jew-profiteering and that Mussolini’s fascism was a corporatist state, much like what Obama envisions with his crony capitalism. In fact, the European “far right” and American conservatism are mutually exclusive. Indeed, a free market economy in a pluralistic society is uniquely hospitable to Jews, but many Jews, despite the Jewish roots of Ludwig von Mises, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman and an array of Jewish free market economists, do not yet get it.
In the last generation or two, many younger, alienated Jews, raised in post-Holocaust cynicism and ignorant of Mideast history, have fallen victim to the propaganda that Zionists are colonialists and racists who unjustly occupy Palestinian territory. At some point, hopefully not too late, they will learn that Islamists (as the Nazis did) want to kill all Jews, even politically correct Jews who are Israel-bashers. The silver lining is that perhaps the attacks on Jews in Europe will awaken Jews here to their heritage and its political derivative, American conservatism. After all, many of the major American figures in libertarian philosophy and the conservative movement were Jewish.
But for now, many “Jews” attend the Progressive Church, or they remain atheists, agnostics or religiously unobservant. Indeed, compared to others, Jews have the lowest affiliation or attendance rate with a house of worship. Generally, the more orthodox (religiously observant) a Jew, the more likely he is a conservative or a Republican. While the ranks of orthodox Jewry grow, they remain very small.
I would more likely find support for Israel today in an evangelical Christian church than in a reform (politically liberal, nontraditional) synagogue, which is preoccupied with trendy causes. Even worse is the most leftist “reconstructionist” shul, where a heroic figure in the congregation likely would be a teachers' union leader who, after several abortions, outed herself as a lesbian and, with her Latina partner, works with “people of color” lobbying for the fourth generation of perennial Palestinian refugees and, in her spare time, fights the NRA.
Liberalism, discredited, is now repackaged as progressivism. America historically and uniquely has enfranchised liberty and opportunity for Jews; yet, many Jews -- seemingly inexplicably -- reject American exceptionalism in favor of Obama transforming our nation into an egalitarian bore, an economy lacking organic growth. So Obama’s plunge into mediocrity with mandated income redistribution is a good fit, especially for Jews who feel guilty about their own material success.
But if we continue to degenerate into a secular Europe, devoid of values and hostile to Jews, will American Jews finally realize Obama’s dream is their nightmare? Even in the totalitarian Soviet Union, Jews who never thought of themselves as Jews asserted their identity when the communists, after the 1967 6-Day War, targeted “Zionists” and outlawed Hebrew as a political language.
For too many young American Jews, Israel’s founding is ancient history. It seems all-powerful. Obama’s statement last week that he “does not worry about Israel’s survival” was more than a Freudian slip. It lent credence to the apathy among young Jews. Iron Dome seems to confirm Israel’s invulnerability, so why worry about Israel, or probe the origins and implications of Obama’s bumbling?
It is disheartening to me that Israel is unimportant to many Jewish university graduates in the last decade or two. With Israel, as with the world, these relatively younger Jews have no institutional memory and a scant knowledge of history. After all, like the rest of America’s college students, they often are indoctrinated by leftist professors who hate America and its allies, especially Israel. A counter-trend: Sheldon Adelson and other Jewish philanthropists fund Birthright, which pays for American Jews under age 25 to visit Israel. My talks with these young adults suggest they come back both pro-Israel and pro-American.
Liberalism/progressivism repudiates Judaism, because it rejects the permanent things, especially tradition and prudence and, most of all, the ordered liberty that posits this: an individual must be free to choose virtue, not coerced into it by government. “Tikkun Olam” (Hebrew for “repairing the world) has become the Jewish equivalent of the humanism of the National Council of Churches or the liberation theology of activist Catholics. Simply put, the political Jews, like the political Protestants and political Catholics, see social justice as defining not the relations between man and man, but between man and government.
In other words, many leftist Jews who do attend synagogue are like many leftist Christians who attend church. They repudiate religious teachings that urge “you” to pursue a virtuous life. Instead, they want government to do it all. And that’s why many of them are sticking with Barack Obama.