Back in 2005 Adam Bellow wrote “My Escape From The Zabar’s Left” in New York magazine (long a bastion for the Zabar’s Left, of course):
I grew up on the Upper West Side as a card-carrying member of what I call the Zabar’s Left—a state of mind that assumes unquestioning agreement with its views and is completely blind to its own prejudices. The son of a famous writer, I attended an exclusive private school along with the children of other distinguished people: writers and actors, musicians, politicians, art dealers, and editors of the New York Times. My classmates and I were the younger brothers and sisters of the sixties generation. We marched against the war, campaigned for Lindsay, and smoked dope in Central Park. Politics was everywhere, but in a sense there were no politics, because everyone I knew agreed about everything.
The first blow to my unconscious liberalism came after college, when I worked as a copyboy at the New York Daily News. The News was a bastion of outer-borough Irish, Italian, and East European ethnicity—the paper of Archie Bunker. While the retrograde attitudes on display there frequently shocked and offended the Upper West Sider in me, I couldn’t help but admire the pressmen’s unvarnished humanity. I learned that in the real world you had to take people as they were, not as you thought they should be. The experience also made me see how much of my own liberalism was a narrow tribal outlook largely founded on class prejudice.
My education in liberal parochialism continued during the Reagan years. Reagan’s election in 1980 was a seismic shock to liberals, and for a long time I shared the prevailing view that the president was a dolt and a simpleton. But I found the vituperation directed at him excessive and off-putting. Besides, I shared his anti-communism and approved of his opposition to Soviet moves in Central America.
Although I had grown up in the liberal counterculture, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the way that it was hardening into a rigid and intolerant orthodoxy. I resented the fact that there were ideas you couldn’t discuss and opinions that were considered immoral. Nor did I share the existential panic of most liberals over the emergence of conservative Christians as a political force.
Finally, in 1987, Allan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom was a friend of my father’s, and I had spent the previous year at the University of Chicago taking courses with him on Plato, Machiavelli, and Rousseau. Bloom’s attack on relativism and multiculturalism and his defense of the Great Books were bitterly condemned as racist, sexist, Eurocentric, and elitist. Many who denounced the book clearly had not bothered to read it, relying instead on hostile reviews that distorted it beyond recognition. This was a fatal blow to my esteem for the Zabar’s Left. For an earlier generation, it was the excesses of the antiwar and Free Speech movements that had pushed them into the conservative camp. For me, it was the intellectual dishonesty of the debate about Bloom’s book.
Flashforward to 2010; Roger L. Simon writes that others may be joining him: “Break Out The Borscht: Jewish Tea Parties Coming?”
They said it would never happen. They said it couldn’t be done. But Jews — who have cleaved to the Democratic Party with a ferocity unknown to man or Icelandic volcano since the signing of the Magna Carta or the inauguration of FDR, whichever came first — are slowly (inexorably?) beginning to drift away from Barack Obama.
According to a poll published this week by McClaughlin & Associates, 46 percent of Jewish voters would prefer someone else than Obama in the presidency, compared to 42 percent who would re-elect him. That’s only a meagre four percent separation, but that number is stunning considering Obama got 78 percent of the Jewish vote in November. That’s a difference of 32 percent between now and then. Has there been another voting block with that large a swing? There may have been, but I doubt it. Something is clearly going on here.
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The Congress (the majority Democrats, as we know) is worried about the Administration’s behavior. They’ve probably been reading this poll too and don’t want to be dragged down with their leader. And, yes, I imagine it’s likely the Administration will walk back on this at some point and make nice with the Israelis, possibly even with the reviled Netanyahu. But the “dye” has been cast. We have seen it. Some of it is indelible.
So regarding my headline, does this switch — big, little, permanent or not — mean that Jewish Tea Parties are coming? I’m not sure, but I will say this. When your mind opens one way, it opens other ways. That happened to me. When I became upset with the Democratic Party for its weakness on the War on Terror, I began to see that the Republicans had a point when it came to fiscal responsibility (not that they adhered to it.). The same process may be occurring here — or soon will be. A lot of intelligent American citizens are waking up right now. Don’t hold it against Jews that a lot of them have college educations, some from fancy institutions. That doesn’t completely blind you.
So maybe there will be Jewish Tea Parties. And if there are, you can count me in. I’ll even bring the borscht. I think I can still find my grandmother’s recipe.