Over at the Jewish webzine Tablet Magazine, I offer a political obituary for the neo-conservatives, with mixed feelings. In the past I offered two cheers for the neo-cons, recognizing their contribution to the Reagan recovery and the Cold War victory. Sadly “The Jewish conservatives and ‘nation builders’ who led us into Iraq and Afghanistan bet the farm against Donald Trump, and lost. ”
Here is the introduction:
Israeli leaders of all major parties warn of two existential threats to Israel: a U.N. resolution forcing Israel back to the 1967 armistice line, and a nuclear-armed Iran. With Donald Trump’s election both threats have receded into the distance, and the State of Israel is more secure than it has been in its history. Yet American Jews, at least the majority of politically active Jews of high public profile, are miserable. America’s best-known Jewish conservatives—the “neocons”—have burnt their bridges to the incoming administration. It is one of the strangest, and silliest, episodes in Jewish political history.
An estimated 30 percent of American Jews voted for Trump, the highest Jewish vote for a Republican since 1988. Among religious Jews, anecdotal evidence suggests, support for Trump was overwhelming. But most Jewish Republican leaders backed Hillary Clinton or minor candidates in the general election while opposing Trump in terms that often climbed the walls of hysteria.
“Jews to this day continue to combine an almost pathologically intense concern for politics with a seemingly equally intense inclination toward political foolishness, often crossing over into the realm of the politically suicidal,” wrote the late Irving Kristol, the original neoconservative. His son Bill Kristol proved the Jewish proclivity for political hara-kiri remains undiminished in his generation by doing everything he could to prevent the election of Donald Trump—along with such high-profile Jewish conservatives as pundit Charles Krauthammer and Commentary Editor John Podhoretz. In the end, Kristol destroyed his own career. On Dec. 12 he resigned as editor of The Weekly Standard, the political journal he founded 20 years ago.
A Leninist mood of revolutionary defeatism swept the neoconservative wing of the Republican Party before the November election. Trump would “reenact Thelma and Louise’s visit to the bottom of a ravine,” as a National Review pundit predicted, and its intellectual elite would rebuild the party on the ruins of a discredited populism. In comfortable and well-funded opposition, the mandarins of mainstream Republicanism—The Weekly Standard, the American Enterprise Institute, Commentary , the National Review and so forth—would prepare a Republican comeback in 2020 or 2024, or whenever. The important thing is that they would be in charge of whatever was left and would still get their foundation grants.
Read the whole essay here.