It’s time for Jewish Democrats to ditch the hard left

Obsequious groveling to please progressives comes with a huge cost. Continue to empower them, let them set your agenda and fashion your policies, and you will lose more elections.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during a Women's Unity Rally at Foley Square attended by hundreds of people. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during a Women's Unity Rally at Foley Square attended by hundreds of people. Credit: Lev Radin/Shutterstock.
Thane Rosenbaum. Credit: Courtesy.
Thane Rosenbaum
Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro University, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. His most recent book is “Saving Free Speech ... From Itself.”

The recent gubernatorial election in Virginia, with its upset win by a Republican upstart against a pillar of the Democratic establishment, is being discussed as a harbinger of election cycles to come. 

Don’t bet on it.

Yes, Virginians sent a message to the Democratic Party: Obsequious groveling to please progressives comes with a huge cost. Continue to empower them, let them set your agenda and fashion your policies, and you will lose more elections. And there’s a message for Jewish voters, too: It’s time to vote your own parochial interests, ditch the hard left and insist that elected officials speak as Jews and for Jews. 

Democrats could start by taking back their party from “The Squad.” The four female Representatives didn’t adopt a military name for nothing. The intention was always to start wars, take hostages and Occupy Wall Street—not the progressive movement, but an actual occupation. And they have been banking on the obtuse acquiescence of party leaders all along. 

What we learned in Virginia and in other local races where seats were flipped or where blue-state Democrats barely escaped losses is that the culture war, social policies, spending habits, invisible borders and, perhaps most of all, the America-bashing educational curriculum of progressives is completely incompatible with how most Americans feel about their country.

And isn’t that the point: Democratic Socialists are wielding disproportionate power in Joe Biden’s presidency? Candidate Biden presented himself as a sure-handed moderate and national unifier. Yet, from the very first days of his administration, he signaled a leftward lurch from the center. “Green New Deal,” “Build Back Better,” “Systemic Racism,” “White Supremacy”—all penetrated the national discourse, and none relied on the vocabulary of a political moderate. 

Progressives were rewarded for helping secure Biden’s victory. Black Lives Matter blanketed the Democratic Party. And the president, perhaps owing to his advanced age, demonstrated that he possessed neither the muscle nor mettle to hold progressives back. Some predicted such a turn of events, but the desire to see Donald Trump leave the White House overcame any fear of what may have been waiting in the wings of the West Wing.

Imagine if Rev. Jesse Jackson had hijacked the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton, possessing outsized influence in setting the economic and cultural agenda of the United States during the Clinton presidency.

That’s what’s happening now. This recent election is either a serious backlash or a mere blip—an aberration owing to the eruption at the Loudoun County School Board meeting. Suddenly, across the country, parents began to question the racial determinism of what their children are being taught in school—a curriculum predicated on deprogramming children of a race-neutral, equal opportunity, merit-based, liberal-minded view of America. 

Have we had enough of the nonsense? Do we not realize that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is seated in Congress only because she resides in a diversity-rich district of millennials, Twitter-users, woke-warriors, climate-worriers, statue-topplers and law-and-order skeptics? A perfect electoral storm brought her to Washington, but it was in no way a bellwether of larger American attitudes. 

Immediately after the election, Democratic leaders reassured the party that the economic overhaul will continue. And it would coincide with the larger culture war played out in our politics and schools. Democrats believe they are better educated than Republicans. Perhaps. But it doesn’t make them smarter. Among Democrats, there is a long history of slavish loyalties, tired tropes and repetitions made out of habit.

For instance, Jews are known for their commitment to education. And yet the leaders of the grassroots movement to undo the teachings of critical race theory do not appear to be especially represented by Jews. Is that because they all agree that America is a racist nation?

Exit polls in Virginia indicate only a modest increase in Jewish voters abandoning the Democratic Party. Since the days of FDR, the party can always depend on, if not altogether take for granted, Jewish support. Not rising inflation, supply chain failures, southern border laxity, a forsaken Afghanistan, rising anti-Jewish bigotry, or the impending revival of the Iran Deal will apparently change the composition of the Jewish vote.

If Democrats aren’t selling it, then a majority of Jewish Americans aren’t buying it. After all, it’s not like Republicans, even Jewish ones, aren’t trying to make a sale.

Perhaps all the talk about white privilege has convinced Jews that they are not entitled to ask for anything. They must step aside in shame. Check their privilege and keep their mouths shut. No longer are they a distinct group of Americans with concerns vital and unique to their community. The “inclusiveness” of this moment, tellingly, does not include Jews. 

And matters are made worse when Jewish elected officials are too timid to sound the alarm on behalf of their people. Jews beaten on the streets of New York, Los Angeles and Miami after Israel’s last Gaza war. Jewish students intimidated and silenced on college campuses. The ceaseless blood libeling of Israel. Calls to defund America’s support for the Iron Dome. BDS talk that escalated from whispers to a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream boycott in the West Bank.

Where’s the Jewish leadership on these issues? Why isn’t there a Jewish “Squad”—a group of governmental leaders unafraid to stand in solidarity with their tribe, unified against antisemitism in its various modern guises.

Jewish officials never fail to join a Black Lives Matter protest. But would they cross the street to embrace a beleaguered, bullied Jew?

What to call a Jewish counterpart to “The Squad”? The Chosen Squadron. Bagel Brigade. G.I. Jews. It only matters that some auxiliary force exists, comprising Jewish leaders willing to openly defend Jews. The grim obstacle to any such enlistment, however, is that anti-Semitism is not, for the time being, a progressive priority. Until that changes, they will want little part in protecting Jews.

Recently, five members of Congress called upon cable television providers to offer more Jewish-themed programming. The idea is to expose Americans to a distinct minority that is not merely “white-adjacent.” The prejudice against Jews happens to predate all other bigotries. Even today, despite all their success and presumed privileges, they are the targets of more hate crimes, by wide margins, than any other group.

And the five legislators behind this initiative to combat anti-Semitism? Only two are Jewish. And none of them have the last names: Schumer, Nadler, Feinstein, Schiff, Raskin, Cardin, Ossoff, Rosen, Blumenthal and Sanders.

Thane Rosenbaum is a novelist, essayist, law professor and Distinguished University Professor at Touro College, where he directs the Forum on Life, Culture & Society. His latest work, “Saving Free Speech … from Itself,” was just published. He can be reached via his website.

This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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