(April 3, 2019 / JNS) The Democratic Party has an anti-Semitism problem.
Newly minted congresswomen and seasoned veterans seem to be vying for the title of most anti-Israel politician in recent memory. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar has accused American Jews of dual loyalty and Israel of hypnotizing the world. Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib has contributed to Louis Farrakhan’s magazine, perhaps the most prolific American anti-Semite of the past century. A close supporter and fundraiser of Tlaib promoted the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews are not indigenous to Israel. Leading Democratic presidential hopefuls—Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke—publicly announced a boycott of AIPAC, seemingly an appropriate nod to Omar’s earlier comments that Jews buy and sell politics.
And yet, despite such revelations American Jews will remain steadfastly Democratic.
In fact, other low points throughout the previous century of the Democrat-Jewish relationship—for instance, the Klu Klux Klan’s close alignment in the 1920s and Jimmy Carter’s presidency—failed to sunder the two. The latter grabbed the most Jewish votes in 1980 despite his alienating posture towards Israel. Jewish liberal social views and educational attainment rates have long ensured that the community disproportionately fell Democratic. Research by the Mellman Group in 2018 found that 68 percent of American Jews identify as Democrat compared to 25 percent Republican. Moreover, close to three-quarters of American Jews intended to vote Democrat for upcoming congressional and presidential elections. Such findings are re-iterated in 2016 Pew polling 2016 showing that Democrats maintained a wide margin over Republicans when it came to Jewish support.
As such, following anti-Semitic accusations roiling the Democrats, Trump’s invocation for a “Jexodus,” or a Jewish exodus from the party, was met with scorn. “Jexodus is a GOP fantasy,” a Washington Post op-ed proclaimed. An author at Vox asserted: “It’s not happening, but it’s fun to pretend.”
And, they are right. Israel and anti-Semitism does not ostensibly animate Democratic American Jews much anymore. Simply look to the ongoing anti-Semitic problems within the Women’s March. In response to Farrakhan’s warn reception among the March’s founders Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour, Rachel Sklar argued on CNN, “I’m white, Jewish and going to the Women’s March.” Despite acknowledging the deep treads of hatred among the senior leadership, Sklar points to the March’s value for Latino, Native American and black women. Such thinking calls to mind the inverse of Ruth Bader Ginsburg famous invocation for sexual equality by requesting, “All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.” Increasingly, Democratic Jews favor the foot on their necks, particularly as a sign of self-abnegation, of remorse for their success. For some reason, Skylar and her ilk support every minority group in the country apart for the one they belong to. More importantly, the principle of reciprocity it utterly absent from their calculus. How many Latinos, blacks and First Nations have stood by the Jews in our time of crisis?
Unlike in the United Kingdom, where British Jewish politicians have abandoned the Labour Party following its anti-Semitic descent, American Jewry remains in lockstep to the Democratic Party. Accordingly, what incentive does the Democratic Party have to truly reform? Beyond bipartisan resolutions, such as the recent one condemning anti-Semitism alongside anti-Muslim bigotry, little will be done. The resolution was so diluted that even its chief inspiration, Ilhan Omar, claimed victory following its passage.
For all the professed contrition and apologetics many Democrats have expressed, there is no inducement for them to pander beyond theatrics. American Jews are a reliable community that turn out solidly blue, and the anti-Semitism issue is not enough to push them off their rocker of Democratic dependence.
By comparison, Trump’s strong record on Israel and Jews has failed to sway many. Such findings comport with polling by J Street showing that only 4 percent of American Jews ranked Israel as a top-two voting issue. Or, that Israel ranked 12th on American Jewish voting lists out of 14 (Iran came last). Health care, social security and gun violence comfortably outstripped considerations for Israel. The unwavering American Jewish Democratic is nothing new. However, the recent anti-Semitic controversies are a gauge as to how truly disconnected, and how willing to tolerate Jew-hatred, they have become.
American Jews have become model citizens. Their Jewishness exists on the plane of repentance. The extent of their Jewishness and connection with issues that have historically animated the Jewish people are tenuous at best. Older generations who had lived through the Holocaust and Israel’s establishment chided others: “My country, my people, right or wrong.” Regardless of one’s conviction about blind support, at least such sentiment came from a place of love and belonging. Today, for many American Jews, it is: “My party, right or wrong.” Care for their community and Jewish identity is now secondary to their wokeness, and the Democratic leadership knows that.
Ari Blaff is a journalist whose writings have appeared in “The Jerusalem Post,” “The Times of Israel,” “National Post,” Israel Studies, Quillette and Marginalia. He holds a master’s from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.