It takes a lot to pry most American Jews away from their traditional loyalty to the Democratic Party. But give Barack Obama credit. In just two and a half years in office, he has managed to achieve just that. Though the rumblings about Jewish unhappiness with the president’s policy of pressure against Israel have been getting more noticeable with each fight the administration picks with the Jewish state, the last month has been the worst yet. And, as Politico reports today, the cracks in the heretofore solidly partisan wall of Jewish support for the Democrats are starting to widen.
The Politico feature largely concentrates on interviews done with Jewish Dems in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and what Ben Smith heard can’t be encouraging for Obama supporters. Fundraising is being affected with even those organizing pro-Obama events admitting to Politico they won’t meet their goals. The open talk of defection to the Republicans next year is getting loud enough that even the most rabidly partisan Democrats have been forced to take notice. Though they claim most Jews will never vote for a Republican, the dissatisfaction with Obama is no longer confined to the right. Even liberal Jews are starting to question why the president seems more inclined to get tough with America’s ally than with foes such as Syria.
The response from pro-Obama Democrats is, the president’s policies have been portrayed unfairly. They claim if the situation is properly explained to voters and donors, they will be reassured. But such reassurance is not coming easily. Though a minority of Democrats might be sympathetic to the idea Israel must be pressured to make peace for its own good, even most liberals understand the Jewish state has spent the last two decades making concessions and peace offers in vain. They know the obstacle to peace is the refusal of the Palestinians to take yes for an answer.
The spin about Obama showing Israel “tough love” isn’t convincing people primarily because, unlike Democratic leaders of the past whose affection for Israel was not doubted, many Jews have been forced to come to the conclusion the president simply does not have the same warm feelings for Israel most Americans share.
Democrats are right to mock Jewish Republicans who predict a shift in Jewish voting patterns every four years. But the problem the Democrats face doesn’t stem from the fact the GOP has become a pro-Israel stronghold. The threat to the Democrats’ stranglehold on the Jewish vote comes from their own party’s leader.
It bears repeating the record 40 percent of the Jewish vote Ronald Reagan garnered in 1980 had more to do with Jimmy Carter’s hostility to Israel than his own appeal. Carter’s loyalists tried to convince Jews of his support back then too, but large numbers didn’t buy it. The same may be true of Obama. It’s true most Jewish Democrats are not one-issue voters and many truly would never vote for a Republican. But few are being fooled by Democratic attempts to get them to ignore their own gut feelings about the president. The Democrats are bleeding Jewish support and fundraising. The only question now is how great the decline in Jewish votes for Obama will be next year.