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November 10, 2008

Surprise! Jews Back Obama


So, after all the e-mails, all the mailings and all the hand-wringing about whether American Jews would support Barack Obama, what do you know? The president-elect, according to exit polls, carried 78 percent of the Jewish vote nationwide.


That's more than John Kerry (75 percent) and just short of Al Gore (82 percent, and that was with a Jewish vice-presidential candidate.) Obama's share of the Jewish vote was 25 percent higher than his percentage of the vote overall – and on top of that, Obama easily carried Florida, Pennsylvania and every state with a significant Jewish population.


This shouldn't really be that much of a surprise. Jews are traditionally the most loyal to the Democrats of all ethnic groups, with the exception of African-Americans, and that didn't change last Tuesday. Every election year, the Republicans think their time has come to peel off a significant amount of the Jewish vote, and every year that realignment fails to materialize.


Jews, much like the rest of the majority, got to know Barack Obama and realized the real man didn't match the terrorist/socialist/radical caricature of him.


And on top of that, Obama followed up his election by naming Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel – a former Israeli Army reservist, and the son of a former Irgun fighter – as his White House Chief of Staff. Do you think a president with Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff would ever allow any harm to come to Israel?


These two facts should forever put to rest the idea, propagated falsely throughout the campaign, that Barack Obama was at best hostile to Israel, and at worst an anti-Semite.


I state the obvious once again: There was never any reason to believe that Barack Obama was not a friend of Israel and/or the Jews. Every available piece of evidence from his years of public statements, legislative votes and writings indicates the exact opposite, and every "reason" ever offered to the contrary was wholly imaginary. Obama, for years, was close with and supported by Chicago's Jewish community, and his record is absolutely impeccable in that regard.


The only "arguments" in the other direction were based on extremely tenuous guilt by association, as well as the irrational prejudices of people who probably weren't going to vote Democratic this year anyway. Obama's “ties” to Rashid Khalidi, a Palestinian-American almost universally considered one of that community's more moderate figures, weren't going to convince anyone of the candidate's perfidy – except for those wanting to believe in it in the first place.


The other argument was that Obama's willingness to sit down and negotiate with Iran somehow indicated a desire to "sell Israel down the river." Among some right-wing bloggers, this somehow became a consensus belief that Obama's election would lead to a second Holocaust. But this is only true if you're among those who believe that 1) all diplomacy is appeasement; and 2) every single foreign-policy scenario imaginable is always an exact analogy to Munich in 1938.


This didn't prevent the GOP from attempting to make the case. Mailing after disgraceful mailing from the odious Republican Jewish Coalition cast doubt on Obama's commitment to Israel's security, while Republican congressional leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor mangled a quote to imply that Obama had called Israel a “constant sore.”


And even worse, an e-mail from the Pennsylvania GOP shortly before Election Day told voters that "Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let’s not make a similar one this year!” (The staffer responsible, a college classmate of mine, was summarily fired by the state party, to their credit.)


With thousands and thousands of articles written about this, if not for the PUMA non-phenomenon, "Will Jews back Barack?" was probably the most over-covered story of the entire campaign. I've got a feeling Obama's performance in office will render the question permanently moot.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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