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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
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.
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. Lets 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.
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