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September 19, 2012 1:00 am

Two Conventions, Cognitive Dissonance and the Jewish Vote

avatar by Morgan P. Muchnick

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President Obama meets with Jewish leaders. Photo: The White House.

I recently attended the Republican National Convention (RNC) as a guest of the Maryland Delegation. I had never personally attended a convention and aside from the near-100% humidity in Tampa, Florida I had a great time. I also watched the Democratic National Convention (DNC) on television. Here are some thoughts about how the two events juxtapose one another, especially the “G-d and Jerusalem” debacle, and how recent events should influence Jewish voting this November.

One obvious similarity was the focus on individual biographies, primarily dealing with people overcoming extremely difficult socio-economic hurdles in order to ascend to powerful positions. However, while speakers such as Ted Cruz of Texas or Marco Rubio of Florida told their tales as a way to laud America, explaining that only in the USA can someone climb up the socio-economic ladder so quickly, many of the DNC speakers seemed to resent the USA for forcing them to overcome such obstacles and complained about the injustice of their adversity. It seemed to this observer that a sense of entitlement permeated most every speech. Michael Goodwin of the NY Post put it well when he described it as a frenzy of grievance and entitlement.

In addition to the Democratic sense of grievance and victimization is the question of “G-d and Jerusalem” and the Democratic Party’s 2012 overarching political platform. This is the 2008 language relating to the contested phrases:

  • “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”
  • “The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements. Sustained American leadership for peace and security will require patient efforts and the personal commitment of the President of the United States. The creation of a Palestinian state through final status negotiations, together with an international compensation mechanism, should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel. All understand that it is unrealistic to expect the outcome of final status negotiations to be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”
  • General language regarding G-d: “We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”

The drama occurred during the Democratic Convention when, after days of criticism following the removal of the abovementioned language, the Democratic leadership took to the floor of the convention hall and offered a revised document adding the G-d language as well the Jerusalem language back into the party platform. The vote on the floor was striking as at least as many “no” votes were received as were “yes” votes. In fact, when the amendment “passed” (the vote clearly did not receive the needed 2/3 affirmative to amend) thunderous boos permeated the stadium. It was astonishing how much anger was directed at the pro-Israel language. In fact, Republican Jewish groups are running video of the vote in political ads supporting Mitt Romney.

It is true that party platforms tend to come from the political activists and have very little influence on a president’s governing strategy. However, it has since been documented that President Obama was well aware of these changes and only objected after days of criticism. Even so, he only added back some of the “controversial” language. I use quotes because the fact that this is considered controversial is disappointing in and of itself. At any mainstream Republican event this type of language would be taken for granted.

This event is just one more example of countless acts that demonstrate the Obama Administration’s attitude toward Israel. Indeed, in just the past few days President Obama refused a meeting request by Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying Obama simply was too busy. His scheduling conflict was a campaign rally and appearance on the David Letterman show.

It is clear that there is now an open and transparent rift between Israel and the United States. This is particularly troubling as Israel is facing a terrible decision regarding Iran. Because the international community has shown no intent to declare a red line for which military action would be triggered if crossed by Iran, Israel must decide if it should strike Iran’s inchoate nuclear program in spite of the predictable backlash from the international community. However, the lack of a strong ally in the United States makes Israel’s decision much more difficult. For the first time since the Bush/Baker foreign policy team, Israel cannot assume support from the United States.

In fact, Zbigniew Brzezinski (Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, current MSNBC contributor and Johns Hopkins University Professor) famously stated in September 2009 that if Israel were to attack Iran the United States should shoot down the attacking Israeli fighter planes. In addition, Mr. Brzezinski’s boss Jimmy Carter – himself no friend of Israel – spoke at this year’s DNC via satellite.

Furthermore, while President Obama should not be blamed for the chaos in the Middle East, his lack of leadership and failure to publicly lay out a strong moral case against radical Islam the way President Reagan did against Communism, has likely contributed to the flowering of radical Islam following the “Arab Spring.” This has made both the United States and Israel considerably less secure. Ironically, the Drudge Report posted a link to a quote from then Senator Obama claiming that Muslim hostility toward the USA will ease immediately following his inauguration.

As I have written many times in the past, President Obama is under no obligation to be pro-Israel. I harbor no animosity toward him for his policies regarding the Middle East. However, I feel a tremendous amount of frustration with Jewish Americans who personally are pro-Israel but suffer under a state of cognitive dissonance and support him despite his policies.

For generations Jews in the USA have convinced themselves that Conservative Christians are their political enemy, regardless of how often the GOP aggressively stands up for Israel in the face of Democratic attack. This is simplistic and trite analysis and belies the level of education enjoyed by large percentages of Jewish voters.

It has been a very long time since we have seen as clear a contrast regarding positions among presidential candidates toward Israel policy. President Reagan received approximately 40% of the vote in his 1980 campaign, the high-water mark for GOP votes among Jews. If Mitt Romney does not, at least, meet that mark, then shame on us as a community.  Like any malady, cognitive dissonance is not easily corrected. However, if we as a community fail to begin in November, President Obama will certainly feel he as wide leverage to act as he sees fit in the Middle East.

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  • John Villanueva

    There is so much dishonesty when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, America’s historic and unyielding support for Israel, and the real and perceived threat posed by Iran. The reality is that America, IRRESPECTIVE of which political party has held the presidency, has always stood by Israel. Even when Israel’s actions undermined America’s political aims in the region (Read the 2001 Mitchell Report on the Arab-Israeli conflict for details).

    If a rift exist at all it is clearly between Obama and Netanyahu. Not Obama and Israel. Obama has done more legislatively to support Israel than any other president since Truman. This is a documented fact. Netanyahu has done more to disrespect the office of the U.S. Presidency than any other Prime Minister. This is also a documented fact. He has on numerous occasions come to the United States to lecture this American President. Something that should not have been tolerated by either party. But the most troubling thing is that Netanyahu did so in front of a spineless, whorish and applauding members of an American Congress. Shame on them. They represent the worst, not the best of us.

    It is possible to stand with Israel, but be in firm disagreement with Netanyahu. Mutual respect, mutual accommodation, and a mutual appreciation for the sacrifices made on all sides is a necessity if the bond of fellowship and collective strength between our two countries is to be preserved. Israel’s future and America’s involvement in the region, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, needs to trump the poison of political partisanship in both countries.

    As an American soldier that has witnessed first-hand the horrors of war I took great personal offense to the political ultimatum Netanyahu tried to put before President Obama concerning the “red line” in the sand for Iran. He did not merit an audience with Obama and I applaud Obama for not caving in to Netanyahu’s temper tantrum.

    Iran can be contained. Iran’s internal vulnerabilities are massive. Iran’s youth, not the American military, pose the greatest threat to the survival of Iran’s government. They are educated, repressed, impoverished and hunger for change. Iran will have another revolution. That is a certainty. The only question is when.

    The overarching interest of Iran’s Ayatollahs is the preservation of power. They want to maintain their villas in Paris, stuff their bank accounts with dollars in Switzerland, and educate their children in America. They are far from suicidal. They are first-class hedonist in religious attire. The anti-U.S. rhetoric and calls for the destruction of Israel are bread and circus for the masses. No different than the league of American political pundits that use extremist rhetoric to boost their viewership/listenership.

    If Iran did attempt to deploy a nuke against Israel the conventional, non-nuclear, American machinery of war they would confront would render their country a smoldering pile of ashes. The lethality of modern conventional weaponry far exceeds that of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan in WWII. Iran’s Ayatollahs know this. They are not fools.

    Iran is not the threat it is made out to be, but it would be quicksand for the American Military if we allowed ourselves to be pushed into a ground war. The loss of American lives and treasure and must be weighed cautiously.

    Obama does not need to take counsel from Netanyahu because Netanyahu will not be sending his sons or daughter to fight and die with America’s soldiers and Marines in the streets of Tehran. Nor will they face the unforgiving IED or IPD as they patrol the streets of an occupied Iran.

    Netanyahu is in every way just another tough-talking politician that is comfortably seated in the trappings of power while demanding that others be sent to do the fighting. It’s time for Israel to do a little internal regime changing of their own. Leaving Netanyahu in power will only deepen the rift with their most loyal ally.

  • Morgan Muchnick

    Thank you all for your thoughtful comments….I am well aware this article will not sit well with everyone but it is my sincere hope it will, at least, begin a robust debate within our community. No interest group should allow itself to be taken for granted…….

    Happy New Year to all!

  • Mel

    If Jews were really any smarter than their non-Jewish fellows, they would have done for Allen West what the commies did for Obama. But like most of the nation, whose average S.A.T. scores have fallen every year since 1963, calling them dumb-as-a-rock is grossly unfair to the rock.

  • Fredric M. London

    More so than at any other time in US history, theocracy screams at us from both parties. In the case of the Republicans, it is the religious right, who owns the party and determines its actions. I agree with Mr. Hersch, support for Israel does not translate into an acceptance of Jews. It is not that long ago that “G-d does not hear Jewish prayers,” came out of the religious right. As with Obama, they have a stealth agenda and, as with Obama, it is not so stealth. Given free reign (they already have the House of Representatives and, most importantly, the Supreme Court), the laws against women, the poor, the disabled, labor rights, really anyone but the current “400,” will flow. This movement has already shown a willingness to throw the US under the bus in terms of credit rating for the US. They will bring the entire country to a screeching halt, so that they can turn us backward without harming the transmission. Jews, by nature, have always been, as Mr. Hersch notes, in favor of social justice. It is a deep part of Jewish religious belief, as well as stemming from 2000 years of unrelenting persecution, including dispossession, exile, rape, murder, and genocide, that people should have rights. The Republican Party is right wing, and the right wing has ALWAYS stood for repression of human rights. So, this makes voting for that party anathema to anyone with a conscience.

    On the other hand, Obama has made it very plain that Jews are not his favorite people. His form of theocracy is radical Islam. Obama would happily throw free expression under the bus, in order to appease terrorists. He hates Israel, and would acquiesce to its destruction in a minute. This is not because of any innate antiSemitism, but because he is among those Black people, such as his mentor pastor, who are more in solidarity with Muslims than with White Christians. They see the Middle East through the paradigm of politically-coerced censorship. This egregious concept, which started out by insisting on the rewriting of the English language, and has continued further and further away from common sense decency, sees the so-called Palestinians as repressed people of color, and Israel as repressing White Europeans, permeates more and more of the Democratic Party, rendering it less and less for social justice and more and more for rigid ideology. From this fascistic group, White Europeans can never be right about anything, and third world people of color can never be wrong about anything. There is no need for discussion or reason, these are absolutes. Obama is an excellent example of this mind set. There is no need to even check on the number of Jews of color in Israel, having escaped, with the help of Israel, from Egypt, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Ethiopia, etc., who wanted to murder them en masse. Somehow, the Falashas turn from a persecuted Black minority to a White European oppressor.

    No one, who cares about anyone (other than the super rich and huge corporations), and has a conscience could vote for the Repulsicans. By the same token, no one who cares about US security, Jews, Israel, or anyone who offends radical Islam, will benefit from an Obama second term. Once free of the need to run for re-election, Obama will be able to be more emphatic in his opinions, which are already reprehensible in terms of liberal thought and human rights.

    This time, we cannot win no matter how you look at it.

  • David Sabghir

    I have heard echoes of all of the pro and con comments. I have followed Obama’s administration and believe that he and his wife have misused the White House and have “partied” virtually non-stop through most of his administration.

    I cannot think of a single Presidential Administration in the history of the US that has been as intentionally and overtly corrupt as the Obama Administration in virtually every aspect of America. His corruption as set in motion a culture of corruption and criminality that is unprecedented in US History and makes Teapot Dome and Nixon look like ants.

    I am amazed at the utter ignorance and stupidity that I have heard from Jews trying to justify their support for Obama. They are not far behind other groups whose support for Obama are notable for being “knee-jerk”.

    Without going into the horrific details, one merely needs to become acquainted with Michelle Malkin’s “Culture of Corruption” or the Movie 2016 or the newest 10 part series in the Washington Exponent? In the latter, one will learn about Obama as the private attorney for a criminal slumlord in Chicago. Have we ever had a President who is less transparent than Obama. He is a total mystery. A law “professor”, who has never published anything in Law. A President who has intentionally exacerbated racial tensions and economic class warfare; a Black activist who has never lived in a Black community; whose children attend exclusive schools (Sidwell Friends), who himself attended exclusive schools. He has gamed the system to the hilt and is probably the biggest fraud and least qualified person to ever occupy the White House.

    He is a total hypocrite and fraud.

    It is about time that Jews act as Jews and not as Democratic patsies!

    This anti-semitic, communist, Democratic Party is not your father’s Democratic Party.

    Wake up Jews before it is too late.

  • Jerry Hersch

    Romney on is visit to Israel agreed with Netanyahu’s rightwing decisions in every aspect.. borders,settlements, capitol…what is left then for the Palestinians to negotiate..and what part can the US play in peace negotiations when Romney has already verbalized and laid out his view of the US position.A Romney election would leave no room for a negotiated peace process..especially one with US involvement.

    • Mel

      No negotiating room? For what? The Palestinians have not lived up to ONE thing they agreed to in the interim negotiations. Their agreements are as empty as the heads of Jews with cognitive dissonance. Why would they negotiate anything when total submission is what they demand before they Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  • Jerry Hersch

    As for Christain Zionists see the Straus story above..This election is more than about is about sacrificing the equality of 6-8 million American Jews in return for LIP SERVICE “support” for Israel.This is more than a ONE issue race.Those of you who live in the self-made shetls of suburbia ought to get out into the heartland of America..listen and learn and find out just how much Jews are “loved” by ardent supporers of Israel before pontificating about support.
    We have already seen the position of Jews in the Republican fray of the past year in which they argued as to which of them was the “most Christian” and thus better qualified.

  • Jerry Hersch

    Often when living in a relatively large and active Jewish community such as in the Northeast,South Florida of a few dozen scattered suburban areas we tend to forget that this is a huge country and that the Jewish imprint is not everywhere present and the Jewish footprint is often nonexistent.Jews are secure in America because they have become a known factor in their communities. But there are many areas of America where Jews are still an oddity
    Alabama 8850.Alaska 6150,Arkasas 1725,Iowa 6240,Mississippi 1575,Montana 1350,Nebraska 6100,North Dakota 400,Oklahoma 4200,South Dakota 395,Utah 5650,Wyoming 950….Twelve states 24 US Senators ..about a quarter of the total
    ..and a combined Jewish population of less than 45,000 and almost all of them are concentrated in a very few population centers in each of these states.. It is in this vast area nearly devoid of Jews that the Evangelical political base has its strength..To say nothing of the deep rural South that your Jewish parents avoided driving through because of anti-Semitism.
    The transfer of political power to this part of the nation will lessen the security of living in a secular nation that Jews have enjoyed

  • Jerry Hersch

    For over a year I have listened to Republican candidates vying as to which of them is the “most Christian” and thus better qualified to serve in office..where does that leave the American Jew-“thrown under the bus”
    Evangelical lip service ‘support’ for Israel does not necessarily translate into support for Jews or Jewish equality.
    One has only to remember the Joe Straus affair.Straus,a Republican Jew,was elected Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, however there was virulent opposition from the Evangelical wing of the Republican Party..far more than the final vote tally. Every voice against Straus because he is a Jew..was also an outspoken”champion” of Israel
    Bear in mind that the opposition to Joe Straus was by “Educated” legislators

    • Mel

      We each have our filters, our viewpoints. Just as a Jew views fellow Jews differently than Christians, so do Christians view fellow Christians differently than he views Jews. In the case of the L.D.S.-ers, which includes Romney, they know what it is to be always in the minority, on the outside looking in.

  • Mike Cooperman

    I believe that there are more Jews than you think who are upset at the administration’s position vis-a-vis Israel, but there is no chance in hell that they are going to vote for Romney because they believe in “Social Justice” above all else. Even though they might agree more with Romney regarding Israel, they would never be able to get past the rest of his, or in general, Republican beliefs – freer markets, lower tax rates, less regulation, etc. And don’t even go near that red herring called abortion. Ooooh, those evil Republican’s are going to take away my reproductive rights!!!

  • Adam Keith

    I never understood the Conservative Christian’s fascination with Israel, either from a Biblical or historical perspective.

    But, yes, if Jewish Americans wanted an ally, they are the ones they should rally with. I think the same thing occurs in the Black community, as well. If you go issue by issue, they are far more conservative than how they vote.

  • Chuck Collins

    Thank you, Mr. Muchnick. I can only pray that millions of loyal Jews, Christian Zionists, and people of conscience all over this country read and heed your words.

    Please, folks: Wake up and smell the stench of anti-Semitism emanating from the new (anti-) American left!

    Please go to the polls and fire this anti-American, anti-Semitic, anti-Constitution administration on 6 November.

    • Morgan Muchnick

      Chuck, thank you for your kind comments…

      • Rob Muchnick

        Hey Morgan, Nice last name! Are we related?

        I agree with you on the dems, but I have my doubts on the repubs.

        The GOP still has in its platform that it supports the 2 state (final) solution, when any Jew with his eyes open over the last 20 years could easily see that the Oslo Process is a complete disaster for Israel and, if fully implemented, may very well lead to absolute disaster for us, and has already lead to the the erosion in the belief of the justness of our cause on the part of Jews worldwide.

        I would prefer a candidate to say that America has no business in Israel, and will support Israel in whatever it does. That’s what a true friend of Israel in the White House would do.