What’s scary about Obama?

Dry Bones: Obama makes me nervous

Obama makes me nervous (courtesy Dry Bones blog)

What’s scary about Obama?

Barack Obama has certainly done his best to allay our fears. Public comments at a Cleveland synagogue and at the AIPAC convention, if not the stuff of dreams, were no less pro-Israel than those of Bush or McCain. I get emails every other day from the Obama campaign refuting this or that scurrilous rumor.

Jewish support is very important to Obama, because it is concentrated in critical states like Florida and Ohio, where — thanks to an electoral system matched in its dysfunctionality only by that of Israel — a few swing voters can affect the outcome of a national election.

Michael Freund wrote,

Early last month, you’ll recall, headlines blared in the US and Israeli press trumpeting the results of a Gallup survey conducted back in April which found that American Jews preferred Democratic hopeful Barack Obama by a margin of 61 to 32 over his GOP rival.

For many observers, it seemed to confirm the time-honored tradition that American Jews continue to remain solidly in the Democratic camp. After all, a two-to-one margin represents a fairly compelling advantage.

[But a decline] became apparent in another, more recent Gallup poll published on June 5, which showed that the race for support among American Jews has begun to tighten, with Obama now leading McCain by a margin of 57 to 35.

That represents a narrowing of the gap from 29 to 22 points in just one month…

Moreover, this latest poll was conducted after it had become clear that Obama was set to be the Democratic nominee, whereas the previous survey took place when Hillary Clinton was still very much in the race as well…

Sure, you might be thinking, but he is still getting 57 percent of the Jewish vote in the latest poll, and that is still a healthy majority. That may be true, but consider the following: both Bill Clinton and Al Gore each won approximately 80 percent of the Jewish vote when they sought the presidency. And even the dour and uninspiring Democratic candidate John Kerry was able to take home 75 percent in the 2004 contest.

Freund thinks that the Wright issue hurt Obama among Jews, and this is undoubtedly true. But that has pretty much blown over by now. He also mentions Obama’s flip-flop over the status of Jerusalem. But I doubt that anyone took his original statement seriously; I know I didn’t.

My own feeling is that it has more to do with a perception that the Democratic Party has moved to the left generally. And today the extreme Left is often antisemitic and always violently anti-Israel. While Jews are still predominately liberal on economic and social issues, they are very sensitive to even a whiff of antisemitism, and there are certainly elements on the left wing of the Democratic party — you will recall that Al Sharpton was allowed to give one of the opening speeches at the 2004 Democratic convention — that give a Jew pause.

Some of them are quite outspoken, in places like MoveOn.org’s forums, the Daily Kos, and personal diaries found on MyBarackObama.com pages; and right-wing bloggers have been gleefully drawing attention to them (in the case of the Obama sites, moderators have tried to delete them before they are noticed). Although many Jews, especially younger ones, feel less connection with Israel than in the past, they are not dumb enough to miss the connection between violent hatred of Israel and antisemitism.

Perhaps it is not so much Obama himself — who is not antisemitic and who supports Israel as much (or as little) as any other mainstream American politician — but rather that Jews are finally starting to grasp the fact that since 1967 the primary source of antisemitism has shifted from the Right to the Left. And perhaps they prefer the uninspired economics  of John McCain to what they fear a Democratic victory would drag along with it. Certainly some of Obama’s anti-Israel advisers and former advisers like Rob Malley, Samantha Power, and Zbigniew Brzezinski have fed this worry.

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One Response to “What’s scary about Obama?”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I may be completely wrong but I see another issue being paramount for the great share of American Jews. As it is now the United States, and especially the Economy are perceived as being in an especially problematic situation. This is not only a sense of an internal crisis but one in which the United States appears to be losing globally its edge economically. The questions that most disturb the great share of American Jews may then relate to a perceived major threat to their own situation in America.
    The candidate which then will be given the vote is the one who is considered most likely to get America moving economically again.
    I would point out also that the American ‘predominance’ issue is an important one in regard to Israel’s security. My sense is a world in which China, Russia, the New Europe are ‘equal’ or ‘stronger to the US economically ‘ is one in which Israel is weakened and more vulnerable.
    It is again the well- known business of Levi Eshkol worrying about oil- fields drying up in Texas and not in Ashdod.