fbpx

For Jewish Voters, Painful Tradeoffs

Blind partisan loyalty – to Democrats or Republicans – is a luxury we can no longer afford.
[additional-authors]
November 29, 2023
Motortion/Getty Images

As we learn the wrenching stories of the infants and toddlers, the mothers and grandmothers who have been released by Hamas in recent days, we are all on emotional overload. In the middle of this ongoing collective trauma, the legislative machinations of American politicians may seem fairly mundane by comparison. But even as we mourn those we have lost and pray for those who have not returned, the actions of our country’s political leaders are setting the stage for another round of difficult decisions we will face next November when we cast our ballots for the men and women who will represent us — and who will set our country’s Middle East policy — in Congress.

Last week, we discussed the inadequacies of both the Democratic and Republican responses to Black Shabbat. While both parties’ leaders loudly proclaimed their support for Israel, the war has given us an opportunity to see the cracks that have developed in their relationship with the Jewish state. Growing numbers of progressive Democrats have joined the call for a ceasefire agreement that would effectively serve as Israel’s suicide note. Meanwhile, the new Republican House Speaker has held up military aid for Israel for several weeks through his demands for unrelated domestic policy goals. Our friends are still stalwart: There just aren’t as many of them as there used to be.

The majority of American Jews are reliable Democratic voters, not because of Israel and the Middle East but because of the party’s more tolerant approach on issues like abortion, marriage equality and other social and cultural matters. But every day, Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and a growing anti-Zionist and antisemitic presence on the Democratic far left will make that vote more difficult.

A strong and vocal minority of Jewish voters here consistently support Republican candidates for reasons primarily related to Middle East policy. But the marriage of convenience that has tied the GOP to Israel appears to be weakening, too. When the Republican-controlled House sabotaged critical legislation to support Israel’s war effort with a demand for reform of the Internal Revenue Service, it sent a bracing message to American Jews about the mismatch between their priorities and Israel’s needs.

Regardless of party registration or ideological preference, each of us has long resigned ourselves to the necessary compromise that accompanies our vote. 

Regardless of party registration or ideological preference, each of us has long resigned ourselves to the necessary compromise that accompanies our vote. Most Republicans do not support the antisemites who marched in Charlottesville, Va., but voting for a GOP candidate enlarges the platform on which alt-right haters stand. Most Democrats do not believe that Israel provoked war with Hamas, but electing a Democrat of any ideological stripe increases the influence of those who stand against the Jewish state and its children.

Such are the limitations of a two-party system that most of us scarcely consider the sacrifice such tradeoffs require. Vote for a pro-Israel politician in either party and we also empower the antisemitic fringe that shares that candidate’s registration. We’ve resigned ourselves to the fact that elevating those who hate us — from the far right or the far left — is a necessary evil to thwart the even more despicable haters among the opposition.

No more. During the Cold War, patriots of both parties stood up against extremists on the far right and the far left within their own parties to protect the world from Soviet aggression. The same type of bipartisan alliance will be necessary to save Israel from those who wish to destroy it. But this means being willing to hold politicians accountable, even if they’re a member of our own party and a reliable ally on other issues, and demanding that they hold their own colleagues to account.

Blind partisan loyalty – to Democrats or Republicans – is a luxury we can no longer afford. Rather than continuing to enable our enemies by voting indiscriminately for one party or the other, it’s time for us to start voting for women and men in both parties who stand with Israel. The two parties have taken us for granted for too long – let’s make them work for our votes. The future of the Jewish state depends on it.


Dan Schnur is the U.S. Politics Editor for the Jewish Journal. He teaches courses in politics, communications, and leadership at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. He hosts the monthly webinar “The Dan Schnur Political Report” for the Los Angeles World Affairs Council & Town Hall. Follow Dan’s work at www.danschnurpolitics.com.

Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

Dear Candace Owens (Part 2)

Most recently, in a podcast and three, well, rants, you accuse a segment of Jews of being dishonest, disgusting, manipulative, thugs, and Marxists. 

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.