June 26, 2019

Dems: Debate Israel Out in the Open

When California Democrats gather for their state party convention in San Francisco on May 31, they will hear from congressional and legislative leaders, from Gov. Gavin Newsom and every other statewide constitutional officer, and a battalion of presidential candidates. They will hear about issues that unify and inspire their party, about abortion rights and marriage equality, about universal health care and climate change, about gun control and immigrant rights. 

But one thing they will almost certainly not hear about — not from Newsom or Speaker Nancy Pelosi, not from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or any of the other presidential contenders — is Israel.

These conventions are designed to bring together a party. Israel is tearing apart the Democratic Party. So if an attendee wants to hear about Middle East geopolitics or the domestic political manifestations of that debate, those discussions won’t take place on the podium but in the backrooms and hallways of the Moscone Center. That’s where delegates will be arguing over a passel of resolutions put forth by anti-Zionist hardliners, who call for unilateral Israeli concessions in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights and ignore ongoing security threats to residents of the Jewish state. Meanwhile, pro-Israel Democrats are fighting back with resolutions of their own that would properly define the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. And party leaders will do everything in their power to keep these arguments out of public view.

But suppressing this fight would be a mistake. Battling over the party’s principles behind closed doors simply provides an advantage to a smaller but well-organized anti-Zionist movement. Better to debate these issues in public, where a pro-Israel majority can be clearly heard. And even better to put the question to every elected official and candidate who attends the convention: Ask Newsom and Pelosi and Harris and the rest to take a public position on each of these resolutions and to make it clear that they stand with Israel.

“Better to debate these issues in public, where a pro-Israel majority can be clearly heard.”

The overwhelming majority of elected Democrats would take that position, a small but vocal minority would not. But the short-term discord would be a small price to pay to expose the shallowness and narrowness of the anti-Israel sentiment. Burying the disagreement, on the other hand, simply allows the ideological outliers to organize outside of public view and to come back stronger every year until they have become an even more formidable political force.

I was a Republican for most of my adult life, before switching to No Party Preference status several years ago when the GOP’s rightward march made it clear I no longer belonged in that party. Some readers of this column will therefore dismiss my counsel as a diabolical plot from a nonbeliever whose true goal is to harm rather than help the efforts of pro-Israel Democrats. 

But I once watched my former party be taken over by rebel forces, too. I watched as the party establishment tried to pretend that the voices of intolerance from the far right didn’t exist and ignored the growing populist anger until it was too late.

Former President George W. Bush and the late Sen. John McCain and their generational colleagues believed that the anti-immigrant forces in their party could be isolated and hidden and ultimately defeated. But their strategy of forcing those debates to take place in the shadows ultimately backfired, and by the time the fight became public, the extremists’ numbers had grown to the point where they could no longer be held back. 

As a result, anti-immigrant sentiment now not only dominates but defines the Republican Party. While that de-evolution may bring some happiness to dedicated partisans on the other side of the aisle, the end result should serve as a warning to principled Democrats who think that obscuring arguments about Israel will work any better.

It’s far too easy to underestimate insurgencies, especially on such a volatile political and societal landscape. Fanaticism left unexposed has now despoiled one of our two major political parties. Let’s not allow the same thing to happen to the other, especially not on an issue as important as the safety and security of the Jewish homeland. Exposing haters — on either the far right or the far left — to public scrutiny is ultimately the best way to prevail.


Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University. 

A Progressive Misnomer

The group of Democratic candidates running against President Trump in the 2020 elections. REUTERS/Files

Labels matter, and they are an integral part of the war of ideas.

When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and American President Franklin Roosevelt met in December 1941, weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Nazi Germany declaration of war against the United States, they signed a joint document articulating their nations’ war aims. It was titled “Joint Declaration of the United Nations,” not “Joint Declaration of the Alliance” and not “Joint Declaration of the Associated Powers.” Roosevelt rejected the term “Alliance” because it might be a problem to Senate isolationists. Churchill rejected the term “Associated Powers” because it sounded too “flat.” Hence the birth of the “United Nations,” a title designed for both its emotional punch and its political purpose.

This choice of labels is of constant concern to politicians and political movements. Those who favor retaining access to abortions call themselves “pro choice,” not “pro fetal death.” Those who favor more restrictive access to abortions call themselves “pro life,” not “pro unwanted babies.” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who has accused those who support Israel of having an “allegiance to a foreign country,” rejects the label “anti-Semitic” but has no objection to “pro-Palestinian.” 

Democrats seem to understand the value of emotive branding better than Republicans. The latter demonstrates no objection to being called “conservative,” although that label can connote a lack of originality and a kneejerk adversity to change. Democrats, on the other hand, have rebranded themselves as “progressives,” eschewing the use of the term “liberal,” which can have an elitist connotation (for example, the “liberal arts”) out of touch with the everyday problems facing the average American. Consistent with this rebranding, almost half of the Democratic House members are part of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; there is no Congressional Liberal Caucus. 

Democrats have rebranded themselves as ‘progressives,’ eschewing the use of the term ‘liberal.’

This stratagem, which the media and even Republicans have bought into, obfuscates and prejudges discussion. “Progressive” and “progressivism” are labels that have strong positive connotations. “Progress” is defined by the Random House Dictionary as “movement to a higher stage,” “advancement in general” and “continuous improvement,” and is a synonym for “betterment.” “Progressive” is defined as “favoring progress.” What millennial — indeed what person of any age, educational level or background — would be opposed to improvement or betterment? To be a social reformer, a progressive in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, committed by definition to “continuous improvement” and “betterment,” has an obvious appeal. 

Today, “progressivism” sometimes describes economic populism; other times, it encompasses cultural or social issues. “Progressive” Hillary Clinton, during her presidential run, asserted her unrelenting opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and her willingness to impose tariffs on China and other countries. “Progressives” are said to support New York’s recent late-term abortion law. “Progressives,” in the words of one Los Angeles Times headline, “hope to reset debate on Israel.” Other “progressives” campaign to restrict the availability of charter schools.

The “progressive” label unfairly biases and confuses the arguments concerning these and other social and political issues. Fair and informed public discussion would be served by a general return to “liberal” or “leftist,” terms that do not subtly predispose one to favor so-called “progressives” and their programs. While “liberal” and “leftist” do carry some baggage, this is equally true of the terms “conservative” and “rightist.” Media and commentators who strive to be unbiased must take the lead. “Progressive” ideas and candidates should be judged on their merits, not wrapped in a distorting label that prejudges thoughtful consideration.


Gregory Smith is a retired appellate lawyer in Los Angeles.

Republicans and Democrats Hold Positive Views of Israelis But Differ Greatly on their Government

Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement to the media in his residency in Jerusalem February 28, 2019 REUTERS/ Ronen Zvulun

(JTA) — Republicans and Democrats may hold widely disparate views of Israel’s government, a new survey found, but both have positive vibes about Israelis.

The Pew Research Center study, released Wednesday, found that while 61 percent of Republicans had a favorable view of Israel’s government — led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party — that number is only 26 percent for Democrats.

Asked about views of Israeli people, most respondents regardless of party affiliation held positive views — 77 percent of those identifying as or leaning Republican and 57 percent of those identifying as or leaning Democrat.

Older people were more likely to have a positive view of the Netanyahu government: 57 percent of respondents 65 and older held a positive view, the only age group in which a majority did so. The proportion decreased with each age group, with 27 percent of those aged 18-29 having a positive view.

As for views of the Palestinian government, a majority of respondents identifying with both parties held negative views — 81 percent for Republicans and 65 percent for Democrats. Asked about their opinions on the Palestinian people, 32 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats said they viewed them favorably.

The survey, which was conducted April 1-15, had 10,523 respondents and a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percent.

In past years, Pew has asked respondents whether they sympathized more with Israel or the Palestinians. This year, the research center decided to reframe the question to reflect the fact that many respondents favored both sides or neither.

Handicapping the Dems

The United States Capitol. July 27, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/REUTERS.

The college basketball season is over, and most of us have quietly thrown away our March Madness office pool brackets in shame and embarrassment. But there might be a lesson to be learned in how those brackets helped fans make some sense out of a sprawling and unwieldy field of contenders. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tourney always is marked by a frenzy of chaos and unpredictability. The fight for the Democratic presidential nomination has begun in much the same way. 

The NCAA has learned that the best way to establish some sense of order is to divide the field into four regions. As the largest field of potential candidates in modern political history begins to take shape, perhaps this approach could work just as well for handicapping the rapidly growing field of Democratic presidential hopefuls.

It makes more sense to establish the Democratic brackets based on different components of the party’s emerging identity. Ideological, demographic and generational divisions must all be resolved before Democrats can unite behind a candidate to defeat President Donald Trump. 

Here is an early look at the field before the first round tips off:

Unapologetic Progressive Regional

Bernie Sanders – Massive first-quarter fundraising shows 2016 contender with a big edge over younger foes even in a more crowded field.

Elizabeth Warren – Has the thickest policy portfolio, but crowds aren’t excited yet. Betting voters want substance rather than flash.

Jay Inslee – Washington governor running as a single-issue candidate. Climate change is key issue for primary voters, but is that enough?

Julian Castro – The only Latino candidate needs to motivate nation’s fastest-growing voter bloc to get to the Final Four.

Middle America Centrists Regional

Joe Biden – Pride of Scranton, Pa., and former President Barack Obama sidekick represents old-school collaborative approach. But 20th-century baggage may hurt with new-era Dems.

Amy Klobuchar – Minnesota senator emphasizes heartland progressive credentials to work across party lines. Low-key but rising.

John Delaney – Former Maryland House member spends his own fortune to run as centrist. Will spending more time in Iowa than anyone get him noticed?

John Hickenlooper/Michael Bennet – Play-in game between moderate former Colorado governor vs. moderate Colorado senator. Only room for one of them.

Emerging Majority Regional

Kamala Harris – Former prosecutor and current senator from California uses courtroom chops to take on Trump, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which made her an early crowd favorite.

Cory Booker – Former big city mayor, current senator from New Jersey selling message of love and unity. But Wall Street ties might be a problem.

Kirsten Gillibrand – Has #MeToo candidate missed her moment? Maybe, but another Harvey Weinstein scandal brings her right back into the fray.

Stacey Abrams – The narrowly-defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate is already on many early VP lists but hasn’t a run of her own.

Instagram Upstart Regional

Pete Buttigieg – Just your typical 30-something gay, veteran, Indiana mayor running for president. Early season long shot moves to top seed.

Beto O’Rourke – Texas folk hero almost parlayed social media magic into senate seat. Lots of early excitement, but still waiting for policy details.

Andrew Yang – Former tech exec has never run for office, but uses online network, universal income proposal to qualify for first debate.

Mark Cuban – Megalomaniac billionaire-TV reality host hints about running. But people like that never actually go through with
it, right?

One candidate from each of these four regions will almost certainly be represented when the field narrows next year after the first few primaries, and we’ll have a much better sense of the finalists after seeing how they perform in the early rounds.

And good luck with your own selections.


Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University. 

Halie Soifer: Why Do So Many Jews Vote Democrat?

Halie Soifer, Executive Director of Jewish Democratic Council of America, discusses Jewish voting patterns in the age of Trump.

Halie Soifer

Sponsored by: Masa Israel Journey – Receive anywhere from $200-$2,000 towards a life-changing Gap Year Adventure in Israel. 

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Republicans and Democrats Unite to Save the Planet, and No One Notices

Bill Gates; Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Media companies have become so driven by ratings and clickbait that they’re having a hard time covering political news that doesn’t involve partisan food fights — even when that news involves saving our planet.

Take, for example, the news last week that a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced legislation to support a potential breakthrough against global warming. Who noticed? I couldn’t find anything in The New York Times or on CNN, but I did see a tweet from someone who cares deeply about the sustainability of our planet, Bill Gates.

On Thursday, Gates tweeted:

“Yesterday, a bipartisan group of leaders in the U.S. Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. I can’t overstate how important this is.”

Gates was referring to a bill that would promote next-generation nuclear power, which he feels so strongly about that he promised lawmakers he’d invest $1 billion of his own money in the initiative. Gates has already put his money where his mouth is by investing in startups like TerraPower, which is working on traveling-wave reactor technology.

The legislation was introduced on March 27 by 15 senators, including Republicans such as Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham as well as Democrats such as New Jersey’s Cory Booker and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin.

“Year after year, the conversation around climate change has been dominated by partisan acrimony. And yet, if there’s one issue that ought to transcend politics, it is the health of our planet.”

Why is this big news? Because year after year, the conversation around climate change has been dominated by partisan acrimony. And yet, if there’s one issue that ought to transcend politics, it is the health of our planet. Now that Republicans and Democrats have found common ground on this issue, it’s certainly worth taking notice.

It’s also worth noting why they have united around nuclear power. As far back as 2013, Scientific American was hailing nuclear power as “one of the few technologies that can quickly combat climate change.”

The magazine reported that “the low-carbon electricity produced by such [nuclear] reactors provides 20 percent of the nation’s power and, by the estimates of climate scientist James Hansen of Columbia University, avoided 64 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution. They also avoided spewing soot and other air pollution like coal-fired power plants do and thus have saved some 1.8 million lives.”

Hansen and many others, the magazine reported, think that “nuclear power is a key energy technology to fend off catastrophic climate change.” Because coal represents almost half of global emissions, Hansen explained, “If you replace these power plants with modern, safe nuclear reactors you could do a lot of [pollution reduction] quickly.”

Speed is key. The urgency of climate change has been well covered by the media. The problem is that too many potential “solutions”  are too speculative, slow or exorbitant, which may explain why they haven’t attracted much bipartisan support.

Clean and safe nuclear power, on the other hand, offers more practical hope for the future. To avoid “dangerous” climate change, according to Hansen and other experts, the world needs to drop its global warming pollution by 6 percent annually. “On a global scale, it’s hard to see how we could conceivably accomplish this without nuclear,” writes economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

“One of the biggest obstacles to this initiative is one of perception — the word “nuclear” comes with a lot of baggage.”

One of the biggest obstacles to this initiative is one of perception — the word “nuclear” comes with a lot of baggage. From the horror of the atom bomb to the meltdown of nuclear reactors, it’s always been a challenge to argue for the safety of anything nuclear. But this is a key purpose of the next-generation research: to make nuclear power ultra safe.

As is to be expected, not all scientists agree on the nuclear direction in confronting global warming. The debate and arguments will continue as the research progresses. But if the research leads to breakthroughs in nuclear energy innovation, it could have a significant impact on the future health of our planet. 

As Sen. Murkowski tweeted when the bill was introduced, “There has been a lot of discussion about climate change, & I have emphasized the need for practical, bipartisan solutions. As we seek to maintain electric reliability, keep energy affordable, & address climate change, #nuclear power stands out as one of our very best options.”

In an era of bitter partisanship, we should applaud the senators who have put their political differences aside to sponsor a concrete initiative to help save our planet. Now it’s the media’s turn to take a break from partisan food fights and cover this story.

Schiff Addresses Trump, Anti-Semitism, Israel and 2020

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). Photo by Lorin Granger

Although Rep. Adam Schiff was first elected to represent his Southern California district in Congress in 2000, and has been re-elected nine times, he didn’t become a household name until President Donald Trump took office in 2016.  

The 58-year-old Jewish congressman who represents the 28th Congressional District, was thrust into the national spotlight as the Democrats’ Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, where he struggled against the committee’s GOP leadership to conduct inquiries into Russian interference in the last presidential election. In January, he became the committee chair after Democrats took control of the House following the November midterm elections.

Over the past two years, Schiff has regularly appeared on cable news to talk about the importance of investigating the Russians’ interference and whether the Trump campaign was involved with it. As a result, he has become a target for Trump, who on Twitter has called him a “political hack,” “sleazy” and even “Little Adam Schitt” — a moniker the president later claimed was a misspelling. 

“I would say my typical day over the last two years has been anything but typical of the preceding decade in office,” Schiff said during a recent telephone interview with the Journal, ahead of his March 19 talk at Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills. “Going from minority to chair hasn’t changed the length of my days, which are already really long, or the nature of my work, except that it allows me to be in the driver’s seat of our investigation, rather than a passenger protesting that the driver isn’t serious about getting to the truth. So we now have the opportunity to bring in witnesses that we didn’t before, we have the ability to compel answers we couldn’t before, but we also have an adversary in the Oval Office determined to attack us and obstruct us in every way.”

Schiff said he is determined to have the committee’s investigation leave no stone unturned.

“The evidence of collusion has been hiding in plain sight for a long time,” he said. “The only way you can avoid seeing it is if you are willfully unwilling to look at the plain evidence.”

Schiff said he draws on his Jewish values in his work.

“My religious and cultural upbringing has instilled in me a respect for our institutions, a respect for fundamental decency and integrity, and appreciation of how much character matters,” he said. “And this is why I am so aghast at not only the occupant of the Oval Office, but how his fundamental lack of decency and morality has affected the whole of government.”

“There have been a lot of stresses and strains on the bipartisan nature of support for Israel. I think this is an enduring challenge we have yet to meet.”

— Rep. Adam Schiff

On Feb. 26, the House Intelligence Committee convened its first open hearing under Schiff’s leadership, during which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, among others, testified about the rise of authoritarianism.

“There’s a real rise of autocracy around the world,” Schiff said, “and I think that my Jewish background has really made me keenly aware of history, of the dangers of authoritarianism, of the toxic mix of economic disruption and a xenophobic brand of populism, where populist leaders can blame ‘the other’ for any economic distress. Jews have often been the most vulnerable victims of authoritarianism, but it is a danger for any minority.”

It’s also why, Schiff said, bipartisan support for Israel is more important than ever.

“We have to make every effort to ensure the U.S.-Israel relationship is nonpartisan, that it is strong, irrespective of who is in the Oval Office or the prime minister’s office,” he said. “And there have been a lot of stresses and strains on the bipartisan nature of support for Israel. I think this is an enduring challenge we have yet to meet.”

Schiff made these comments to the Journal on March 7, hours before the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry.

“I think [the resolution] properly identifies a number of anti-Semitic tropes and helps educate the public about the history of them and why they are pernicious,” he said. “I think it’s an appropriate response to the debate we’ve been having about a number of comments made the past few weeks.”

The House drafted the resolution following anti-Israel statements made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). The ensuing controversy prompted Trump to remark that Jews and supporters of Israel were leaving the Democratic Party because of such comments. Schiff called Trump’s criticism of Omar cynical and hypocritical.

“I think the president is trying to exploit this situation for partisan purposes, which is singularly unhelpful after his comments equating people on both sides of the Nazi march in Charlottesville,” he said. “I don’t think he is in a position to weigh in on this credibly.”  

Schiff also discussed his concerns regarding the relationship between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, coupled with Netanyahu’s aligning with a far-right, racist party before Israel’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

“I am concerned that the prime minister’s embrace of these far-right parties is only going to further alienate a segment of the American-Jewish community, not to mention progressives outside the Jewish community,” Schiff said. 

While Schiff is now a player on the national stage, he’s still a champion of local issues. 

Earlier this month he introduced the Rim of the Valley Corridor Preservation Act, co-sponsored by Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. If passed, the legislation would add more than 191,000 acres of mountain lands bordering the San Fernando, La Crescenta, Santa Clarita, Simi and Conejo valleys to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and increase residents’ access to protected nature and wildlife in Los Angeles County. 

Schiff also recently urged Facebook, Google and Amazon to remove content promoting misinformation about vaccinations from their platforms.

“So, on all these issues, these are very high priorities for my constituents and obviously quite far afield from the Russia investigation,” he said. 

Regarding the upcoming 2020 presidential election, Schiff said the Democrats’ chances of unseating Trump were strong, but he declined to endorse any candidates.

“I think we’re going to have a very talented field running,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with my home-state senator, Kamala Harris. I think she is doing a phenomenal job. I’m looking to hold off as long as I can to make a judgment.”

He also declined to speculate on whether he would one day seek higher office.

“It’s always flattering to be asked the question, ‘Will you run for president?’ I’ve had a lot of those questions over the last year or two,” he said. “People are urging me to run and people are urging me not to run because they want me to remain focused on my day job. In terms of what is in my future, the honest answer is, I really don’t know.”

Can Israel Win Back the Democratic Party?

Photo from Flickr.

In June 1972, Israel’s ambassador to the United States was criticized by The Washington Post for being an “undiplomatic diplomat.” The ambassador was Yitzhak Rabin. The occasion was the presidential election between Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat George McGovern. Rabin’s supposed offense was expressing Israel’s preference that Nixon would come out on top. “While we appreciate support in the form of words we are getting from one camp,” Rabin told an interviewer, “we must prefer support in the form of deeds we are getting from the other camp.” 

Words — from the Democratic camp. Deeds — from the Republican camp.

Nearly 47 years later, a majority of Israelis feel the same as Rabin did then. Support for Israel is bipartisan in words mostly, in practice it is highly partisan — and not because of what Israel does or does not do. 

It is well-established fact that Democratic voters look less favorably on Israel than their Republican counterparts and fewer see it as a strong ally. Survey after survey, including a recent survey by Gallup, shows the gap. And as The New York Times reported a few months ago, the party itself is also changing, as “a cluster of activist Democrats … has dared to breach … strong support for Israel….” It’s true that mainstream Democrats call these Democratic Party leaders “fringe,” but the surveys indicate that this fringe might now reflect the perspectives of the party’s elected officials. 

For Israel, this is a highly troubling development, a matter of national security. Striving to have “bipartisan support” was always the policy of Israel and its allies. And while bipartisanship was always somewhat overhyped, it mostly worked well from the late 1970s until recent times. Rabin, the ambassador to the Nixon administration, had a close relationship with Democratic President Bill Clinton. 

The change in tone and attitude has been gradual. As Israel moved rightward, following the failure of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the Democratic Party moved leftward, from Clintonian triangulation to Barack Obama, and then even further to the left. Israelis feel at ease when Republican presidents — George W. Bush, Donald Trump — are at the helm. They felt much less comfortable with Obama, whom a majority of Israeli Jews considers the “worst president” for Israel in the past 30 years. 

While bipartisanship was always somewhat overhyped, it mostly worked well from the late 1970s until recent times. 

What can Israel do to mitigate the erosion of Democratic support? For many liberal Americans, and also some Israelis, the answer is simple: Israel must change its policies to win back the Democratic Party’s support. American liberals point their fingers at various Israeli policies — from not ending the West Bank occupation to bombing Gaza and passing “illiberal” legislation — that they say underlie the growing alienation. Opposition leaders in Israel blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for aligning his government with conservative Americans and thus creating a “serious problem” for Israel when the Democratic Party comes back into power. 

Undoubtedly, some of Israel’s policies contribute to making liberal Americans less enamored with the country they once adored. But a serious look at the trends must end with a disappointing conclusion from an Israeli viewpoint: There is not much that Israel can do to bring Democrats back into its corner, other than wait for the tide to reverse.

It goes without saying that Israel must invest in bipartisan support to the highest extent possible. No sane Israeli leader is going to forgo the support of half of Americans because of laziness or carelessness. On the other hand, U.S. bipartisan support is just one item on the list of many that Israel must worry about. First and foremost, it must worry about survival in a dangerous neighborhood. Thus, any discussion of Israel’s ability to impact the views of Democratic voters must begin with a straightforward question: What would be the cost of regaining their support? 

The answer — again, sadly — is that the cost seems to be too high. Here is one example: Democratic voters and legislators overwhelmingly supported the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Israeli voters and their government believed this deal was dangerous for Israel. So, in 2015, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak in Congress against the deal.

This was a highly partisan move, a “risky gambit” as professor Daniel Drezner called it. Back then I opposed it, believing that Netanyahu “has turned Israel into a political football.” Indeed, he had. Republicans cheered his speech; Democrats were furious with it. In retrospect, I was wrong. Had Netanyahu not decided that the benefit (making the case, refusing to surrender) outweighed the risk (further alienating Democrats), it would have been much harder to imagine Trump taking the bold step of withdrawing from the deal. 

Israel’s dilemma is not hard to understand: Losing bipartisan support is strategically dangerous; accepting a reality of an emboldened Iran is strategically dangerous. Sometimes a choice must be made. Which of these two is more dangerous? More urgent? More susceptible to influence?

While for Israel to assuage its policies on Iran, or on Gaza, is certainly dangerous, its ability to influence Democratic tendencies at a reasonable cost is far from clear. Rabin understood this in the 1970s, when he was looking at a Democratic Party smitten with McGovernites — “the kind of liberal he had learned to dislike,” as professor Ephraim Inbar wrote in his book, “Rabin and Israel’s National Security.”

Netanyahu probably sees a similar picture as he looks at a Democratic Party highly influenced by the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and highly attentive to activists whose philosophy is intersectionality. He looks at the party whose leaders not long ago vowed to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem (the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in the Senate by a 93-5 majority, with only one opposing Democrat) but recently, vehemently, opposed this move. 

Israel and the Democratic Party have changed since 1995. Democrats became less tolerant of hardnosed realistic policies — the exact types of policies that Israel gradually adopted. 

Can Israel make moves that would mitigate the trend of it becoming unfashionable among Democrats? Sure. It needs to make such goal a priority whenever possible. But it is important to acknowledge a frustrating reality: Since Israel is not going to completely alter its security policy, only little mitigation is possible.

Democratic support for Israel is weakening as a result of internal American dynamics. When Democrats turn to moderate centrism — as in the days of Presidents Lyndon Johnson or Clinton — relations with Israel are solid. When Democrats move leftward — as in the days of McGovern or Obama — relations with Israel become rockier. This is basically true whether Israel is led by a Labor government headed by a Rabin or a Likud government headed by a Netanyahu.


Shmuel Rosner is senior political editor. For more analysis of Israeli and international politics, visit Rosner’s Domain at jewishjournal.com/rosnersdomain.

Poll: 69% of Americans View Israel Favorably

FILE PHOTO: A worker on a crane hangs a U.S. flag next to an Israeli flag, next to the entrance to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun/File Photo

A Gallup poll taken between Feb. 1-10 revealed that 69 percent of Americans view Israel favorably. In 2018, that number was 74 percent.

The poll, released on March 6, surveyed 1,016 Americans. Twenty-one percent of those polled viewed the Palestinian Authority (PA) favorably. That percentage remained the same in 2018.

Among political party and ideology, 87 percent of conservative Republicans, 72 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans, 66 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats and 58 percent of liberal Democrats viewed Israel favorably. In 2018, those numbers were 85 percent, 70 percent, 67 percent and 62 percent, respectively.

By contrast, 36 percent of liberal Democrats, 26 percent of moderate and conservative Democrats, 20 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans and 10 percent of conservative Republicans viewed the Palestinian Authority favorably. These were all increases from 29 percent, 21 percent, 14 percent and 9 percent respectively, in 2018.

Additionally, 59 percent of Americans sympathized with Israelis over the Palestinians in 2019, whereas 64 percent felt this way in 2018. Twenty-one percent of Americans sympathized with the Palestinians over Israelis in 2019, an increase from 19 percent in 2018. Seventy-six percent of Republicans said they sympathized with Israelis over the Palestinians, a sharp decline from 87 percent in 2018, and 43 percent of Democrats said they sympathized with Israelis over the Palestinians, a decline from 49 percent in 2018.

“Americans’ overall views toward Israel and the Palestinian Authority have changed little in the past year, with roughly seven in 10 viewing Israel very or mostly favorably and two in 10 viewing the Palestinian Authority in the same terms,” Gallup senior editor Lydia Saad wrote. “At the same time, the new poll finds a slight softening of Americans’ partiality toward Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly among moderate/liberal Republicans and, to a lesser extent, liberal Democrats.”

Will We Have a Choice for President in 2020?

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a roundtable discussion of the Federal Commission on School Safety Report at the White House in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Jim Young

If ever a case could be made for a third party in American politics, it would be from the specter of next year’s presidential election being between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and a Jeremy Corbyn Democrat.

Events of the past few weeks remind us yet again that the same noxious brand of anti-Semitism infecting the British Labour Party led by Corbyn is strengthening its foothold in this country’s progressive circles. The Democratic presidential hopefuls’ failure to condemn Rep. Ilhan Omar’s most recent statements of intolerance toward the Jewish people speaks volumes about their party’s rapidly changing and increasingly worrisome dynamic.

Let’s be clear: None of the current or prospective Democratic presidential candidates is an anti-Semite. But when Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, launched yet another hateful screed February 27th — saying lawmakers and activists who support Israel hold “allegiance to a foreign country” — it was notable that none of them condemned her comments. Rather, it was House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) who had the courage to object to her “vile anti-Semitic slur” and demand an apology.

Engel’s objection was followed by similar statements from a handful of pro-Israel congressional Democrats as well as a House resolution that offered a generic denunciation of anti-Semitism. But by the time this column went to press, there was only silence from the presidential aspirants. 

To be fair, political cowardice in the face of naked bigotry has become a bipartisan pastime. When a hateful anti-Omar poster was hung recently in the West Virginia capitol during a Republican program, no member of the GOP congressional leadership was willing to denounce the perpetrator. (Local Republican officials deserve credit for condemning the attack.) And it’s common knowledge that Trump has no interest in calling out the haters on his side of the aisle, so much so that no Republican member of Congress did anything substantial to refute Michael Cohen’s testimony last week that Trump routinely used racist language to belittle African-Americans and other minorities.

“Voting for a bigot in either party is an appalling concept. Supporting a candidate who is unable or unwilling to stand up to anti-Semitism is only slightly better.”

The minority of American Jews who support Trump rarely try to defend the president’s personal behavior, pointing to his record on taxes or Israel as a reasonable tradeoff for his lack of character.

And now we see that Trump’s opponents are just as willing to look past the timidity of their party’s leaders in the face of anti-Semitism. Democratic presidential candidates don’t want to voice disapproval of Omar because they must balance their relationships within the Jewish community against their need to avoid alienating the growing number of party activists whose hostility toward Israel is now a progressive badge of honor.

Polls show that liberal Democrats sympathize with the Palestinians rather than Israel by almost a 2-to-1 margin, and no presidential hopeful can succeed without securing a portion of these votes. The result is that every one of the party’s candidates stays quiet when fellow Democrats suggest that American voters who support Israel are guilty of treason. But Democratic White House hopefuls should remember that John F. Kennedy confronted similar prejudice during his 1960 presidential campaign, when his opponents suggested the nation’s first Catholic president would prioritize his loyalty to the Vatican over his allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.

Voting for a bigot in either party is an appalling concept. Supporting a candidate who is unable or unwilling to stand up to anti-Semitism is only slightly better. The majority of American Jews consider Trump an unacceptable alternative. But until a Democratic presidential candidate chooses to follow Engel’s example, the question of who deserves the backing of pro-Israel voters will remain uncomfortably unanswered.


Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and Pepperdine University. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and a board member of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

Michael Bloomberg Will Not Enter 2020 President Race

Michael Bloomberg. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided not to run for president in 2020.

Writing for Bloomberg.com, Bloomberg said on March 5 that after months of consideration he realized he could contribute more in the areas he cares about, including gun control and climate change, by dedicating himself to initiatives he has supported since leaving public office in 2014.

“So as I’ve thought about a possible presidential campaign, the choice before me has become clear. Should I devote the next two years to talking about my ideas and record, knowing that I might never win the Democratic nomination? Or should I spend the next two years doubling down on the work that I am already leading and funding, and that I know can produce real and beneficial results for the country, right now?” Bloomberg said in the piece titled, “Our Highest Office, My Deepest Obligation.”

“I’ve come to realize that I’m less interested in talking than doing,” he continued. “And I have concluded that, for now, the best way for me to help our country is by rolling up my sleeves and continuing to get work done.”

In announcing his decision, he said he hoped the Democratic Party would nominate someone in 2020 who has the ability to defeat President Trump.

“We cannot allow the primary process to drag the party to an extreme that would diminish our chances in the general election and translate into ‘Four More Years,’” he said. “It’s essential that we nominate a Democrat who will be in the strongest position to defeat Donald Trump and bring our country back together.”

Bloomberg, who is Jewish, is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and former three-term mayor of New York City. He is the founder, CEO and owner of global financial services company Bloomberg and one of the wealthiest individuals in the world.

This is not the first time speculation surrounded a possible Bloomberg run for the country’s highest office ended with Bloomberg deciding not to run. In 2016, he flirted with the idea of running as a third-party candidate but determined that doing so would impact the Electoral College in an undesirable way.

This time, weighing a run on the Democratic ticket, he acknowledged he would have had a difficult time winning among so many candidates in a party that has become increasingly leftwing.

“I believe I would defeat Donald Trump in a general election,” he said. “But I am clear-eyed about the difficulty of winning the Democratic nomination in such a crowded field.”

While announcing his decision not to run, Bloomberg emphasized ways he would enact change outside of Washington D.C. He announced the launch of Beyond Carbon, which he described as “a grassroots effort to begin moving America as quickly as possible away from oil and gas and toward a 100 percent clean energy economy.”

He said he looked forward to ways he can contribute to improving the nation.

“While there would be no higher honor than serving as president,” he said, “my highest obligation as a citizen is to help the country the best way I can, right now.”

 

Don’t Give J Street a Free Pass on Anti-Semitism

Rep. Ilhan Omar Photo from Flickr.

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) has been widely condemned — including by the leaders of her own party — for her recent promotion of anti-Semitic tropes on Jewish control over finances and government.

It’s encouraging to see Democrats put politics aside for a moment and call out anti-Semitism within their ranks. It is time for the Jewish community to hold its fellow Jews accountable when they use the same rhetoric and tactics often deployed by anti-Semites.

You might ask: is it even possible for Jews to traffic in anti-Semitism? The answer can be found in the latest project of J Street, the self-identified “proIsrael, propeace” Jewish lobby group.

New evidence shows how the statements and activities of J Street U, the organization’s campus arm, were seemingly closely coordinated and virtually identical to those of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), which has long been recognized as a leading purveyor of campus anti-Semitism. (For years, we’ve already known that although J Street states that it opposes the anti-Israel BDS movement, J Street U co-sponsors campus events with pro-BDS organizations like SJP).

At the University of Vermont (UVM) this month and on the same day, J Street and SJP each issued statements criticizing UVM Hillel for accepting funding from the Maccabee Task Force (MTF). Both groups falsely accused MTF and Hillel of suppressing “Palestinian voices,” while alleging that MTF-Hillel partnerships create “an unsafe environment” (SJP) and “unnecessary divides” (J Street).

J Street took its attack even further, using anti-Semitic tropes in its attacks on MTF’s primary funder, Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson. J Street U’s national Twitter account described Adelson as MTF’s “bankroller.” On Instagram, J Street U’s UVM chapter replaced the word “truth” with “money” in MTF Executive Director David Brog’s quote, “The truth is on our side.”

The anti-Semitic trope voiced by J Street U’s social media posts is unmistakable. It’s the same canard that Omar promoted when she tweeted that support for Israel in Congress is “all about the Benjamins.” In J Street U’s worldview, support for Israel on campus is also all about the Benjamins — the Benjamins of a Jewish philanthropist, Adelson.

We must call out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever we see it and no matter who the speaker is. Groups like J Street U that claim to represent the interests of the Jewish community cannot get a free pass for crossing the line from legitimate criticism to slander and anti-Semitism.

Ultimately, the haters will hate, and we can’t censor them. But it all comes down to how we respond. In the U.K., eight Labour members recently quit the party over the culture of anti-Semitism perpetuated by its leader, Jeremy Corbyn. That’s what standing up to anti-Semitism looks like. It’s also what meaningful self-reflection looks like — understanding that a plague exists within your own ranks and that you have no other option but to completely dissociate yourself from it.  

Following the example of those eight Labour members, Democratic leaders in the U.S. should stand up to anti-Semitism by removing Omar from her position on the House Foreign Relations Committee.

When it comes to J Street’s anti-Semitic activity on social media, the absolute minimum standard we should expect from fellow Jewish communal organizations and activists (including progressive ones) is to disavow the lobby group once and for all.

Why does J Street feel the need to attack Adelson, a fellow Jewish activist whose philanthropy includes funding young people’s trips to Israel, cancer research and Israel’s first mission to the moon? Why is accepting donations from Adelson any different than the funding J Street receives from George Soros?

The same progressives, who absurdly came to the defense of Soros when he was criticized about his funding of the BDS movement, should likewise condemn the calling out of Adelson.  

It was already clear that J Street isn’t the “pro-Israel” organization that it claims to be. Now, by trafficking in tropes on Jews and financial control, J Street’s rhetoric has crossed the line from anti-Israel to anti-Semitic.

Let’s not give J Street a free pass for it.


Brooke Goldstein is the Executive Director of The Lawfare Project.

Former N.Y. Assemblyman Calls on Fellow Dems to Condemn Rep. Tlaib

Screenshot from Twitter.

Former New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind is calling on his fellow Democrats to condemn Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) for her anti-Semitism.

In a Wednesday video posted to Twitter, Hikind highlighted how within her first few days in Congress, Tlaib accused “the Jewish people of dual loyalty here in America, something that the enemies of the Jewish people going back to Nazi Germany and all over the world have used against the Jewish people.”

Hikind was referencing a tweet where Tlaib accused supporters of an anti-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) bill in Congress of forgetting “what country they represent.” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt called Tlaib’s tweet “deeply problematic.”

Hikind then pointed to the photo floating on Twitter of Tlaib with Abbas Hamideh, “a supporter of Hezbollah, a supporter of Hamas.” Hikind proceeded to highlight some of Hamideh’s tweets, including one that read, “Long live the courageous Arab-Muslim lion, [Hezbollah] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah!”

“Let us remember that Hezbollah has been involved in [an] attack upon American soldiers,” Hikind said. “This is a terrorist organization, as defined not just by the Trump administration, the Obama administration before. And this is who our new member of Congress associates with? On her first day, she associates with those who want to murder and maim and destroy the Jewish people and destroy the state of Israel.”

Hikind then asked if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have “the guts” to condemn Tlaib.

“Is it only when it’s a Republican that Democrats speak out?” Hikind asked. “Or is it only when it’s President Trump that the Democratic Party is united to condemn any kind of racism or hatred? What about the Democratic Party?”

Tlaib seemed to make reference to the Hamideh photo with a Tuesday tweet stating, “Right wing media targeting me again.”

“Yes, I am Muslim and Palestinian,” Tlaib wrote. “Get over it.”

Pelosi and Schumer’s offices did not respond to the Journal’s requests for comment as of publication time.

We Must Go After Bigots on Both Sides

Photo from Flickr/Gage Skidmore.

Last week, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was interviewed by The New York Times. King has a long history of racially tinged comments — comments that could plausibly be interpreted as either racist or as awkwardly phrased but not racist. But his interview with the Times destroyed any vestige of such vagary, as he explained, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”

Obviously, this is out-and-out bigotry. White supremacism is a grave evil — the declaration that whites are innately superior to others is by definition discriminatory. So is white nationalism, which is based on the assumptions of white supremacism. Ironically, King embraces the arguments of the political left when he suggests that Western civilization is coincident with and springs from racial discrimination.

That’s why I called on Congress to censure King; I maxed out by donating to his political opponent and called on others to do so, too. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) denounced King’s comments and said there would be consequences from the Republican caucus. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) tore into King and silent Republicans in the pages of The Washington Post. The National Republican Congressional Committee already had announced it would cut ties with King last October.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) is openly anti-Semitic. Last week, she accused members of Congress of dual loyalty to Israel thanks to their support for anti-BDS legislation. Tlaib is a supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and a defender of CNN contributor Marc Lamont Hill, who called for the destruction of the State of Israel. This week, it emerged that Tlaib hosted Abbas Hamideh, a pro-terrorist artist, at her swearing-in in Detroit; she also invited him to a private dinner. Hamideh has openly called for the destruction of the State of Israel and embraced the leadership of Hezbollah. Thus far, no comment from Tlaib.

“The immune systems of both the Republican and Democratic parties have been compromised.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) tweeted in 2012, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Democratic leadership has been silent.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) met and danced with anti-Semite Al Sharpton, a man who once helped incite riots in Crown Heights and racial arson at Freddy’s Fashion Mart. Sharpton once called Jews “diamond merchants” and “white interlopers” and ranted, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” Sharpton is still a treasured member of the leftist coterie.

Democratic leaders including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have embraced anti-Semites like Women’s March leader Linda Sarsour. The Women’s March leadership as a whole has been embraced by members of both the leftist media and the Democratic Party. That leadership includes Tamika Mallory, who appeared on “The View” this week to defend her view that insane anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan is the “greatest of all time.” When pressed to condemn Farrakhan, she demurred.

Here’s the sad reality: In American politics, there are bigots on both sides. There are alt-right bigots who masquerade as defenders of Western civilization while promoting pagan racism; there are leftist bigots who masquerade as crusaders for diversity while promoting intersectional racism. The difference is that the right occasionally cleans house. It is nearly impossible to think of a Democratic figure too radical or bigoted for Democrats. 

The immune systems of both the Republican and Democratic parties have been compromised. But only one party seems to have even a baseline readiness to excise cancers from its midst — and it’s not the party the mainstream media would have you believe.


Ben Shapiro is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire.

These Jews Have Too Much Influence! 6 Comments on a New Survey

 

1.

A new survey by Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland shows that an increasing number of Americans support a one-state solution for Israel and Palestine. “When one considers that many Israelis and Palestinians, as well as many Middle East experts, already believe that a two-state solution is no longer possible, especially given the large expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank”, writes Telhami, “it’s not hard to see why more people would be drawn to a one-state solution”.

Is this new finding important? It is and it isn’t.

It’s important because it shows that Israel fails to communicate its position to American audiences, especially Democratic voters and younger voters (of which 42% support a one-state solution).

It’s not important because the one-state solution is still not a viable option, and thus not an option.

 

2.

Telhami conducts his poll every year, and almost each time I write critically about it. This is because his polls, while pretending to be impartial, in fact raise the suspicion that they are an act of advocacy for certain positions.

Take the question of the one-state solution. What it offers is a mirage. “A one-state solution: A single democratic state in which both Jews and Arabs are full and equal citizens, covering all of what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territories.”

Sounds good? It does. In fact, I see no reason why Americans would not support such solution to a nagging problem. But what would happen had we told them the truth: “A one-state solution: An attempt to establish a single state that is likely to result in Jews and Arabs constantly fighting for control and spilling even more blood than today.” Would Americans still support it?

 

3.

Another choice offered to Americans is this: Do you favor the Jewishness of Israel more than its democracy” or “Israel’s democracy more than its Jewishness.”

Are you surprised to learn that, when presented with this false dichotomy, most Americans favor Israel’s democracy?

 

4.

Telhami argues (in Foreign Policy) that “What many read as a rising anti-Israeli sentiment among Democrats is mischaracterized; it reflects anger toward Israeli policies – and increasingly, with the values projected by the current Israeli government.”

I am not sure what this means. I am not sure what the difference is between “anti-Israel sentiment” and “anger towards… the values…” If someone is against the political choices of most Israelis, and against the values that most Israelis believe in, and against the policies most Israelis want – does it still not make him or her anti-Israel?

The trick Telhami uses here (and he is not alone in doing this), is placing the bar for being anti-Israel so high, that it becomes almost impossible to reach. In his book, only a person that calls for the elimination of Israel, or the destruction of it, is worthy of this title. That’s very convenient for people who want to vehemently oppose Israel without being tagged anti-Israel.

 

 

5.

I know that it’s becoming popular to argue, in left-wing circles, that being anti-Israel is not akin to being anti-Semitic.

But look at this question, and tell me if it doesn’t make you feel somewhat uneasy: “How much influence do you believe the Israeli government has on American politics and policies?”

The answer, of course, is that the Jews (and by this we mean the Jews of Israel – not the good Jews of America) might have too much influence. 55% of Democrats think they do. 44% of young Americans think they do. Would they also say that countries such as Russia, Saudi Arabia, Britain, or China have too much influence on American politics? I bet many of them would – but Telhami didn’t ask.

 

6.

Americans want fairness, and hence many of them expect their government to “lean toward neither side” when “mediating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

But how does one measure a “leaning?” Here is example: If the US government says “we would not tolerate Palestinian suicide bombers killing innocent people in Tel Aviv” – does this count as “leaning” towards Israel, because it’s critical of something that only Palestinians do? Another example: If the US government says, “we believe that Palestinian insistence on a right of return imperils any prospect for a successful peace process” – does this count as “leaning” towards Israel, because an impartial position would be to say “let’s compromise on a right of return for half the people”?

In other words: what if the US government does not “lean” towards the Israeli position but rather towards to more reasonable position that tends to be the Israeli position? Would Americans want their government to lean towards an unreasonable position for the sake of being impartial?

To Beat Trump, Dems Need New Strategy

“Hey, let’s talk to people who were always going to vote for us anyway!” That seems to be the sum total of the Democratic Party’s strategy to beat President Donald Trump’s Republicans in recent elections. 

Political parties are brands as much as Coca-Cola and Apple are. Like them, parties can squeeze only a minimal amount of growth from existing fans.  

To thrive, Dems must persuade those who aren’t current supporters. Whether indifferent, lapsed party loyalists or those actively voting against them, Democrats’ brand is in poor shape with these segments. 

Fortunately, there’s a simple — if not easy or quick — way to fix this. Israeli psychologist Daniel Kahneman, the first psychologist to win the Nobel Prize in economics, has provided the blueprint.

Kahneman delineates two modes of thinking: System 1 decisions, driven by instinct, memories and engrained learning, yields instantaneous decisions. System 2 decisions, based on deliberation and logic, need more time to form. Although we like to believe our choices are rational, System 1 biases and intuition often pull the levers.

The ultimate goal for any brand is to be selected without the decision-maker doing much thinking at all. Democrats would love to be the no-brainer choice. But those gut-level voting decisions can happen only if Dems start capitalizing on System 1 brain processing and stop preaching to their existing fans. 

That means three things: Stop throwing valuable resources into campaigning to the already-convinced. Plow that money into persuading those who aren’t. Finally, cast off naïve ideas about the influence of facts and figures. 

This doesn’t mean going all-in on emotional marketing. All emotional responses originate in System 1, but not all System 1 thinking is emotional. 

“The left is not a monolith, despite what many conservatives imagine. Most Americans aren’t invested in politics. They’re intensely practical people.”

Brushing your teeth doesn’t require strategic thinking. “Auto-pilot” and muscle memory are nothing but System 1 — not emotion — at work. You also probably don’t deliberate much before buying your usual newspaper. Your brain knows better than to perform a critical audit of all your options for that one. It’s a System 1 decision devoid of emotion. 

Likewise, Democrats can’t win elections with “We’re not the evil GOP” as their brand identity. Leveraging what people used to love about their party would be more strategic. 

For example, alienated voters might be swayed by seeing Democrats embrace the notion that the white working class, especially males, deserve a shot at the American dream. But liberal extremists won’t go there — even though it helped Dems win elections for decades. 

The left is not a monolith, despite what many conservatives imagine. Most Americans aren’t invested in politics. They’re intensely practical people, focused on their families, local communities and minding their own business. If the Democrats can find what resonates with those individuals, they can become a party that such people believe people like them vote for. This would take Dems one step closer to becoming the no-brainer election choice.

This doesn’t mean abandoning fact-based overtures. In consumer marketing, purchase of pricier items or those with lengthier consideration periods is often triggered by System 1 beliefs layered with System 2 data. If you’ve always loved Nikes and need new cross-trainers, information about the brand’s political activism can give you permission to buy what you wanted all along.

But factual details about a brand can go only so far. If individuals simply don’t think of Democrats as candidates for “people like me,” they won’t vote for a certain candidate just because she has impressive degrees or experience.

This makes it all the more imperative for Democrats to build a brand that can poach voters from Trump’s base and beyond.


Jackie Danicki is a business consultant and media contributor. 

California Needs a New, Centrist Party

Those of us who inhabit the space in American politics between the 40-yard lines have watched with dismay as the nation’s two major parties retreat into their respective ideological end zones. Many of us have often wondered about the potential for a centrist third party that could occupy the ground near midfield that has been abandoned by Democrats and Republicans.

The number of California’s registered Republican voters has fallen to less than one-quarter of the state’s electorate, leaving the marginalized GOP with fewer official members than the number of voters registered as No Party Preference. That means Republicans are now, technically, California’s third party. So the question we should be asking is: What should our state’s second political party look like?

Republicans have fallen to third-party status because of a doctrinaire message and agenda that make many women, minorities and young people feel unwelcome. Such a confrontational approach from the GOP has essentially defaulted control of the state to Democrats, who, without the checks and balances of a two-party system, have struggled to develop solutions for the state’s housing, transportation and education crises. 

Our new centrist party could draw from the strengths of both Democrats and Republicans, prioritizing job creation and economic growth while still respecting our newest and youngest neighbors. It should be known as the Independent Party, but it is instead designated with the less-descriptive No Party Preference label. While the term “independent” would send an important message to Californians looking for a true alternative, other potential titles for a new party could provide useful guidance: 

The Opportunity Party: With economic headwinds looming, California needs a pro-growth agenda that rejects the ideological extremes of both existing parties and creates opportunities for economic success and a better quality of life for residents. The chief obstacle to those goals is the lack of affordable housing for working Californians. A centrist solution could ease regulatory burdens that prevent necessary development while protecting our natural resources. We also need tax reform that would recognize the realities of a 21st-century economy and protect us from the budgetary devastation that accompanies a stock market downturn. We could benefit from California’s geographic advantage as the capital of the Pacific Rim, expanding international trade opportunities while protecting workers from unfair foreign competition. 

“Our new centrist party could draw from the strengths of both Democrats and Republicans.”

The Unity Party: From the time of the first Spanish explorers and missionaries, California has thrived when it has welcomed and supported newcomers, whose energy and optimism have fueled the state’s growth. A Unity Party would protect immigrants from demonization and vilification. It would also protect their communities from violent crime, protect their economic opportunities from an overreaching government, and protect their children from being trapped in inadequate schools. It would be a party that values the attributes that law-abiding new arrivals bring with them to our state, that encourages their integration into our communities, and that applauds their successes as our own.

The Humility Party: Members of this party would understand that the political center does not have a monopoly on smart policy ideas. They would recognize that committed progressives and equally ardent conservatives are just as invested in the state’s future. Believing a balanced approach would be the best path forward for California, they would see the foolishness in ignoring ideas from others who may have different ideological perspectives. They would know that those who disagree with them are neither stupid nor evil, but rather have a different idea on how the state can best confront its policy challenges. This party would facilitate that conversation and provide common ground on which a respectful and inclusive dialogue could flourish.

When we combine these essential strengths of unity, opportunity and humility into a new political entity for our state, it would become clear that it should be called “The California Party.” As we prepare to move forward, we welcome the involvement of all Californians who shares those core values.


Dan Schnur is a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and the former director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region.

To Win in 2020, Democrats Must Avoid the Power Trap

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi reacts to the results of the U.S. midterm elections at a Democratic election night rally and party in Washington, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

After two years in the political wilderness, enraged at a president they despise and virtually powerless to do much about it, Democrats finally see some light after regaining the House.

But as any doctor will tell you, it’s not good for the system to gorge after you’ve starved for so long.

Democrats will be tempted to use their new power in the House to take revenge on President Trump. Because they will control key committees and have the power to subpoena, it’s likely they will feel pressure from their agitated base to begin impeachment proceedings against the president, among other aggressive initiatives.

This is a trap.

For one thing, because impeachment requires the approval of two thirds of the Senate, which is staying in Republican hands, it’s highly unlikely they can get rid of Trump before the next presidential elections in 2020.

And that is precisely what Democrats must focus on—the next race for the White House.

If they squander the next two years on a bitter soap opera that will go nowhere, they will only reinforce the Republican critique that they have become a party bereft of ideas.

How can they surprise the electorate and position themselves for success in 2020? By thinking policy, by thinking about what’s good for the country.

They have little to lose by playing earnest rather than cynical. The country is expecting the two parties to continue the win-at-all-cost partisan combat so prevalent during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. It is this fanatical partisanship that has made Congress lose much of its credibility with the public.

Now that Democrats control the House, they can allow Republicans to play the bad guy if they so choose.

Believe it or not, there’s a bipartisan caucus in Congress called the “Problem Solvers Caucus” which comprises members of both parties. Yes, they’re small, but they have a big idea: Let’s focus on solutions that will help America, rather than fights that will hurt everyone.

It’s true that the parties are far apart on most of the big issues. But that’s no reason to give up. Led by the Problem Solvers Caucus, Democrats can look for small areas of agreement and build on those, and begin a process of mutual compromise. At the very least, they will look like a party of ideas and action, rather than one of destruction.

We’re all licking our wounds from the most divisive and acrimonious two years I can recall. Democratic leaders now have a chance to take the high road. They will have to contend with a progressive wing that is hardly into compromise. That will be their biggest challenge—resisting the urge to overreach.

But if they can at least look like they’re trying to bring problem solving back into politics, and attract candidates in that vein, that will increase their chances of winning the White House in 2020.

Anger and Gridlock: Working With a Divided America

In a deeply divided America, there was only one thing that unified the nation’s voters when they went to sleep the night of Nov. 6 after a long, bitter and ugly midterm election campaign.

Everybody was angry.

Despite reclaiming a majority in the House of Representatives and putting Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on a glide path back to the Speaker’s chair, Democrats were unhappy that Republicans maintained — and may have increased — their majority in the Senate. Among other things, that means two more years of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees and the possibility of one or two additional Supreme Court appointments.

Republicans, even though they saved their Senate majority, are just as mad after losing control of the House and realizing that Pelosi and her colleagues will derail the overwhelming majority of conservative legislative and policy priorities until 2021. Two years of House investigations into almost every corner of the Trump administration will keep that anger at a fever pitch until the next election.

The predictable result of a hyper-polarized electorate is a gridlocked government. With Washington split between a Democratic House, a Senate controlled by a largely conventional GOP majority, and a White House occupied by the most untraditional of Republicans, the odds of significant progress on any of the country’s most pressing policy challenges are infinitesimal. That will in turn fuel even more voter frustration, more partisan finger-pointing and previously unimaginable levels of vitriol and nastiness.

But while voter unhappiness is pervasive throughout the electorate, the highest levels of fury and can be found at the ideological bases of the two major parties. After watching the most conservative and uncompromising voices assume control of the Republican Party throughout the age of former President Barack Obama, it appears that the lesson the Democrats have learned over the past decade is that they need their own Tea Party. And the only thing less appealing than one party being held captive by its most hard-nosed absolutists is when it happens to both of them.

The vast majority of American Jews, of course, line up on the blue side of the political dividing line, so a new House majority will offer them some solace and a considerable amount of motivation to continue the resistance for another two years. Smaller segments of the Jewish community are Trump supporters, and will now worry that their priorities on issues relating to the economy and Israel will face a more difficult path forward in a divided Washington.

But on a political landscape where the most extreme elements of both major parties have increased their influence, it raises the question as to whether American Jews should be focused more on the partisan balance between Democrats and Republicans  — or on the ideological makeup inside of those two parties. 

It has become increasingly difficult to ignore the growing vehemence of the anti-Israel voices that populate the populist wing of the Democratic Party. It has become just as hard to discount the most virulent voices of intolerance among alt-right Republicans. The majority of both parties’ loyalists would stand with Israel and protect the rights and safety of American Jews. But the red-blue chasm that separates Democrats and Republicans has fueled such scorched-earth animosity on both sides that partisans on the left and the right are far too willing to tolerate the inexcusable excesses of those who just happen to share their party registration.

The question is whether Jewish voters — just as polarized as the rest of the electorate — are willing to call out the extremists in their own party ranks. It’s important for Republican Jews to criticize those who advocate for economic boycotts against Israel. It’s just as necessary for Jewish Democrats to castigate the voices of race-based nationalism and prejudice. But it’s not that hard. The challenge is to move beyond the selective outrage that inspires our anger only against those in the other party rather than against those on both the right and the left who would endanger our community and our homeland.

The fact that Democrats took the House and Republicans held the Senate was not especially surprising. But it now appears that both parties will maintain larger majorities in their respective parties than had been expected, and larger majorities mean less incentive for compromise and collaboration. Party leaders on both sides will be reluctant to confront the extremists in their own ranks, and those who tolerate either the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement or blood-and-soil proclamations, will continue to grow their ranks — unless the Jewish community decides that some things are more important than party registration.

Here in California, the results were even less surprising, as the heavily Democratic state elected Gavin Newsom as governor and re-elected Dianne Feinstein to the Senate by overwhelming margins. Late on election night, it was still unclear whether Democrats would hold two-thirds supermajorities in the state legislature. Otherwise, the most compelling contests in the state were between blue and deep-blue candidates. But California voters are angry too, and their fury toward Trump will continue to fuel state politics and governance.

Next week, I will go on a deeper dive into all the results and what they portend. But for now, the one safe prediction is that the anger will continue to grow.


Dan Schnur is a professor at the USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism and UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. He is the founder of the USC-L.A. Times statewide political survey and the former director of the American Jewish Committee’s Los Angeles region.

Israel, the U.S. and Partisanship

There’s a trendy view these days that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has committed the grave sin of turning support of Israel partisan. This is the view of many on the Democratic left, who seem perturbed at Netanyahu’s close relationship with President Donald Trump. “Netanyahu refuses to even pretend that he cares what liberal American Jews think or feel about Israel,” sneers Eric Alterman of The Nation. 

But what, precisely, is Netanyahu supposed to do in the face of the left’s gradual move against Israel over the past two decades? Alterman, for all his sneering, is a harsh anti-Israel critic — he says that Israel is either practicing apartheid today or on the verge of doing so, and has endorsed the idea behind boycott, divestment, and sanctions of Israel on the international stage. Can that be attributed to Netanyahu?

The left’s anti-Israel move has been brewing for decades. Republicans have been somewhat more pro-Israel than Democrats since the Six-Day War — Israel’s victory in that war led to an onslaught of Soviet propaganda against the Jewish state as the Soviets attempted to consolidate the support of Muslim states. Still, until 2001, the two parties remained largely pro-Israel; in 2001, 38 percent of Democrats supported Israel against the Palestinians, with 50 percent of Republicans doing so.

Then 9/11 hit. Suddenly Republican support for Israel began to climb and Democratic support for Israel began to drop. That drop was exacerbated by the advent of former President Barack Obama’s administration, which took the line that Israel’s failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians lay at the heart of broader conflicts in the region. The American left began to parrot the line of the European left that Israel’s intransigence represented the root of imperialistic Western power politics. 

After 9/11, Republican support for Israel began to climb and Democratic support for Israel began to drop.

I attended the Democratic National Convention in 2012, where constituents booed Jerusalem in the Democratic National Committee platform; there was no doubt in the room which way the Democratic Party was moving. The Obama administration established a “daylight with Israel” policy and ran roughshod over Israel’s concerns about Iranian terrorism in promotion of a hollow Iranian nuclear deal. Today, just 27 percent of Democrats say they support Israel as opposed to the Palestinians — even though the Palestinians are governed by a three-headed terrorist monster in the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad — as compared with 25 percent who support the Palestinians. Controversial Louis Farrakhan acolyte Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) nearly became the head of the DNC last year with the support of supposed pro-Israel advocate Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). 

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader in Britain, is openly anti-Semitic. He took tea with Raed Salah, a man he called an “honoured citizen” despite Salah’s use of the actual Blood Libel; he wrote a letter defending Stephen Sizer, a now-retired vicar who blamed Israel for the 9/11 attacks; and he hosted “his friends” from Hamas and Hezbollah in parliament. Now, Corbyn has attempted to cover his tracks. But he’s fooling no one.

Meanwhile, the American right continues to embrace Israel at record rates. Republicans favor the Israelis over the Palestinians at a rate of 79 percent to 6 percent. Contrary to self-flattering left-wing opinion, that isn’t because of Christian millenarianism — it’s not because Christians think that support for Israel will immanentize the eschaton. It’s because religious Christians in the United States truly believe that those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed; they see Israel as a representative of Western ideals in a brutal region of the world; they recognize in Israel ideological allies and religious kin. Even those on the right who aren’t particularly religious support Israel because they recognize that Israel represents the canary in the coal mine for the West; Israel’s battle against Islamic terror is part of a broader battle the West must fight.

That’s not Netanyahu’s fault. Perhaps those on the left who remain pro-Israel ought to consider that the problem isn’t Israel or Netanyahu: It’s a left wing that has lost touch with reality in favor of multicultural utopianism and flattered itself into believing that sympathizing with some of the world’s worst regimes represents standing up for human rights.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire.

Why Democrats Missed the Boat in Jerusalem

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks at the Milken Institute 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On May 14, the Donald Trump administration officially opened the United States Embassy in Jerusalem. It was a moment to cherish: an acknowledgment by the most powerful nation on the planet that Jerusalem was indeed Jewish, that it is the eternal capital of Israel, and that neither revisionist history nor sheer anti-Semitic malice can separate Jerusalem from her people.

Naturally, zero elected Democrats showed up.

On the surface, this decision makes little sense. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) signaled his excitement over the Trump administration’s decision: “In a long overdue move, we have moved our embassy to Jerusalem. Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.” Back in 1995, Congress passed a law mandating the embassy move with bipartisan support; in the Senate, the bill passed 93-5. In June 2017, a bill reaffirming the principles of the 1995 vote passed 90-0 in the Senate.

Yet no Congressional Democrats showed up to the Jerusalem event. By contrast, a bevy of elected Republicans, showed up in Jerusalem to celebrate.

According to Israeli reporter Ariel Kahana, every member of Congress was invited to attend, but “people involved in the process blame the Democratic leadership of Congress.”

So, why didn’t the Democrats show up?

Antipathy for Trump is no answer — this was a foreign policy ceremony intended to cement relations with America’s key ally in the region. Trump’s warm welcome in Israel should not have put off Democrats from doing honor to a nation that a Democratic president, Harry Truman, had a strong hand in founding.

Democrats didn’t want to attend the opening of the embassy because they were afraid of their own base.

No, more likely, Democrats didn’t want to attend because they were afraid of their own base. Unfortunately, the Democratic base has moved in a significantly anti-Israel direction over the past two decades — as of January 2018, while 79 percent of Republicans sympathized with Israel, just 27 percent of Democrats did. Again, this makes little sense considering that Israel is the only democracy in the region, the only LGBT-friendly country in the region, and the only country in the region that allows serious religious diversity. But for Democrats, considerations of governmental liberalism take a back seat to intersectionality.

Intersectionality posits that Western civilization has victimized particular groups, and that those groups therefore must have the leading role in discussing politics. Thus, Israel’s success has actually cut against Democratic support: By becoming more prosperous and powerful, Israel now becomes a perpetuator of the “system” intersectionality wishes to attack. Thus, gay Jews waving rainbow flags with stars of David have been barred from Dyke Marches in Chicago on behalf of Palestinian sympathizers, even though rainbow flags likely end with beatings under Palestinian rule. Thus, Linda Sarsour, an openly anti-Semitic fellow traveler of Louis Farrakhan, continues to maintain her popularity with the Women’s March, even as she tweets hatred about Israel.

Israel has become too successful to maintain its appeal to the coalition of victimhood promulgated and celebrated by the intersectional left. And so Israel must be denied legitimacy.

The problem for Democrats is that in order to deny Israel legitimacy — especially at a time when Palestinians are ruled by terrorist groups Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamic jihad — Israel’s historical ties to the land of Israel must be soft-pedaled. These terrorist governments have no moral claims to the land, not when they are busily pursuing murder and repression and impoverishment of their own people. So they must make historical claims that deny the Jewish connection with Israel. This they do with alacrity.

Never has there been less of a case for Democrats to split with Republicans on Israel — not in the face of Iran’s genocidal aspirations, Syria’s horrors and the rise of terrorist groups on all of Israel’s borders. Yet the split grows wider, not narrower. Until Democrats throw aside victimhood ideology in favor of the morality that used to govern their party, it will continue to widen.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author.

Partisan Divide over Israel

Pew Research Center reported on Jan. 23 the disturbing results of a poll on Israel. According to the poll, 46 percent of Americans support Israel over the Palestinians; just 16 percent support the Palestinians over the Israelis. Those results have been relatively consistent for years.

The disturbing part arises in the context of party identification. While 79 percent of Republicans say they sympathize with Israel, as do 42 percent of independents, just 27 percent of Democrats say they identify with Israel. Since 2001, Republican support for Israel has skyrocketed from 50 percent to 79 percent; in that same period, support from Democrats has declined from 38 percent to 27 percent.

Why the increasing divide?

The easiest answer would be President Donald Trump. A plurality of Americans — 42 percent — say that Trump is “striking the right balance” on the Middle East, while 30 percent say he unfairly favors Israel; 47 percent of Americans said President Barack Obama had struck a good balance, with 21 percent saying he favored the Palestinians too much. This obviously means that a solid number of Democrats were comfortable with Obama’s anti-Israel policies. Trump has reversed that polarity, driving down Israel’s numbers with Democrats.

The second easy answer would be Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had an icy relationship with Obama and has a warm relationship with Trump  This has consequences for public relations: 52 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of Netanyahu, compared with 18 percent of Democrats.

Republicans live in a post-9/11 world; Democrats live in a pre-9/11 world.

But both these answers are too easy. The divide between Republicans and Democrats on Israel predated both Trump and Netanyahu — the gap began to grow with Sept. 11 and yawned wider with the Obama administration. I attended the 2012 Democratic National Convention at which the attendees loudly booed the reinstatement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the party platform. Some deeper element is driving this newfound division over Israel.

That deeper element is worldview, exposed by 9/11 and exacerbated over time by increasing partisan bickering over Islamic terrorism. From 1978 through the Oslo Accord, support for Israelis declined while support for the Palestinians stayed approximately even. About as many Americans said they supported “neither party” or “both” as said they supported the Israelis. That’s because the United States faced virtually no threat from Islamic radicalism. After Oslo, support for Israel jumped, particularly as Israel was hit by wave after wave of Palestinian terrorism.

Then, after 9/11, support for Israelis jumped among Republicans and never stopped growing. Conservative Americans, who had been more likely to draw a moral equation between Israel and her enemies, identified with the Israelis — they saw Israel as an outpost of Western civilization in a region rife with Islamic terrorism. They saw Palestinians handing out candies as the World Trade Center towers fell, and they knew that Israelis had been facing down the same threat. The real, meaningful conflict between Islamist barbarism and Western liberalism was thrown into sharp relief.

Democrats, too, initially responded to 9/11 with more support for Israel. But as the war on terror progressed, Democrats began to see Western civilization as the provocative agent. Too many on the left saw Islamic terrorism as a response to Western cruelty — cruelty to which Israel was supposedly a party. Nowhere was this clearer than in the media coverage of the Gaza War, which glorified Hamas at the expense of Israel, even as Israel tried to avoid civilian casualties and Hamas tried to inflict them. The Obama administration reflected that viewpoint, which is why it pursued Iranian regional growth with alacrity. The West, Obama and the Democrats thought, had to withdraw from the Middle East in order to empower dispossessed Islamists (hence State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf’s asinine suggestion that ISIS be given jobs to help them avoid terrorism).

Unfortunately, the gap yawns ever greater. Republicans live in a post-9/11 world; Democrats live in a pre-9/11 world. That has dramatic, unfortunate implications for Israel: In a polarized political environment, the historic bipartisan support for the Jewish state is quickly eroding. That’s not a bipartisan problem. That’s a specifically Democratic problem, and one that should encourage Jews to examine whether the Democratic Party ought to re-evaluate its moral worldview in the Middle East.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author and editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire.

Eroding Support for Israel: What Can We Do?

Should We Worry?

The facts, before we dive into the many points of data, are quite simple:

  • Americans sympathize with Israel much more than they sympathize with the Palestinians.
  • But behind this fact lurks a partisan divide: Republicans are highly supportive of Israel, Democrats less so.
  • The trend of eroding Democratic support for Israel continues.
  • The trend of declining support of Israel among young Americans also continues.

These are the facts, presented yesterday by the Pew Research Center. Now the questions.

The first of which is: should we worry? This has an easy answer. Of course, we should. Israel needs American support, and the more support the better. Israel also needs stable support, not one that comes and goes when government switches parties. If only one party is highly supportive of Israel, then only when this party is in power Israel can be relatively calm about the support it will get.

What Can We Do?

A second question is more complicated: what can we do about it? For this question, there are several answers available – and it is not surprising that each of them serves a certain political agenda. That is to say: these are answers that mostly utilize the new numbers to advance a cause.

First answer: Israel must change its policies and attitudes. Obviously, it is the answer you hear from people who want Israel to change its policies. For example: end the occupation, and your support in America will get a boost. With this answer there are two problems. One – Israel was not more popular when it was engaged in peace talks with the Palestinians.

Take a look: these are the numbers representing sympathy with Israel since 1990 (borrowed from the Jewish Virtual Library). As you can see, support for Israel is rising even amid recent hurdles in Israeli-Palestinian relations (look at the red trendline). You’d also notice that disengagement from Gaza (2005), or post Oslo Accord years (mid 1990’s) did not necessary translate to more American sympathy.

Of course, there’s another problem with the change-your-policy suggestion. Israelis do not want to change course because they believe that the current course is the one most secure and beneficial. They will only change course if they decide that the current course is no longer the best course, or if they calculate that what they gain by staying on course is less than what they lose in American support. And that is not an easy thing to calculate.

Second answer: Invest more in PR. This is the answer of people who think Israel ought not change its course but want to do something about the worrying trend. These people believe that Israel has a good case, and that with this case minds and hearts can be altered.

The problem with this answer is clear: the case might be strong, but Americans of a certain camp do not buy it – and even many Israelis don’t. In the world of geo-politics, actions speak much louder than PR campaigns. No campaign can compete with the impact of war in Gaza. No campaign can be more effective than a speech by Netanyahu in Congress.

Third answer: There is not much Israel can do. What we see – the alienation of liberals from Israel – is the result of social megatrends that impact many subjects among which Israel is just one. If that’s the case, the conclusion could be: invest in the people with which you have chance (namely, Republican conservatives), and don’t sweat over things you do not control.

What’s the problem with this attitude? Come November 2018, assuming the Democratic Party takes over Congress, the problem will become clear. The party in power will be the one that is less committed to the US bond with Israel.

Should We Panic?

No. The trend is clear, and the new survey is authoritative. But looking at the many surveys done in the last couple of years is a calming exercise. Yes, support for Israel is eroding, but the Palestinians do not gain much. In fact, the trendline is still one of a growing gap between the (higher) support for Israel and the (lower) support for Palestinians.

Take a look (this is based on numbers assembled by Rosner’s Domain):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does God Want Higher Taxes?

Photo from Flickr/401kcalculator.org

Last week, Republicans did what they always do when they have power: They passed an across-the-board tax cut.

Not a single Democrat voted for the tax reform bill in the Senate or House. That’s a major shift since the 2001 tax cuts under George W. Bush, when 12 Democrats voted for that bill in the Senate, and 28 voted for it in the House.

Last week, Democrats rightly complained about the process, which was perfunctory and messy, complete with handwritten notes in the final Senate version. They wrongly complained about the structure of the tax reform bill, which they said raised taxes on the poor (false) to decrease taxes on the rich. And they hypocritically complained about increases to the deficit — when’s the last time Democrats complained about too much spending?

But it was peculiarly perplexing to watch religious Democrats complain about the tax bill by citing biblical text. Conservatives were high-handedly informed that God mandates higher taxes — that to care for the poor and the orphan, governments were instituted among men.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg led the charge, stating on Twitter, “If the Bible is so against systemic solutions to poverty, why is a jubilee year declared that releases people from debt to alleviate intergenerational poverty? What is leket, shikhah, pe’ah, and maaser if not taxes meant to create a safety net for those in need?”

Let’s begin with the bizarre contention that the Bible requires higher taxes. That’s simply untrue. The Bible talks about “taxes” (Hebrew: mas) in the traditional sense in only a few places: Solomon raised taxes, as did his son Rehoboam, with the result that the kingdom of Israel was split in half; Ahasuerus raised taxes at the end of the Book of Esther, a move that isn’t exactly seen as an unmitigated positive in the Talmud. The Torah’s emphasis on tzedakah is about private giving, not about government-enforced giving.

The Torah isn’t a guidebook for government welfare programs. It’s a guidebook for personal goodness.

Now, let’s talk other forms of biblical “taxes.” First, there’s maaser, tithing; Ruttenberg here probably is referring to maaser sheni, which in Deuteronomy 14 is directed toward the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow (maaser is directed toward the priests alone). It applies only in the third and sixth years of the sabbatical cycle, and it’s 10 percent of the produce.

Then there’s shikhah, which occurs when you forget a sheaf in the field; you’re supposed to leave it for the widow and the orphan (Deuteronomy 24:19). That’s a rather de minimis contribution. Leket and pe’ah are referenced in Leviticus 19; leket refers to ears of corn forgotten on the ground, which are to be left there for the poor (again, this is de minimis); pe’ah refers to the corner of your field. The minimum amount for pe’ah is 1/60th of your field.

At best, then, we’re talking about a biblically mandated 11.7 percent of your produce every third and sixth year. Democrats want to maintain the highest tax rates at over 50 percent, if we include state and local taxes.

Finally, there’s shemitta and yovel. Shemitta mandates the waiver of all debts in the seventh year (Deuteronomy 15); yovel restores all land ownership to its original owner in the 50th year (Leviticus 25). Ruttenberg says that these mechanisms were designed to prevent accumulation of wealth. That’s untrue. Actually, they were designed to maintain tribal land ownership, since the Talmud says that yovel applies only when the tribes were living in their prescribed territories. And the rabbis designed an entire system, pruzbul, in order to avoid the impact of yovel and shmitta loans. It turns out that a system that routinely devaluates loans prevents their issuance, thereby harming the poor.

None of this is designed to undercut the notion that the Torah cares about the poor. It most certainly does. But our obligations are personal, not government-created; God wants us to act out of personal desire to help the poor. And not coincidentally, studies show that those who are most religious tend to give the most to charity, not those who point to the Bible in order to justify government cash-grabs.

The Torah isn’t a guidebook for government welfare programs. It’s a guidebook for personal goodness. To turn it into the former is to prevent the cultivation of the latter.


Ben Shapiro is a best-selling author, editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire and host of the conservative podcast “The Ben Shapiro Show.”

Democrats Need a Tax Plan, Too

Photo from Flickr/www.ccPixs.com.

The Republican tax-reform plan is marginally less generous to the wealthy than many conservatives would like. As the GOP struggles to cobble together an actual bill that can unite their fractious party, it’s tempting for Democrats to sit back and enjoy the show.

But that’s shortsighted. How can Democrats steer Congress toward constructive reform without a proposal of their own? And how can the Democratic Party rebuild its own credibility on economic issues if it has no vision on tax policy?

For Americans, and for the viability of their own party, Democrats need to offer a progressive road map for tax reform that clearly spells out what they would change in our existing tax laws, and why. The party is going to need a coherent and principled basis for judging and improving the package that Republicans come up with, which will explode the debt while delivering the biggest tax cuts to the nation’s wealthiest families.

At the moment, Democratic tax policy can be summed up this way: Raise taxes on the rich. That’s not good enough. Though the approach may excite hardcore partisans and class warriors, it doesn’t speak to working- and middle-class aspirations for better jobs and higher wages.

Taxing the rich won’t pay for everything.

Americans want a forward-looking and concrete plan for pulling the country out of its slow-growth rut and ensuring that workers without a college degree can find middle-income jobs in today’s knowledge economy.

Rather than sit mute as Republicans flail, Democrats ought to view the coming debate over tax reform as an opportunity to show Americans what they stand for, and offer, if not a detailed tax bill, these basic progressive tenets:

A well-designed tax overhaul could breathe new life into the economy by eliminating market distortions and inefficiencies that misallocate capital. Democrats should push for ending, or at least limiting, a host of tax-preference items that channel investment into tax-favored activities rather than productive ones. They also should call for cutting taxes on startups, the most fertile source of new jobs. In the long term, Democrats should advocate for a fundamentally different way of financing government — one that taxes consumption more, and income and innovation far less.

Democrats are right when they say that America’s wealthiest families can and should contribute more. But taxing the rich won’t pay for everything. Democrats need to tap new revenue sources. For instance, they should scale back costly tax preferences for health insurance and housing that disproportionately benefit high-income households. They also should lower the payroll tax, which hits working Americans harder than the income tax. Reducing the payroll tax would create an immediate bump in overall economic growth.

Democrats should propose bringing business tax rates down to competitive levels and taxing business activity where it occurs. Not only does our outdated corporate tax system burden many U.S. companies with higher nominal and effective rates than their foreign competitors, it also gives our companies a perverse incentive to park profits overseas.

The American tax system is not just outdated. It’s positively byzantine. Streamlining the code would make it much easier for working families to file their taxes. What’s more, many of the most complicated tax preferences serve to benefit corporations and the country’s richest households. Removing or reforming these items and creating a simpler, more transparent tax code would boost public confidence in our system of voluntary compliance.

Republican leaders in Congress are backpedaling from campaign promises to pass “revenue-neutral” tax reform and reverting to the long-discredited claim that tax cuts will pay for themselves by turbo-charging the economy. As American fiscal policy suffocates under the weight of $20 trillion in national debt, Democrats can’t let Republicans get away with such nonsense. The drain in revenue would put intolerable pressure on public investment and lead to the freezing of much-needed government programs.

To help millions more Americans reach the middle class, and to define themselves as the real party of jobs and growth, Democrats need to put forward a tax plan of their own.


Will Marshall is president of the Progressive Policy Institute.

Can the U.S. Congress Still Influence Israeli Policy?

Photo by Gali Tibbon/Reuters

Last week, a group of U.S. senators sent a stern letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The letter was signed by seven U.S. senators, among them Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“We fear actions like the conversion bill and the suspension of the Kotel agreement will strain the unique relationship between our two nations,” the senators warned, “particularly if the majority of American Jews see the movements to which they are committed denied equal rights in Israel.”

What was Netanyahu’s reaction? He politely ignored it. The conversion bill was shelved by Netanyahu months ago, and the Kotel agreement is unlikely to materialize.

How times have changed.

Seven years ago, in 2010, U.S. senators seemed to have more leverage over Israel. Back then, another piece of Israeli legislation — the conversion bill initiated by Knesset member David Rotem — irked Jewish Americans. They pressured the government and then used their ultimate weapon: members of Congress. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) drafted a letter to Netanyahu. Fellow Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Carl Levin of Michigan joined him. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) phoned the prime minister. The impact of their actions was clear: Netanyahu shelved the bill, never to be resurrected.

But now there is silence. Strange silence. The letters are similar; the argument similar; the prime minister is the same prime minister; all the U.S. legislators involved, still, are Jewish; and all are Democrats. And yet, we see no sign that Israel is about to change its policy. We see no sign that Netanyahu is feeling pressured by the letter.

Why? There are many reasons, but I’d like to address the reasons on the U.S. side. And they begin with the fact that the Democratic Party is not the same party it used to be. Senators such as Al Franken of Minnesota, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii do not carry the weight of a Lautenberg and a Levin. The current government of Israel does not see them as pillars of U.S.-Israel relations. It does not see how ignoring their letter is going to hurt Israel. What will they do? an Israeli senior official (who actually favors the Kotel agreement) asked me, sarcastically, “Will they vote for the Iran deal?”

The Jews of America might not realize it yet, but their tools for swaying Israel are not as compelling as they used to be. The recent senators’ letter, once the biggest stick over Israel’s head, only exposed that reality and made it public. Highly liberal Democratic senators, such as the ones who signed the letter, will not do the trick. The Democratic Party in general — being out of power and moving leftward — is less of a tool of pressure. And most Jews do not have allies other than liberal Jewish senators on these Israeli state-religion issues.

But something more significant has changed between 2010 and today. It is the U.S. — the great ally, the most important friend — that has lost some of its leverage over Israel. This should not come as a surprise. A U.S. that is less interested in world leadership; less involved in Middle East affairs; less dependable as a defender of Israel’s interests and security; more willing to let others, such as the Russians, call the shots; that was governed by a lead-from-behind President Barack Obama; and is now governed by a lead-by-Twitter President Donald Trump; will inescapably lose some of its leverage over Israel.

Usually, when we think about U.S. leverage over Israel, we think about the peace process (and how Obama failed to force concessions on Netanyahu), or about Iran (how Obama failed to deter Netanyahu from speaking before Congress, yet deterred him from attacking Iran). But U.S. leverage is also about the ability of U.S. Jews to make Israel accept their priorities and accommodate their wishes. It is about the usefulness of letters from senators concerning matters of lesser importance, such as the Kotel agreement.

In 2010, a letter proved to be useful. In 2017, another letter proved to be meaningless.

Dating 101: The Politics of Love

I have been dating George for six months. We spend a lot of time together and have settled into a comfortable space. He makes me laugh and I feel protected, valued, cherished, respected, and entertained. He is kind and gentle, yet not at all a pushover. He is a good man, which I noticed immediately because one often takes notice of things they have never encountered before. I like him very much.

George and I don’t fight. Not to say we don’t disagree on things, because we do, but there is no yelling, disrespect, regret in what we say, or how we say it. There are a lot of things that are new about this relationship. I thought the biggest obstacle would be that George is not Jewish. Turns out that isn’t actually a deal breaker. He has come with me to Shabbat Services, met my Rabbi, and embraced how I embrace my faith. I am Jewish enough to carry my faith on my own, which is an empowering feeling as I always felt my partner needed also be Jewish.

So here is where we stand:

Kindness                 Check

Chemistry                Check

Sense of Humor     Check

Respect                   Check

Handsome              Check

Tall                           Check

Blue Eyes                Check

Thinks I Rock         Check

Religion                   All Good

Politics                    Oy Vey

I am a person who likes to talk about politics. I am fascinated by what is happening in America and enjoy not only the banter that politics inspires, but learning about how the political system works. It is a truly unique time for this country and I want to talk about it. Not just politics, but the news in general. From the alleged treason of Donald Trump and his family, to the senseless killings of African Americans by law enforcement, to people who sold pot being in prison next to people who sold heroin, I want to not only talk about it, but try to fix it. Whether writing about race relations, calling my Congressman to have my voice heard, or advocating for medical marijuana, it all matters to me.

It has forced me to look at my relationship in a way I never have before. I have to decide what is important and why I think it is important. Does it matter that I be with someone who thinks exactly like me? Am I holding my partner up a different level of scrutiny than I do my friends? Do I value someone who treats me well?  Is not talking about politics a deal breaker? Can I only love someone who thinks the exact same way as me?  At the end of the day it forces me to think about what I want, what I deserve, and what I am afraid of. Am I simply using politics as a way to run away from someone wonderful because I’m scared?

Rachelle Friberg is a friend of mine. I have never met her in person mind you, but she is my friend. She is a lovely young woman who reached out to me on social media after I wrote a series of blogs about a random encounter with Sarah Palin. She was hosting a radio show and asked if I would come on and talk about it. While I am sure there are many republicans in my life, she was the first one who was really out there with her politics. She is proudly republican. She is also young, educated, religious, and close with her family. With the exception of our political affiliations, we are actually quite similar and I like her very much. We have been friends for several years and she is my go to republican.

I asked Rachelle a few questions because I value her opinion on politics. She’d be a great politician and perhaps after her career as one of the best school teachers this country has to offer, she will run for office. Rachelle has always been a republican. Both her parents are republicans. She used to consider herself a conservative republican, but her views have shifted a little over time. While she still considers herself a fiscal conservative, which I suppose I am too, she considers herself more of a moderate when it comes to social issues. She has coined herself a “common-sense republican”, which I love.

I asked Rachelle if she would date democrat and it was the first time she’d ever been asked the question. She never gave the topic much thought. When it comes to dating or being in a relationship, she looks at the individual and could care less whom the guy she’s dating voted for in an election. If the chemistry is there, why would she let political differences stand in the way of her having a committed, lasting relationship? She expanded by saying having differences in beliefs whether it comes to something as important as politics, or as trivial as what kind of pizza toppings you prefer on pizza (ham and pineapple is her winner), can be a good thing in that you’ll never run out of things to talk about. Healthy debates can be a good thing and can add an element of fun to a relationship.

When we spoke about President Trump, Rachelle shared that this was the first presidential election since voting in her first election at age of 18, she didn’t vote for the republican nominee. When it came to voting day, she could not vote for an individual whom she felt did not represent her as a republican or her values. That said, she said since President Trump won, and is now president of the United States, he is her President. She respects the office of the land and believes we live in the greatest country on earth. She believes it is her duty to stand by her country, but she wishes he would stop tweeting already.

At the end of the day Rachelle does not think political affiliation of your significant other should determine whether or not you can jump all in. If you have chemistry, who cares whom they voted for? Would it make it easier if they vote the same way as she did? Probably. But Rachelle reminded me nothing comes easy without hard work and grit. Relationships can be messy, but they are also amazing testaments to the value that comes with loving someone through the good and the bad. Sometimes the best relationships come from the most unexpected circumstances. You’ll never know unless you take a leap of faith.

Rachelle made me see things differently. If she can date a democrat, then certainly I could date a republican! In a final attempt to get her to get me to walk away from George, I asked my lovely Christian friend if she would date a Jew. Her answer was really surprising to me. It was a tough question for her. She is deeply rooted in her religion but it is not the be-all, end-all of a relationship for her. She would date someone who practices a different religion because love is love and she understands how special and rare it is to find someone. Oh. My. God. I might actually be in love with Rachelle. She is a wonderful human being.

As I write this I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing. Am I trying to push away a man because of politics? Am I so certain I have yet again picked the wrong person, I am willing to get rid of him before my heart is hurt? Am I brave enough to jump in and fall in love with a man who makes no sense anywhere but my heart? It is all rather complicated and I suppose that is the thing about love. It is not relationships that are complicated, but rather love. Love is also grand and I have been searching for it for a long time. The possibility of finding it is terrifying. Not sure what I’m doing, but I am certain politics shouldn’t play a role in love.

George is a lovely man but the simple truth is that not only is he a republican, but he voted Donald Trump. At the end of the day that is something that has me stuck. This man has been gentle with my heart and inspired me to view things differently, but how can I respect someone who not only voted for, but continues to support Trump? It may simply be impossible. I hope to have a happy ending one day, and whenever that is, and whoever it is with, I will be grateful, afraid, excited, and as always, keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How the Dems can lose 2018

Activist Linda Sarsour in New York City on June 29. Photo by Joe Penney/Reuters

Last week, the Democrats released a new bumper sticker for their 2018 Congressional campaign: “I mean, have you seen the other guys?”

It’s not a bad political notion so far as it goes — opposition in politics is an effective tool, as Democrats learned from Republicans, who campaigned against Obamacare and Democratic spending policies to the tune of 1,000 state legislature seats, 12 governorships (including in states such as Michigan and Massachusetts), 10 Senate seats and 63 House seats. Now Democrats hope to reverse the math.

But there’s something else going on here, too. Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings. That’s because for all the talk by Democrats about Republican extremism, Republicans actually have moved closer to the center on policy, while Democrats have embraced an ugly combination of Bernie Sanders-style socialism and college campus-style intersectionality.

Leave aside the boorish antics of President Donald Trump and the incompetence of Congressional Republicans. Here is the fact: Trump is the most moderate Republican president since Richard Nixon. He has successfully passed almost no major policy in seven months. His foreign policy on North Korea and Syria is barely distinguishable from former President Barack Obama’s. His approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been praised by Palestinians and former Obama officials. He’s the most pro-LGBT Republican in presidential history; his stance on abortion has been vague; his White House chief strategist has openly embraced higher taxes on upper-income earners, as well as a massive infrastructure spending program; he has embraced the central premises of Obamacare. Trump may act in ridiculous ways that defy rationality — his Twitter feed is littered with stupidity and aggression, of course — but on policy, Trump is closer to Bill Clinton of 1997 than President Obama was.

Democrats, meanwhile, are moving hard to the left. When former Clinton adviser Mark Penn wrote an op-ed for The New York Times calling for Democrats to move back to the center, he was roundly excoriated by the leading thinkers in the Democratic Party. He was an emissary of the past; he had to embrace the new vision of the leftist future. That leftist future involved radical tax increases, fully nationalized health care, and — most of all — the divisive politics of intersectionality. Sens. Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) may own the policy side of the Democratic coalition, but the heart of the Democratic coalition lies in polarization by race, sex and sexual orientation. Forget a cohesive national message that appeals to Americans regardless of tribal identity: The new Democratic Party cares only about uniting disparate identity factions under the banner of opposing Republicanism.

The clearest evidence for that alliance of convenience came earlier this month, when Democratic darling and Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour was caught on tape promoting “jihad” against Trump. Sarsour said that the sort of “jihad” she liked was “a word of truth in front of a tyrant or leader.” But she deliberately used the word “jihad” because of its ambiguity, not in spite of it: Sarsour has stated that pro-Israel women cannot be feminists; she supports the imposition of “Shariah law” in Muslim countries; she has stated of dissident and female genital mutilation victim Ayaan Hirsi Ali that she wishes she could take her “vagina away”; she has long associated with the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood; she opened her “jihad” speech by thanking Siraj Wajjah, an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who has repeatedly advocated for a violent form of “jihad.”

Democrats hope that campaigning as #TheResistance will suffice to prevent voters from looking too hard at their own moral and political shortcomings.

Democrats rushed to her defense nonetheless, hoping to preserve the intersectional concerns that animate their base. Never mind that Sarsour is no ally to LGBT rights, or that she blames “Zionists” for her problems. She represents an important constituency for Democrats, and so she must be protected. More than that, she speaks anti-Trumpese fluently, and thus is an important figure for Democrats.

This isn’t rare on the left anymore. Much of the Democratic establishment supported Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a longtime Nation of Islam acolyte who spent years defending that group’s most extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric — a man so radical that he openly associated with the Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, which recently labeled Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) an “Israel Firster.”

Even as the Democratic Party embraced Sarsour and defended her ambiguous use of the word “jihad” — after all, she was opposing Trump the Impaler — leftist spokespeople rushed to microphones to denounce President Trump’s speech in Poland, in which he called for a defense of “the West” and “our civilization.” Leftist columnist Peter Beinart labeled the speech racist. As Jonah Goldberg of National Review points out, we now have a Democratic Party that spends its time defending the use of the word “jihad” against the president but labeling the phrase “the West” a problem.

Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see how it works out.

And so Democrats must focus on President Trump. They must hope that he smacks himself in the face with a frying pan. They must bank on some sort of Trump-Russia collusion revelation. They must pray that the focus stays on Republicans rather than turning back to Democrats. After all, Sanders-Sarsour doesn’t sound like a winning combination.


BEN SHAPIRO is editor-in-chief at The Daily Wire, host of the most listened-to conservative podcast in the nation, “The Ben Shapiro Show,” and author of The New York Times best-seller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear Silences Americans.”

Dating 101: Politics and Religion

I have been dating “George” for several months and for the first time in my life I am not in a rush to define it. He calls me his girlfriend, which is lovely. We are in an exclusive and committed relationship that matters to me, but I am not searching for labels or declarations. That is new for me because as a hopeless romantic I am so hopeful that my view of relationships has been distorted.

I have loved men who were unworthy of me. By unworthy of course I mean they should never date. Ever. I have not been interested in men who were probably good for me. I have cried more tears than anyone should, yet I am certain I will find love. I will meet someone wonderful who gets, deserves, and appreciates me. We will build memories that are happy rather than sad. It is just a matter of time.

When it comes to George, I have never been treated so kindly by a man. He is sweet, attentive, supportive, and lovely. He does not look like anyone I’ve ever dated, and he is not Jewish, which is how I have always rolled. He is a republican, which is how I never roll. We have nothing in common and were raised very differently, yet we are in a relationship and it is all really quite nice.

I am at a point in my life when I understand how hard it is to simply have nice. Nice is a wonderful word to describe a relationship and I don’t think people understand how important it is to have things be nice. To be clear it is not boring, just nice. We are respectful of each other’s opinions and communicate without fear. I enjoy his company and how he treats me. Most importantly, he makes me laugh.

There is however, one unsettling thing. When we talk politics, I find myself wanting to punch him in the face. We are on different pages and it makes my lower back spasm. The truth is no matter how much George thinks he is a Republican, I think he may actually be Independent. Perhaps I am one too! He believes his views are patriotic, but they are actually not at all in the best interest of the country.

I like him, but politics are a road block. I used to think I could never date a man who wasn’t Jewish, but it turns out dating a republican is much harder. It could just be me getting nervous that everything is good and therefore I’m finding things to sabotage. It could also be that I’m simply not able to date someone so different on two very important subjects of politics and religion.

It is hard to know if I am making the right choices. On Friday night George came with me to Shabbat services. He held my hand while I prayed, participated in the traditions, and met my Rabbi. It is great that he is open to my faith and will celebrate with me. I appreciate it, but we will undoubtedly speak about the political drama of the week, and I will struggle to not punch him. Oy vey.

At this point in our relationship I need to either jump in or get out. I want very much to set aside politics and focus on the nice, but I am not sure I can do it. I am open to all perspectives, but am struggling with politics, which is strange because I was certain it would be religion that got in my way. George is not a religious person. He believes on God, but does not practice any faith.

That makes things surprisingly easy. I am a practicing Jew, but I do not need him to practice with me to be satisfied in my faith. It is enough that he supports and respects how I practice Judaism. Having him at services with me was lovely. He was comfortable and open to all of it. This is a wonderful man who checks a lot of my boxes. I want to make it work, but will I be able to?

Can you fall in love with someone who is fundamentally different from you? Can you build a life with someone who’s political perspective changes how you view them? Should you invest in someone who you want to change? I adore this man but politically we are beyond not being on the same page, we are actually reading different books. It seems silly, but is a real struggle.

The internal battle I thought I would face over religion never happened. Instead my struggle is political, but love should never be political. Should it? I believe people should think, feel, and believe whatever they want. I also believe in love, and love is grand. The most important thing in love is respect, so can I love someone who’s views I don’t respect? It is all rather complicated.

The problem is that I have written here many times that love should not be complicated. My past relationships have always had something that was complicated, and the complication ultimately ends things. I am in a relationship now where the complication has been front and center from the beginning. There are no surprises. I knew what the differences were right from the start.

Time will tell if this complication brings us closer together or tears us apart. George is of the belief it makes us interesting as a couple. He is also a republican, so what does he know? Oy! It has been a wonderful weekend with George. We went to temple, hung out with my son, and enjoyed our time together. As for the future, he might be my bashert so I am putting politics aside, and keeping the faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The making of Adam Schiff: Why is this man taking on the president?

Rep. Adam Schiff speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on March 30 about the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

This is hardly the first time Adam Schiff has had Russia on his mind.

Years ago, and long before he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Schiff was a United States Attorney in Los Angeles who led the prosecution of an FBI agent  convicted on spy charges.

“Sex for secrets,” he recalled in a telephone interview with the Jewish Journal last month. “He was seduced by an attractive KGB asset named Svetlana — they’re always named Svetlana. I had to work extensively with the FBI even though it was the first time an FBI agent was ever indicted for espionage. … It’s so odd to be working on a case again involving the bureau and Russia. But it does feel like it’s come full circle.”

Congressman Adam Schiff, 56, is one of 18 Jews serving in the House, and these days, one of the most prominent of the chamber’s 193 Democrats. He’s been everywhere lately — a guest on CNN and MSNBC, a focus of stories in The New York Times and The Washington Post. His Twitter following is growing exponentially. Already, people are suggesting he could become a presidential candidate in 2020.

And all this for one reason: Schiff is the ranking member — the top Democrat — on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is investigating whether the Russian government interfered with the 2016 presidential election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign had a role in it.

With Democrats in the minority, Schiff has only so much power in setting the panel’s agenda. Nonetheless, he has emerged as a forceful counterweight to President Donald Trump’s defenders, who insist the current investigations into Russia’s election activities — the Senate and FBI are holding their own probes — are little more than politically motivated witch hunts designed to undermine the Trump presidency.

“The American people do have a strong center of gravity that will constrain [Trump’s] worst impulses, so I’m a believer in our democracy.” — Adam Schiff

Undaunted, Schiff is pressing ahead, an effort that draws together the most salient parts of a life in public service — his Judaism, his law background, four years in the California Senate and his 16-plus years in the House — not to mention his role as a Big Brother to a young African-American boy who Schiff’s father, Ed Schiff, says made Adam “a better person.”

It’s a foundation that also has cemented his confidence in American institutions despite the current chaos of Washington.

“I think our democracy is resilient enough; we’ll get through this, I think, even if the president doesn’t operate within established norms of office,” Schiff said. “The American people do have a strong center of gravity that will constrain his worst impulses, so I’m a believer in our democracy. I think we’ll get through this. But certainly, there are some rough roads ahead.”

Schiff was born in Boston in 1960, a few months before John F. Kennedy was elected president, as the younger of two sons to Ed and Sherri Schiff. Theirs was a mixed marriage: Ed, who now lives in Boca Raton, Fla. — “living the ‘Seinfeld’ life,” his son said — is a Democrat; Sherri, who died around 2009 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, was a Republican.

Adam Schiff poses during his bar mitzvah in June 1973 at Temple Isaiah in Northern California. Photo courtesy of Ed Schiff

Ed Schiff was a businessman who moved around the country as a regional sales director for Farah, a men’s pants manufacturing company. Sherri, “bored with country club life … went into real estate, where her boss said, ‘You are wasting time writing copy. Why don’t you get into sales?’ ” Ed said.

After a few years of living in Arizona, the Schiffs moved in 1970 to Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, where Ed got out of the “rag business,” as he called it, and purchased a building materials yard.

In those days, Adam was a studious boy who, according to his father, always did his homework, adored his mother and had a friendly sibling rivalry with his older brother, Dan, a relationship Adam would later write about in a screenplay — never produced — called “Common Wall.” Adam became a bar mitzvah at Temple Isaiah, a Reform congregation in Lafayette, Calif., in June 1973.

“I certainly do remember making tape recordings of my [bar mitzvah] practice sessions on cassette tape with a little cassette recorder, and I think I may even have one of those,” Schiff said. “It’s funny to hear your voice back then.”

In 1978, he entered Stanford University. A pre-med student, he also studied political science, and upon graduation, he was unsure if he wanted to pursue law or medicine. He decided on the former and enrolled at Harvard Law School.

After graduating in 1985, he clerked for federal Judge Matthew Byrne, a Los Angeles native who presided over the trial involving Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. Later, Schiff spent six years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in L.A. During that time, he met his wife, Eve Sanderson Schiff — yes, they’re Adam and Eve — and prosecuted Richard Miller, the FBI agent convicted of espionage.

Schiff’s success against Miller, as well as Byrne’s influence, accelerated his interest in politics.

“After Adam convicted the FBI agent of treason, he called me and said, ‘Dad, can you imagine what it’s like to have representatives of the most powerful nation in the world calling you and offering to help you in any way they could? Dad, I will never have another case like that in my life,’ ” Ed recalled his son saying. “ ‘I’m going into politics.’ ”

Twice he ran unsuccessfully for the California Assembly but promised his supporters he would do better next time. In 1996, he was elected to the State Senate.

“Adam takes things in progression, and the learning curve … with each loss made it that much easier the next time,” his father said.

In 2000, Schiff ran for Congress to unseat Republican James Rogan in what was then the most expensive House race of all time. Rogan was a two-term Congressman who had his own national profile, in part, from working to impeach President Bill Clinton. Schiff sought help from his mother, asking if she’d make phone calls to voters on his behalf.

“He said, ‘Mama, I would like you to do something for me. I would like you to call these people and tell them a little about me and ask them to vote for me. She jumped into that for 2 1/2 years like it was eating ice cream,” Ed said. “Her spiel went like this: ‘Good evening. My name is Sherri Schiff. My son Adam is running for Congress in your district. May I tell you a little about him?’ ”

Schiff currently is serving in his ninth two-year term in the House, representing a district that now extends from West Hollywood to the eastern edge of Pasadena and from Echo Park to the Angeles National Forest. He has a reputation as a moderate who works with members of both parties. With a large constituency of Armenians, he has championed legislation that would formalize United States recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915-17. He once delivered an entire speech on the House floor in Armenian and worked with the Armenian members of a hard-rock band, System of a Down, toward seeking recognition of the genocide.

Regarding Israel, which is never out of the headlines, he said, “I’m deeply concerned with a trend I’ve seen over the last several years, where the U.S.-Israel relationship, which always had been very bipartisan regardless of who was in office in Israel or in the U.S., has been trending toward a situation where you have a GOP-Likud relationship and Democratic relationship with other parties in Israel. I think that’s a very destructive trend.”

In 2015, as Jews became polarized over the Iranian nuclear agreement, Schiff considered both sides, then came out in favor of it. Recently, he expressed concern that in the event Trump believes Iran has violated the agreement by developing a nuclear weapon, the president’s outlandishness on Twitter and elsewhere will undermine his credibility in efforts to galvanize allies into action against Iran.

“I have been so appalled by this president’s conduct. I feel I have to vigorously oppose his efforts to undermine our system.” — Adam Schiff

“If they are cheating and the president calls them out on it and thinks there should be some response to it, will the country believe it?” he asked. “The allies we’d need to participate with us, would they believe us? The intelligence agencies that he’s maligning? This is the reason why presidential credibility is to be treasured and not squandered.”

Like Trump, Schiff uses Twitter to communicate his positions. One of his most shared tweets — more than 43,000 retweets and nearly 83,000 likes — addressed Trump’s tweet aimed at the “so-called judge” who had blocked his executive order barring individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.:

This ‘so-called’ judge was nominated by a ‘so-called’ President & was confirmed by the ‘so-called’ Senate. Read the ‘so-called’ Constitution.”

Tweets aside, Schiff’s 17-minute opening statement during the Intelligence Committee’s first public hearing on Russia on March 20 was less attack-dog and, befitting his usual public demeanor in television interviews, more lawyerly. He cited events of the presidential campaign that could suggest coordination between Russians and the Trump campaign, improving the Republican’s chance of victory.

“Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated and are nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible,” Schiff said, addressing FBI Director James Comey and Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency. “But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected, and not unrelated, and that the Russians used … techniques to corrupt U.S. persons. … We simply don’t know.”

In the interview with the Journal, he said, “I have been so appalled by this president’s conduct. I feel I have to vigorously oppose his efforts to undermine our system, and so, I certainly think there is more than a grain of truth to the idea this is a different kind of role for me.”

Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in West L.A. met Schiff five years ago at a memorial service at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills. Wolpe was leading the service, and Schiff said he was impressed with how eloquently and powerfully he spoke. The two struck up a friendship, exchanging book recommendations via email. The first book Schiff recommended to Wolpe reflected Schiff’s earlier involvement with Russia. It was “Eugene Onegin,” a masterpiece by the Russian novelist Alexander Pushkin.

“When he’s in town, we have lunch,” Wolpe said. “I talk a little bit about politics, but we talk a lot about literature and life.”

“When I saw him at AIPAC [in March], I told him how proud I am of how he’s been conducting himself,” Wolpe continued. “He’s in a tricky position. This is a very fraught time and I think he has conducted himself with a great deal of dignity. I am not trying to take political sides; I try my best not to. I think he is a nice, thoughtful, decent, caring and very intelligent man, so I’m impressed with him.”

Schiff’s own rabbi concurs.

“I felt personally very proud that Adam has taken stances on issues that really move him personally, and he hasn’t backed down on that,” said Rabbi Baht Yameem Weiss of Temple Beth Ami in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

“From where I sit, I think he’s certainly one of the leaders in the Democratic Party right now.” — Ed Schiff, father of Adam Schiff

For all his supporters, not everyone appreciates his approach to the investigation.

“Adam Schiff is a bright guy. He’s a talented legislator, but right now, instead of focusing on the substance of the investigation, he’s focusing on politics and partisanship,” Ken Khachigian, a San Clemente-based Republican strategist and former senior adviser to President Ronald Reagan, told the L.A. Daily News last month.

Schiff and his wife, who is Catholic, are raising their two children, Alexa, 18, and Elijah, 14, Jewish. The family has belonged to Temple Beth Ami since 2010. They formerly belonged to Temple Sinai in Glendale. Alexa is involved with the Hillel at Northwestern University, where she is a freshman. She has traveled to Israel with a Jewish summer camp and will be working as a counselor at the camp this summer, Weiss said.

As a House member, Schiff said he draws on the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam (repairing the world) to influence his work in Congress.

“We have a responsibility to mend the torn fabric of the world,” he said.

For all of his success as a prosecutor, state legislator and congressman, it might have been his experience with a Black kid from Inglewood that has shaped Schiff most. In his mid-20s, fresh out of law school, he volunteered to become a “big brother” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. He was paired with David McMillan, a child of a single mother who needed a male role model for her son.

The two hit it off immediately, bonding over “The Big Lebowski,” Billy Joel and the beach. Three decades later, they are still part of each other’s lives. McMillan, now a television writer and playwright living in Los Angeles, was in Schiff’s wedding and recently attended Elijah Schiff’s bar mitzvah. There, Adam’s father approached McMillan and said, “I want to thank you for making Adam a better person.”

“I certainly would like to hope my relationship has had a positive impact, not just in how he conducts politics but also as a human being,” McMillan said.

“My ‘big brother’ is leading the resistance and is emerging as a leader not just of the Democratic Party but of all people who care about our democratic institutions and making sure they just survive.”

schiff-bbbs

Left: In 1986, 25-year-old Adam Schiff gets together with David McMillan, his Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles “little brother.” Photo courtesy of David McMillan
Right: Congressman Adam Schiff and David McMillan were paired 30 years ago through Big Brothers Big Sisters. The two would become lifelong friends. Photo courtesy of David McMillan

Speculation over Schiff’s future includes whether he might run for the Senate to succeed Dianne Feinstein, who is 83 and shares the same birthday, June 22, as Schiff. Feinstein, a senator since 1992, has not said whether she intends to seek another six-year term next year, but Schiff running to succeed her is a possibility his father won’t rule out.

“I think it would be a tremendous honor for him to step into the Senate if he wanted it, but I don’t know,” Ed Schiff said. “From where I sit, I think he’s certainly one of the leaders in the Democratic Party right now. And where that goes, how that goes, and so forth, I think it all depends on which way our country is going.”

In March, Schiff gave a speech at the Westwood home of Karl S. Thurmond, a friend of more than 30 years. In his 40-minute talk, Schiff denounced the president and expressed hope for the future of the Democratic Party before taking questions from the audience.

Left: Adam Schiff and his friend and former Harvard Law School classmate Karl Thurmond cross the finish line at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon. Below: Nearly 30 years after running the marathon, the two appeared together at Thurmond’s Westwood home in March. Schiff spoke before 50 of his supporters and discussed the Trump administration, the future of the Democratic Party and more.

Left: Adam Schiff and his friend and former Harvard Law School classmate Karl Thurmond cross the finish line at the 1990 Los Angeles Marathon.
Right: Nearly 30 years after running the marathon, the two appeared together at Thurmond’s Westwood home in March. Schiff spoke before 50 of his supporters and discussed the Trump administration, the future of the Democratic Party and more.

Thurmond is an attorney and member of the Milken Community Schools board of trustees. He and Schiff were classmates in law school and both moved to L.A. after graduation, becoming part of a group that committed to becoming involved with a nonprofit to affect change. It was a pledge that led Schiff to Big Brothers Big Sisters.

They were 30 at the time, and Schiff was living in Venice. Training for the Los Angeles Marathon, he and Thurmond went on runs from Venice to Malibu and back, using the time to discuss career ambitions. Adam confided in Thurmond that he wanted to be president one day, to follow in the footsteps of his idol, John F. Kennedy.

“We would talk about our aspirations in life and one of his biggest from Day One was to run for political office so he could give back. His idol at the time, and I think still is, was President Kennedy,” Thurmond said. “I firmly believe, as he moves up, one day he will be running for president. And I can’t think of a better person to hold that office.”

For his part, Schiff declined to address his future.

“I don’t have much time even to eat lunch,” he said, “let alone think about anything other than what’s going on in the intelligence world.”