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2) The Republican Party Has Fallen to Extremists
The extremists call the shots in the Republican Party these days. Of course, Romney doesn’t talk much about abortion or gay and lesbian rights on the campaign trail; his positions are way, way to the right of most Americans. But he talked about them all the time in the primary, when he described himself as “severely conservative.” Do you think he’s simply forgotten those views? Of course not. It’s a shell game he’s playing. Tell the base one thing, and tell moderate voters another. It’s a bait and switch.
American Jews know better than this. We have been victims of discrimination. We may not always live up to our best values, but we know what they are.
Take the example of equality for gay people — an issue that is close to my heart, as someone both proudly gay and proudly Jewish. Really, I want to ask my moderate and conservative friends: Don’t you know better? You’ve danced at my wedding, you’ve invited me to speak to your synagogues — but in the voting booth, you vote to make it impossible for the man I love and me to build our lives together. How can you look me in the eyes?
Now, I know my moderate friends aren’t focused on these issues. But that is the effect of a Republican vote. Supporting Romney is supporting Georgia Republican Paul Broun, who said evolution and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the pit of hell,” and Missouri Republican Todd Akin, who said that women can’t get pregnant as a result of “legitimate rape.” Will American Jews really vote for a party that would ban all abortion, even in cases of rape and incest? Only by closing their eyes. Or perhaps because of…
Here’s the challenge: Find me one hair of difference between the Obama administration’s policy on Israel and any of the last Republican administrations’. This has been the most pro-Israel four years in American history: Funding the Iron Dome defense system, not opposing Israel’s settlement policy (unlike Bush I), taking a hard line on Iran (unlike Reagan, who condemned Israel’s bombing of the Iraqi nuclear site). Don’t trust me — trust Israel’s generals, who said the same thing.
So what is behind this awful campaign to paint Obama as somehow anti-Israel?
The truth is, it’s not about Israel at all. Republican shills like the so-called “Emergency Committee for Israel” are just ploys designed to elect Republicans by creating a wedge between Democrats and Jews. As The New York Times reported, even Sheldon Adelson’s vaunted pro-Israel politics may just be a facade for his economic interests, including sheltering billions in overseas income from taxation.
In other words, these people are just using Israel for their own motives.
And the way they’re doing it is even more troubling. Conservatives talk about “Barack Hussein Obama,” as if his middle name is evidence of his foreignness, his Arab-ness, his Muslim-ness. Since they don’t have facts, they use innuendo to pander to our fears.
So here’s what I ask of those concerned about Israel and wavering in their support of President Obama: Look for facts, not rhetoric of being “disillusioned,” or generalizations, but actual facts. And if you can’t find them, look inside your own heart. Let’s admit it: All of us carry vestiges of Jewish trauma within us, including fear of anything Arab or Muslim. We are all vulnerable to this kind of manipulation. If something “makes you uneasy,” don’t listen to that unease; second-guess it.
The Jewish moderates I know are basically good people. But make no mistake: Moderates are not at the helm of the Republican Party. The Eric Cantors and Bill Kristols of the world have made a deal with the devil. They may think they’re just using the Christian right to get elected, but really, the Christian right is using them.
Barack Obama may not perfectly represent everything each of us believes on every issue, but the alternative to him is terrifying. Please don’t forget that.
Jay Michaelson is a contributing editor to the Forward