Jewish Republicans Dragged Into GOP Battle Between Tea Party and Moderates

Establishment Image Frays as Some Push Right-Wing Gospel

GOP Civil War: Ari Fleischer, a onetime spokesman for George W. Bush, is pushing the Republican Party to take more moderate positions. Others say grassroots GOP Jews sympathize more with Tea Party conservatism.
GOP Civil War: Ari Fleischer, a onetime spokesman for George W. Bush, is pushing the Republican Party to take more moderate positions. Others say grassroots GOP Jews sympathize more with Tea Party conservatism.

By Nathan Guttman

Published April 08, 2013, issue of April 12, 2013.
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The civil war now engulfing the Republican Party is laying bare a split among Jewish GOP supporters, as well.

Some of the party’s biggest Jewish donors are taking the lead in pushing for a more moderate conservative party following the Republicans’ defeat in last year’s presidential election. At the same time, grassroots Jewish supporters, many of them Orthodox, are finding a new home among socially conservative Republicans who populate the Tea Party movement and the Conservative Political Action Conference.

The emergence of a substantial Jewish presence in the party’s hard-right wing is reflected, among other ways, in the daily prayer minyan and kosher food options that have popped up at the CPAC meetings in the past two years — catering to the strongly Orthodox bent of these Jewish conservatives.

Together with their fellow right-wingers, these Jews are pushing back hard against the post-election call by more establishment, big-business oriented Republicans for a degree of moderation, especially on social issues. A major paper issued recently by the Republican National Committee that calls for such changes — a report that has been commonly dubbed “The Autopsy” — has become a particular focus of their ire.

“I don’t feel very Republican these days,” said political operative Jeff Ballabon, the man behind CPAC’s kosher meals and Sabbath prayer services, adding, “Who needs two Democratic parties?” The RNC autopsy report can be used, he said, “for confetti in the next [Republican] convention.”

Ari Fleischer, one of the co-authors of “The Autopsy,” in many ways exemplifies the older, more familiar image of the establishment Republican Jew. A former chief White House spokesman during the administration of George W. Bush, Fleischer works today as a media consultant for the National Football League and other sports enterprises through his company, Ari Fleischer Sports Communications. He is also on the board of directors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a central gathering point for many in the mainstream Republican Jewish establishment.

“I very much see the old edict of tikkun olam as what needs to guide Republicans as we move on,” Fleischer told the Forward, using the Hebrew term for “repairing the world.” The key to winning back voters, he said, is for Republicans to keep in mind those in the society who are still struggling.

Fleischer pointed to statements by failed 2012 GOP presidential standard bearer Mitt Romney as examples of mistakes that cost the party voter support outside its base. Romney’s declaration that 47% of Americans back President Obama because they “believe that they are victims [and] that government has a responsibility to care for them” loomed large among those mistakes, he said.


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