Too Hot for San Diego

By James Goldsborough

Published December 10, 2004, issue of December 10, 2004.
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Young Judea as a boy and his brother immigrated to Israel.

Over a good bottle of Santa Ynez cabernet, I told him that President Bush was pandering to American Jews by blocking progress on an Israeli-Palestinian accord. Bush kowtows to Prime Minister Sharon, I said, blocking progress toward a settlement and a viable Palestinian state. Jews voted 4-1 for Al Gore in 2000, I said. Bush wants to win back the Jewish vote by embracing Sharon.

Cohen shook his head. It was a good Italian restaurant, a bit noisy when we arrived, but later quieted down. “It’s impossible Jews could ever vote for Bush,” he said.

What followed was Cohen’s short and moving disquisition on the nature of Judaism. He explained how this religion had spread with the Diaspora around the world, following Jews wherever they went, providing a history, an ethical code and social practices to help Jews keep their identity in often difficult circumstances.

Zionism eventually brought Jews back to Israel, he said, where the Jewish homeland was to become a model state built on equality and social justice, serving as an example to the world.

But disillusion set in. Israel had been founded on persecution of the Jews, but with the occupation of Arab lands after the 1967 war, “we had become the persecutors,” Cohen said. Bush’s embrace of Sharon could not replace the disillusion, he said.

In my hometown of San Diego, I told him, a woman who was visiting from New York approached me after I’d spoken at a university and explained how her husband’s firm had 10 Jewish lawyers. All 10 voted for Gore in 2000, but seven planned to vote for Bush this time, she said.

Cohen shook his head. Disillusion over Israel’s land occupation was only part of the problem. There was another reason Jews couldn’t vote for Bush.

“One of the essential teachings of Judaism is the importance of social justice,” he said. “How can people who believe in social justice for all people vote for a man whose politics favor the wealthy over everyone else?”

I was skeptical. Ten people is a small sample size, but the New York woman had spoken of a shift among her husband’s Jewish colleagues from 100% against Bush to 70% for Bush.

Small sample size, but perhaps large enough for a small wager. Why not bet my friend a case of this good Santa Ynez cabernet that Jews would switch to Bush in 2004? Just as Bush was targeting Protestants and Catholics in the election (and would win both votes), his embrace of Sharon and rejection of Arafat would win him the Jewish vote, too.

It’s a good thing I never bet against my feelings.

We’ve all seen the exit polls and read the stories about how Americans voted for Bush because of his “values.” The rich apparently have better values than the poor, and the old have better values than the young, for in this election the older and richer you were, the more likely you voted for Bush. Poor people and young people preferred Kerry by large margins. Maybe when they get older and richer, their values will improve.

White Protestants adored Bush, going for him 67%-32%. Even Catholics, Kerry’s co-religionists, supported Bush 52%-47%.

And Jews? There was a little slippage. Bush’s pandering, his Iraq war and complete abandonment of 10 years of progress toward Middle East peace picked up some Jewish votes for him.

Jews went for Kerry 74%-25%, compared with 79%-19% for Gore four years ago. This time Jews voted against Bush by 3-1 instead of 4-1 — which amounts, by my informal calculations, to about 250,000 votes. From this vote, there would seem to be a large gap between the “values” of most Jews and the values of Bush.

Muslims were another religious group that voted overwhelmingly for Kerry. Exit poll results by two national Muslim groups showed that more than 90% of Muslims went for Kerry. It’s not hard to understand why Muslims would strongly oppose Bush, whose policies have proved a disaster for America in the Middle East.

But if my friend Jerry Cohen is right, the strong Jewish vote for Kerry indicates a hunger among them not just for peace and justice in the Middle East, but for the same thing at home.

The following opinion article by San Diego Union-Tribune columnist James Goldsborough was pulled from publication last week by that newspaper’s publisher, on the grounds that Goldsborough’s explanation for why Jews overwhelmingly backed John Kerry might offend some readers. In protest, Goldsborough resigned this week after 12 years at the Union-Tribune, citing a rightward shift at the newspaper.

—-

Winding up a long drive to Northern California last summer, I stopped for dinner in Santa Barbara with Jerry Cohen. Something was bothering me and I wanted to ask him about it.

I’ve known Benjamin J. Cohen, the Louis G. Lancaster professor of political economy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, since we met on a tennis court in Paris in 1974, while he was at the Atlantic Institute and I was at the International Herald Tribune. In addition to being my friend of 30 years, he has been a faithful economics guru.

The subject at dinner was not economics, but Jews and elections. Jerry comes from an old Zionist family in Ossining, N.Y. His father was active in the Zionist Organization of America, Jerry was active in Young Judea as a boy and his brother immigrated to Israel.

Over a good bottle of Santa Ynez cabernet, I told him that President Bush was pandering to American Jews by blocking progress on an Israeli-Palestinian accord. Bush kowtows to Prime Minister Sharon, I said, blocking progress toward a settlement and a viable Palestinian state. Jews voted 4-1 for Al Gore in 2000, I said. Bush wants to win back the Jewish vote by embracing Sharon.

Cohen shook his head. It was a good Italian restaurant, a bit noisy when we arrived, but later quieted down. “It’s impossible Jews could ever vote for Bush,” he said.

What followed was Cohen’s short and moving disquisition on the nature of Judaism. He explained how this religion had spread with the Diaspora around the world, following Jews wherever they went, providing a history, an ethical code and social practices to help Jews keep their identity in often difficult circumstances.

Zionism eventually brought Jews back to Israel, he said, where the Jewish homeland was to become a model state built on equality and social justice, serving as an example to the world.

But disillusion set in. Israel had been founded on persecution of the Jews, but with the occupation of Arab lands after the 1967 war, “we had become the persecutors,” Cohen said. Bush’s embrace of Sharon could not replace the disillusion, he said.

In my hometown of San Diego, I told him, a woman who was visiting from New York approached me after I’d spoken at a university and explained how her husband’s firm had 10 Jewish lawyers. All 10 voted for Gore in 2000, but seven planned to vote for Bush this time, she said.

Cohen shook his head. Disillusion over Israel’s land occupation was only part of the problem. There was another reason Jews couldn’t vote for Bush.

“One of the essential teachings of Judaism is the importance of social justice,” he said. “How can people who believe in social justice for all people vote for a man whose politics favor the wealthy over everyone else?”

I was skeptical. Ten people is a small sample size, but the New York woman had spoken of a shift among her husband’s Jewish colleagues from 100% against Bush to 70% for Bush.

Small sample size, but perhaps large enough for a small wager. Why not bet my friend a case of this good Santa Ynez cabernet that Jews would switch to Bush in 2004? Just as Bush was targeting Protestants and Catholics in the election (and would win both votes), his embrace of Sharon and rejection of Arafat would win him the Jewish vote, too.

It’s a good thing I never bet against my feelings.

We’ve all seen the exit polls and read the stories about how Americans voted for Bush because of his “values.” The rich apparently have better values than the poor, and the old have better values than the young, for in this election the older and richer you were, the more likely you voted for Bush. Poor people and young people preferred Kerry by large margins. Maybe when they get older and richer, their values will improve.

White Protestants adored Bush, going for him 67%-32%. Even Catholics, Kerry’s co-religionists, supported Bush 52%-47%.

And Jews? There was a little slippage. Bush’s pandering, his Iraq war and complete abandonment of 10 years of progress toward Middle East peace picked up some Jewish votes for him.

Jews went for Kerry 74%-25%, compared with 79%-19% for Gore four years ago. This time Jews voted against Bush by 3-1 instead of 4-1 — which amounts, by my informal calculations, to about 250,000 votes. From this vote, there would seem to be a large gap between the “values” of most Jews and the values of Bush.

Muslims were another religious group that voted overwhelmingly for Kerry. Exit poll results by two national Muslim groups showed that more than 90% of Muslims went for Kerry. It’s not hard to understand why Muslims would strongly oppose Bush, whose policies have proved a disaster for America in the Middle East.

But if my friend Jerry Cohen is right, the strong Jewish vote for Kerry indicates a hunger among them not just for peace and justice in the Middle East, but for the same thing at home.






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