The panel "Jewish Politics 2010," featuring Republican Larry Greenfield and Democrat Ann Lewis, proved to be very interesting.
In light of the elections last week, panel moderator Ami Eden, the editor/publisher of JTA, noted that there are two Jewish political communities, and the Orthodox sector is becoming more Republican and "voting more like evangelical Christians," while Larry said, "I am shocked at how far left the Democratic party has gone."
I am wondering if both parties, then, are becoming more radical in their respective directions? If so, what brought this on? For liberals, was it a response to the policies of the Bush administration that helped Obama succeed? And then, if Republicans are going more to the right (Tea Party, anyone?), is it a response to the more leftist views of President Obama? Either way, there is a large rift between the two parties now.
The center of this debate seemed to be the different parties' and different candidates' stances on the State of Israel. Larry claimed, "Conservatives are friendly to the Jewish community and stand by Israel." Ann, who supplemented her argument by asserting that Jews continue to vote Democrat nationwide, cited a statistic from JStreet that claimed only a small amount of Jews thought of Israel as an important aspect of this election. She, however, feels strongly that we should not believe this statistic. She also believes that in 2012, the Democrats will have a better Jewish vote because they continue support of Israel's security and against Iran's nuclear program, and we may see a Republican presidential nominee who is "either the former governor of Alaska, or is approved by her."
Larry made an interesting comment when discussing Obama's advisors. He asked, "Why is [one of Obama's advisors on Muslim affairs] celebrating the burqa instead of recognizing American values of women's rights?" However, I would argue that the burqa is actually an example of women's rights. In the land of freedom of religion and expression thereof, a Muslim woman should be allowed to express her religion in the form of a veil or burqa if she so desires.
I understand that Larry was pointing to the idea of women's rights in the sense that some women are being forced to wear the burqa by men, but I think it is a common misconception and gross generalization to think that all women who wear the burqa are being oppressed, as Nicolas Sarkozy of France seems to believe. When questioned further about this statement, Larry clarified that he is concerned that Obama is not doing as much for human rights as he should be, especially in the context of Iran.
To conclude, the panelists were asked about the 2012 election. Will there be opposition to Obama from the Left? Ann quickly responded to this question: "I can answer this easily. There will be no opposition to Obama on the Left." Larry held that governors will play a large role in the election, while deliberately steering clear of any specific names, as the moderator pointed out.
Ami's conclusion is that Republican Jews will have trouble making serious headway outside of the Orthodox community. Whichever way the 2012 election goes, I think the one thing all of the panelists would agree upon is that the Jewish vote has the potential to make an impact, and that foreign policy, especially that which is in regards to Israel and Iran, should be taken into account.
Samantha Tropper is a student at Duke University.