Jewish voters still support Obama
I was surprised a few days ago to see in The New York Times the headline “In Poll, Jewish Voters Overwhelmingly Support Obama.” The poll, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute from Feb. 23 to March 5, reported that of 1,004 Jewish adults, 62 percent want President Barack Obama to win re-elected. Thirty percent said they would vote for the Republican candidate in November’s presidential election.
The article shouldn’t have shocked me, since not a single Republican candidate in history has received the majority of Jewish votes (not even “Saint” Ronald Reagan).
Yet I was still worried the 2012 election would see Jewish-Americans switching sides. I had constantly been hearing the Republican contenders criticize Obama for being too harsh on Israel’s settlement situation and too conciliatory toward Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has wailed that Obama, by asking Israel to return to pre-1967 borders, had “thrown Israel under the bus,” and fellow Republican hopeful Newt Gingrich tried to degrade Palestinians by calling them an “invented people.”
Front pages were splashed for weeks with speculations on what would happen if Iran successfully procured a nuclear bomb, if Israel could successfully carry out a preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites and if the Obama administration’s sanctions would be enough to change Iran’s mind. It seemed reasonable to assume that Jewish voters would prefer the Republicans, who are eager to extend a blank check to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to the more reserved incumbent.
The GOP should reconsider their strategy of slobbering and saber rattling, because the PRRI poll found that the Iran-Israel nuclear conflict is not a priority for Jewish voters. About half of those surveyed said that the economy was the biggest issue in the 2012 election. Israel and Iran was a deciding factor for 4 percent of Jewish voters, while same-sex marriage and abortion mattered to 1 percent of this constituency. Other noteworthy discoveries from the poll show that of Jewish-Americans, 56 percent think American-Israeli relations have remained the same, 63 percent favor diplomacy over military strength, 58 percent approve of Obama’s presidency thus far, 53 percent support the establishment of a Palestinian state, and 73 percent criticize the American economic structure for “unfairly favoring the wealthy.”
Overall, the ideals of Jews are shown to be in sync with the Democratic platform. Israel, regardless of its special status in American foreign policy, is a subject whose significance pales in comparison to that of the U.S. economy. If Republicans truly cared about winning the Jewish vote, they should then take notice of the fact that Jews largely disapprove of the iniquitous advantages the wealthy receive in the current economic system — advantages that Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s Republican budget would further. Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize for economics, called the budget the “most fraudulent” in history for the way it balances expansive tax breaks for corporations and the rich by making “cutting food and medical aid to the needy,” and even then does not lay out a concrete plan for reducing the deficit. Loved by conservatives, Romney reflexively declared the budget “marvelous”.
Of course, it’s easier to talk about bombing Iran than explaining how the new Republican budget plan will not help out the average citizen, but will give a hand to billionaire donors. Conservative politicians and commentators also presume its better strategy to paint Obama as someone whose affection for Jews and Israel should be severely doubted than to look at his record. Obama is the first president to host Passover seders in the White House. Obama opposed last fall the Palestinian Authority’s attempt to achieve statehood through the UN Security Council. The National Jewish Democratic Council examined Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget request and found that he has increased military aid to Israel. And none other than ex-Mossad director Meir Dagan backs Obama’s averseness for a military strike on Iran. In a “60 Minutes” interview, the former director of Israel’s intelligence agency described Netanyahu’s hopes to bomb Iran as “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” Evidently, Jewish and non-Jewish voters alike feel the same way about the right’s fruitless plots to render the president as someone who doesn’t have America’s best interests at heart.
Sukanya Dutta is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in political science with minors in history and Russian literature.