DESPITE ISRAEL SMEARS, JEWS WILL SUPPORT OBAMA

National Jewish Democratic Council President &
CEO David Harris gives an interview at the Democratic National Convention. PHOTOS/David Streeter, NJDC

Former Representative Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) had one job as he stood at the podium of last week’s Democratic National Convention: fight the smears of President Barack Obama’s exceptionally strong Israel record.

Wexler explained that President Obama has strengthened Israel’s qualitative military advantage through record-breaking security assistance and has been there for Israel when it needed him the most. Wexler also noted that the President has guided an international sanctions movement against Iran that has crippled its oil industry and economy.

In part, Wexler’s speech was an attempt to rebut the ceaseless dissembling of the Republicans, who are trying to win a greater percentage of the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote by attacking President Obama’s record on Israel and ultimately making Israel a political wedge issue. Wexler – along with other speakers at the convention, like Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the President himself – set the record straight on where President Obama and the Democratic Party stand on Israel.

But let’s be clear: The President’s impeccable pro-Israel credentials aren’t the only reason American Jews will vote for the Democratic Party this November.

Fundamentally, most American Jews are inspired by the idea of tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” As such, it comes as no surprise that Jews support the Democratic Party as they have for decades – especially when Republican leaders took shots at the idea of repairing the world during their own convention.

When asked about specific issues, American Jews say they are strongly supportive of the social safety net, reproductive choice, tax fairness, marriage equality, environmental regulation, the DREAM Act and the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) – all pillars of the Democratic Party. Those who support such issues believe that government should do what it can to improve people’s lives without infringing on their personal liberty.

Indeed, as their support for same-sex marriage and reproductive rights indicates, most Jews also think that government should stay out of people’s private lives and personal decisions.

The content of the speeches at last week’s Democratic convention made clear why the sweeping majority of Jews will overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party in 2012. While the U.S.-Israel relationship continues to be an important matter for Jews, they have seen in Barack Obama a President who has been there for Israel when it counted and helped provide for its security in groundbreaking ways.

Assured of Israel’s security, it will thus be social and domestic issues driving Jewish votes, which is why the American Jewish vote will remain overwhelmingly Democratic in 2012.

By David A. Harris
National Jewish Democratic Council President and CEO