Beware the Republican Hawk

American Jews need to take care they don’t sell their votes to the fawning panderer.

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul 311 (photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes )
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul 311
(photo credit: REUTERS/Jeff Haynes )
NO MORE JON HUNTSMAN, Rick Santorum headed for the door, Newt Gingrich won’t make it, he’s way too mean and it shows. Ron Paul is still there and so are his not so recent racist and anti-Semitic newsletters.
Mitt Romney looks like a manikin in a men’s store window and loudly protests against any suggestion that he was once a compassionate man. But there they are on the television, week after week, these Republican US presidential candidates, saying things that cast me adrift in my own country, a stranger among some very strange people.
Added to the onslaught of the cold Republican social evangelical agenda are the deep economic convictions of those who think that cutting funds for education, denying infrastructure repair, eliminating research in the sciences and defunding programs to help poor students pay for college will make America shine from sea to sea. We hear these candidates use the word socialist as others might use the words serial killer or convicted pedophile.
Anything the government does is evil and everything should be privatized, including the safety net that protects seniors and children and the sick.
This is what all these candidates have been saying loudly through the megaphones of their campaigns and their appearances on television.
In their debates and talk show appearances they press such views as: even to save a mother’s life you shouldn’t allow abortion; guns in public places are just fine; the growing disparity in income between the top one percent and the rest of us is a sign of capitalist vigor. These candidates are convinced and want to convince voters that unions are dangerous to corporate health and that the country needs to knock down the separation between church and state.
While they rant on the public stage, their Republican colleagues in state governments across the country are passing voter identification laws that make it harder for the poor, the elderly, students and minorities to vote at all. In other words, there are termites in America’s house and the beams are ready to fall.
Yet there are large numbers of Jews ready to vote for one of these candidates in crucial states like Florida, where their numbers can give the election to one side or the other. It’s because of Israel. It’s because they believe that supporting the government of Israel with arms and money and protecting it from criticism that might encourage moves toward the peace table is the right way to ensure Israel’s future.
I am in complete sympathy with the goal but not with the means. Jews remember the words of the prophets Amos and Hosea that call for justice for the poor and the broken, decry taxes on the needy and call for the rich to moderate their ways. We are a people who know that the welfare of our brothers is ignored at our peril. Whether these thoughts are God’s position in the debate or that of men who lived in ancient times doesn’t matter. Our Jewish tradition should make us wary of the Republican voices that speak of protecting Israel while threatening the social security of so many vulnerable souls.
I do not believe Israel will be safe in the hands of those whose party members suggested that a man without insurance should be left to die. And I do not believe that Israel can be protected by weapons alone. It needs its moral compass and American Jews need to take care they don’t sell their votes to the fawning panderer with the most bombs in his presentation pack. Proud and loyal Jews can and should consider Israel’s safety in both military and moral terms. •
Contributing editor Anne Roiphe is a novelist and journalist living in New York.