Democrats hold shared values with American Jewry

Imagine if this low-acceptance rate of refugees was in place when we were fighting for the release of Soviet refuseniks. But we don’t have to imagine.

 US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.  (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.
Donald Trump and his Republican supporters wish that the Democrats had nominated Sen. Bernie Sanders. They thought that running against a self-proclaimed socialist would lead to an easy win. For better or worse, Joe Biden easily defeated Sen. Sanders and his other opponents and won the Democratic nomination for president. The 2020 Democratic platform is Joe Biden’s blueprint for restoring the soul of America with leadership grounded in faith, decency and empathy – a stark contrast to the creeping authoritarianism and intolerance practiced and encouraged by Donald Trump.
We are proud American citizens in part because we, our parents or grandparents, fled from repressive regimes in South America, Europe or elsewhere around the globe. Like many American Jews, my family endured the Holocaust and eventually fled Bolshevism, authoritarianism and antisemitism in the USSR. In fact, my father and his family came from the USSR to the New Jersey almost exactly 47 years ago, on October 22, 1973, and was welcomed into the United States of America.
We cringed when the Trump administration tried to implement a Muslim travel ban and when it lowered the number of refugees accepted to the US to the lowest level in history. According to HIAS, the annual refugee admissions ceiling has averaged 95,000 per year. This year, according to the UN Refugee Agency, there are 26 million refugees worldwide, with more than 1.4 million individuals in need of immediate resettlement.
Imagine if this standard was in place when we were fighting for the release of Soviet refuseniks. Imagine if this standard was in place when we or our parents or grandparents attempted to enter the United States. Many of us would have been denied entry. Imagine if this standard was in place during the Holocaust.
But we don’t have to imagine. The US turned away Jewish refugees during World War II. “Never again” was never supposed to mean never again only for Jews – it was a non-denominational rebuke of looking the other way when people were suffering. Trump’s refugee policy is another example of his America-First policy, a term that he uses that evokes American fascism and antisemitism.
Republicans are running against Joe Biden by falsely accusing Biden of what they would have accused Sanders of – being a socialist. But voters know better, and they know that the Democratic Party led by Joe Biden is not a socialist party.
The Democrats recaptured a majority in the House of Representatives by defeating Republicans in toss-up and Republican-leaning districts with moderate Democrats, not with far-left candidates. Moderate Democrats, who can appeal to the center and to Republicans and independents, make up more than half of the House Democratic Caucus.
There were 62 new Democrats elected in 2018, not four, so it’s easy to see where the future of the Democratic Party is. Democrats might take control of the Senate by following a similar path: moderate candidates winning in swing states, which means that a Democratic-controlled Senate will comprise more, not fewer, moderate Democrats than the current Senate.
Contrary to the false Republican narrative, Democratic members of Congress are not being overwhelmed by challengers. In fact, more Republican incumbents have lost primaries than Democrats. A grand total of three Democratic members of Congress lost their primaries in 2020, compared to five Republicans.
On Israel, one need only look at the votes to see that Democrats remain overwhelmingly pro-Israel. If members of Congress cast weighted votes based on how many followers they have on Twitter, or on how many media hits they get, it would make sense to extrapolate from two media-savvy freshmen the views of the party as a whole. But no matter how much attention they get, those two only add up to two votes on the House floor.
The Democratic-controlled House passed H.R. 183, which clearly and specifically condemned antisemitism. No Democrats voted against it, but 23 Republicans did. The House passed H.R. 1837 unanimously (that means no Democrats opposed it), providing enhanced cooperation between the US and Israel, security assistance for Israel (including codification of the record $38-billion Memorandum of Understanding entered into between the US and Israel during the Obama administration), and justice for United States victims of Palestinian terrorism.
The House also passed H.R. 1850 unanimously, imposing sanctions with respect to foreign support for Palestinian terrorism. The House passed H.R. 246, which condemned the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and supported a two-state solution, with support from over 90% of House Democrats. More Democrats than Republicans voted for this resolution.
The House passed H.R. 326, which reaffirms the US commitment to a two-state solution, our “ironclad” commitment to maintaining military assistance for Israel, and support for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians – almost a definition of what it means to be pro-Israel – yet Republicans, not Democrats, overwhelmingly opposed it.
Joe Biden has five decades of unwavering support for Israel behind him. His views reflect the mainstream of the Democratic Party, which is why he won the nomination. Is every Democrat in Congress 100% behind him? Probably not. Unlike the current Republican Party, where allegiance to Trump is paramount and universal, the Democratic Party tolerates differences of opinion. But don’t let anyone fool us into extrapolating the views of the many from the voices of the few. The Democratic Party is squarely aligned with our values, and under Joe Biden, it will continue to reflect our values.
The writer is a founding Jewish Democratic Council of America board member and political committee chair. He formerly worked as a senior staffer to Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Ed Markey (D-MA).