Election 2018: A Jewish perspective

“The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it in the House,” wrote columnist Michael Gerson.

The White House is pictured in Washington D.C (photo credit: REUTERS)
The White House is pictured in Washington D.C
(photo credit: REUTERS)
If the pundits and prognosticators are right, the Democrats have a chance to win control of the House in November, although few give them much hope to take back the Senate. A shift of 23 seats in the House will put the 116th Congress more in sync with the majority of Jewish voters on the broad range of issues on the community’s agenda.
A House victory would elevate half a dozen Jewish lawmakers now in line to chair key committees, including Appropriations, Budget, Judiciary, Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Ethics.
One of the most interesting things about this election, and what gives Democrats hope, is the number of long-time Republicans so disaffected with the GOP becoming the Trump Party that they are calling for a Democratic victory in November.
“The only way to save the GOP is to defeat it in the House,” wrote columnist Michael Gerson, a former top aide to president George W. Bush. Democrats “will be a check” on President Donald Trump, who he called “a rolling disaster of mendacity, corruption and prejudice.”
Among other Republicans saying a Democratic victory this fall would help rescue the GOP from the Dark Side are former Florida Congressmen Joe Scarboroug hand David Jolly, GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, and pundits Bill Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, David Frum and George F. Will.
This week’s anniversary of the white supremacist rampage in Charlottesville and Trump’s inability to differentiate between the neo-Nazis and the KKK on one side and their opposing protesters has left a lingering stench.
A Democratic victory this fall will mark a return to the constitutional separation of powers that has virtually disappeared since Trump took office. Instead of exercising its oversight responsibility, the GOP Congressional leaders “have become scraping, sniveling, panting and pathetic tools of the executive branch,” Gerson wrote.
Trump has to be terrified of a Blue Wave in November because he will no longer have a rubber stamp for his agenda but, perhaps more so, because Congressional investigators will not be trying to dig up dirt on Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, but instead begin looking into what is shaping up as the most corrupt, inept and malevolent administration in memory. They might even subpoena his tax returns.
Perhaps anticipating that Blue Wave, a record number of Republicans are retiring or running for other offices. Some have already been defeated or indicted. Polls also show Democrats have an advantage in voter enthusiasm and fundraising, notwithstanding $30 million for the GOP from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
Three-quarters of Jewish voters opposed Trump’s election and polls show that hasn’t changed. Trump is out of step with the overwhelming majority of American Jews on nearly every domestic issue he’s been pushing, including immigration, race, health care, Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, church-state separation, abortion, gun control, environment, ethics, same-sex marriage, LGBT rights and more.
A Democratic Congress won’t be able to enact its agenda over Trump’s veto, but it can reshape or stop objectionable elements and shine the light of day on crime and wrong-doing in the administration.
The Democratic-led Congress will continue to be pro-Israel, but not as staunchly pro-Likud. A large number of American Jews and progressives have been harshly critical of the right-wing Netanyahu government’s policies both toward dissent within the country and its occupation of the West Bank. Many feel Israel’s democracy is threatened by the influence of the ultra-religious and nationalist/settler elements and appears heading toward apartheid for the Palestinians.
The growing strength of the Democrats’ progressive wing is of concern to many friends of Israel in both parties, particularly the Israel-first voters.
The GOP can still count on the votes of the ardently religious, both Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians. But the party’s problem is that beyond Israel, its domestic agenda has limited appeal to most Jewish voters.
The next Congress is likely to have the first Palestinian-American and first Muslim woman, former state representative Rashida Tlaib. She won the primary in Michigan’s 13th district and should win easily in the overwhelmingly Democratic district. She was endorsed by J Street, the liberal pro-peace, pro-Israel lobby.
Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez won a surprise victory in New York’s Bronx-Queens 14th Democratic primary; she has been critical of Israel but softening her message and getting support from her city’s prominent Jewish leaders.
Leslie Cockburn, the Democratic nominee in Virginia’s 5th District, was called a “virulent anti-Semite by her state’s Republican party because of her criticism of US policy toward Israel in a 1991 book. The charge apparently hasn’t hurt her among Jewish voters in her district, but it might work with evangelicals who usually vote Republican anyway.
On the Republican side are a number of troubling candidates. Republican Corey Stewart, who is trying to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine in Virginia, calls himself “neo-Confederate” and wants to keep the Stars and Bars flying high and – on this Trump agrees – leave Confederate monuments untouched. He has strong support from neo-Nazis and sided with them in Charlottesville.
Republican Bill Fawell lost his party’s support but remains on the ballot in Illinois’ 17th District. He has accused Israel of being one of the “masterminds” of 9/11, called the Sandy Hook school massacre a “false flag” and said the “Pizzagate” conspiracy was true.
Arthur Jones, a former leader of the American Nazi Party and Holocaust denier, ran unopposed in Republican primary for Congress in Chicago-area 3d District and will face incumbent Rep. Dan Lipinski.
Democrats need to avoid over-confidence if they want to flip at least 23 Republican seats and hold their own to win control of the House. Of the 59 districts rated competitive by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, 39 have a higher Jewish share of the population than the median congressional district, according to the Forward.
This much you can be certain of: if Republicans retain control of both houses, Trump will personally take full credit. If they lose one or both chambers, the president will tweet it is because the election was rigged, the media lied about his historic achievements and the Republicans didn’t embrace him and his policies closely enough.