April 20, 2002


Israel Winning Broad Support From U.S. Right (ALISON MITCHELL, April 21, 2002, NY Times)
The seeds for the new Republican thinking were planted under Ronald Reagan when his robust anticommunism and advocacy of a strong missile defense drew to his side a group of influential, pro-Israel neoconservatives from the Democratic Party like Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, his United Nations ambassador, and Richard Perle, an assistant secretary of defense.

Mr. Reagan, who was strongly pro-Israel, also paved the way for the ascendancy of the Christian right inside the Republican Party. In what is now considered a seminal moment in the building of the Republican coalition, Mr. Reagan gave religious conservatives an honored place in the party by declaring before a convention of evangelical preachers, "You can't endorse me, but I endorse you."

The trends Mr. Reagan set in motion have only escalated, and Mr. Bush now has to contend with an even more dramatically altered Republican Party.

"For the first time in probably the history of the Republican Party a significantly pro-Israel constituency has to catch the eye of the White House," said Marshall Wittmann, who has an unusual perspective as a Jewish conservative who was once a lobbyist for the Christian Coalition.

Republicans attribute the conservative support for Israel to many factors, including the influence of largely Jewish neoconservatives and the rise of the Christian right, with its belief that the Bible mandates support for Israel. The Likud Party in Israel also built ties to conservatives. After the Sept. 11 attacks, other conservatives who embrace a hawkish foreign policy came to see a stand with Israel as important strategy in the war against terrorism.

If Jewish voters actually moved towards the Republican Party in any significant numbers it would have a transformative effect on the Democratic Party. For most of the 20th Century the Democrats had an iron grip on the Jewish vote because of its advocacy of European style socialism, which appealed to the first and second generation immigrants from Europe, many of them communists or socialists. But Jews began to turn Right in the 70s, first because of things like affirmative action, which is perversely detrimental to Jews by limiting their access too universities and such, and secondly because the GOP, especially under Reagan, seemed like a more reliable guarantor of Israeli security. Now there is such hatred of Jews in the black community, such reflexive support for Palestinians in academic and intellectual circles, and such disdain for religious belief of any kind by the Left that it is possible to imagine a future wherein Jews will be a reliable Republican voting block. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2002 3:11 PM
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