Forward Thinking

2 Questions: 1st, Will GOP Let Him Govern? 2nd, Will Olmert Run?

By J.J. Goldberg

Now that Obama has won the Electoral College, two questions remain. First, will he win the popular vote? Second, will Republicans let him govern? There are some very big decisions to make, starting with a deal on the budget and the debt, and addressing the growing climate crisis. Will the Republicans be chastened by their strategy of obstructing everything, or will they sit down and begin talking about real compromise?

Will the Senate Republicans the chamber do business, or will they keep tying everything up in filibusters? Will the House negotiate in good faith? Or will they double down on the policy of blocking everything to make the administration look incompetent?

Another question relates to Israel. Bibi got a big splash of cold water in the face. Olmert and Livni are generally thought to be holding out to see whether they will have a cooperative, competent and experienced White House to help them work on the peace process. Now that they’ve got it, will they jump in? And can they work out a big center-left coalition to face Bibi-Liberman?

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Compromise, Ehud Olmert, Obama, Popular Vote, Republicans, Tzipi Livni

The Shul Gap

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

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President Barack Obama

Nearly 90% of Jews who never attend synagogue voted Democratic in 2008, according to a new analysis of Jewish voting patterns out this week.

That’s in sharp contrast to the less than 65% of Jews who attend synagogue at least weekly who voted Democratic that year.

Sponsored by a non-partisan group called The Solomon Project, the analysis was conducted by a Democratic pollster, an official with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a University of Florida professor.

The study’s findings on synagogue attendance and voting patterns are in line with research showing high correlations between church attendance and support for Republicans.

The study also found that 74% of Jews voted for Obama in 2008, a slightly lower figure than the widely-cited 78%, which was based on national exit polls figures. The researchers adjusted the figure downward after examining both state-level and national exit polls

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Republicans, Polling, Democrats, Election 2012, Barack Obama

All the News on Jews' Views: Comparing 3 Polls

By J.J. Goldberg

There’s good news and bad news for President Obama in a new survey of American Jewish opinion released Thursday by the Workmen’s Circle. First, the bad news: Jewish voters favor Obama over Mitt Romney by about two to one — 59% to 27%, with 14% undecided. If undecideds follow the same 2-to-1 split, the result will be 68% to 32%. This points to a 10% drop from November 2008, when Obama got 78% of the Jewish vote, according to national exit polls at the time.   The good news is that it’s not November yet, and if you compare June 2012 to June 2008, Obama is doing considerably better now than he was then. At this point in 2008 Jews were backing Obama by only 62% to rival John McCain’s 31%, according to Gallup’s tracking poll. Obama dropped further in July 2008, to 61-34, before beginning a steady rise in August. In fact, a surge might already be discernible this year, if we compare the Workmen’s Circle survey with a similar survey released two months ago, April 3, conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute for the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

Will the president repeat his 2008 late-summer uptick? Hard to say. Romney isn’t likely to give him the sort of gift McCain offered when he chose the spectacularly unqualified Sarah Palin as his running-mate. On the other hand, everything else in the Workmen’s Circle poll, which was conducted by Professors Steven M. Cohen and Samuel Abrams, points to a Jewish public that remains solidly liberal. Given the starkly conservative cast of the Republican campaign so far, it seems unlikely that Romney could muster more enthusiasm among Jewish voters than the more moderate McCain did in 2008. It could be that distress over Obama’s Israel policies will lower his Jewish support, but both surveys show Israel playing very little role in Jewish voters’ thinking. In fact, Cohen’s statistical analysis of respondents’ preferences and demographic characteristics indicates that people who have strong opinions about Israel tend to show a host of other tendencies that factor as strongly if not more so into their decisions.

In some ways the Workmen’s Circle survey confirms the trends that turned up in the Cummings Foundation survey in April; in other ways the WC sample is more conservative (I’m not sure why, and I won’t speculate right now). In certain ways, both polls — and a third one, the American Jewish Committee annual survey, released April 30 — look remarkably similar. Remarkable, that is, considering that they use different methodologies, draw on different population samples and reflect a variety of sponsors’ ideologies from the upscale liberal Cummings Foundation to the grittier left-liberal Workmen’s Circle to the devoutly centrist AJC.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Workmen's Circle, Trade Unions, Republicans, Public Religion Research Institute, Professor Steven M. Cohen, President Obama, Democrats, Financial Industry, Gay Marriage, Knowledge Network, Liberal, Lunch-bucket Liberalism, Mitt Romney, Nathan Cummings Foundation, American Jewish Opinion, Conservative, American Jewish Committee, Abortion Rights

Democrats Will Not Cede Israel to Republicans

By Gal Beckerman

The Democratic National Committee has a new commercial, called “The Facts,” that seems targeted at pro-Israel voters (I didn’t say “Jewish voters” for a reason). It reminds them that they shouldn’t listen to the mud being slung at Obama for supposedly abandoning the Jewish State.

Republicans are called out for violating the tradition that holds that the “bond between the U.S. and Israel is beyond politics,” by making claims that “ignore reality” (that last quote cited from the AP). The DNC’s strongest argument is made by Bibi himself in a clip from an AIPAC appearance in which he said that the security cooperation between the two countries during Obama’s presidency is “unprecedented.” There are other points as well, like Obama’s strong opposition to the Palestinian’s statehood bid at the UN, the coordinated message on Iran, and the billions offered to bolster Israel’s defense.

But the most telling aspect of the commercial is that it exists at all. These are points that wouldn’t have to be reiterated in this way if the Republicans hadn’t been doing a good job establishing a very different narrative. The worry, on the DNC’s part, is not, I think, Jewish voters. It’s those many millions more, evangelicals and others, who see Israel as an abstract cause, theological for many, and have been affected by the simplistic and patently false claim that Obama is somehow anti-Israel. The DNC clearly thinks that the Republicans will continue making this argument as we slouch towards November.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Democrats, Iran, Israel, Netanyahu, Obama, Republicans

How Biology, Psychology Dictate Political Beliefs

By J.J. Goldberg

I’m not quite sure where this sort of thing takes us, but I’m noticing a growing amount of chatter on the Web about scientific research into the nature of the conservative mind. The general tone seems to be one of wondering what flaws in one’s physical makeup lead to political conservatism. It could be just a sophisticated liberal version of old-fashioned name-calling, but some of the research seems pretty impressive.

Chris Mooney, author of “The Republican War on Science,” blogged yesterday on Huffington Post about a recent study, conducted at the political physiology laboratory at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, that points to biological factors linked to liberal and conservative beliefs. A key test involves differing physiological responses to potentially threatening images. Conservatives tend to show more intense defensive responses to images of mayhem or danger, indicating stronger fight-or-flight instincts. By contrast, liberals show stronger pleasure responses to potentially pleasing images like bunnies and smiling children. The researchers conclude that conservatism tends attract people who display greater alarm in the face of perceived threats, while liberalism attracts people whose makeup inclines them to try and adapt to change rather than fight or flee. One result, Mooney writes, is that conservatives bring greater intensity to their politics than liberals do, giving them an advantage in swaying the center.

The differences are linked to evolutionary development of human behavior, if you believe in evolution. Mooney also links to an earlier post in which he walks us through a batch of other recent studies into biological roots of liberal and conservative attitudes.

Then there’s the study published last month in the journal Psychological Science finding that, to be blunt, conservative beliefs are associated with lower intelligence as measured in standard intelligence tests. The study itself is very dense reading, but the magazine Live Science carried a very accessible writeup last month, and Britain’s conservative-leaning Daily Mail had a strikingly unskeptical report on it yesterday.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Republicans, Liberals, Presidential Administrations, Jimmy Carter, James Gilligan, Huffington Post, Dwight Eisenhower, Democrats, Conservatives, Chris Mooney

Gingrich’s Anti-Semitic Dog Whistle: Saul Alinsky

By Gal Beckerman

Saul Alinsky

When Newt Gingrich is called out for using the phrase “food stamp president,” he fiercely defends the idea that he is simply pointing out the obvious: that under Obama more people signed up for food stamps. Simple as that. He is not gently plucking racist tropes for the benefit of his base, but just telling it like it is. The man has plausible deniability. He can wink and then say he was just blinking.

So I’m sure that will be the case when I bring up Gingrich’s fondness for mentioning a certain Saul Alinsky. The former speaker is just stating a fact.

And boy does he bring Alinsky up. I’ve heard Alinsky’s name mentioned by Gingrich in a handful of debates, usually by way of characterizing the president, as in Obama is a “Saul Alinsky radical” or “the centerpiece of this campaign, I believe, is American exceptionalism versus the radicalism of Saul Alinsky.” But what really struck me was the number of times Gingrich brought up Alinsky in his victory speech when he won the South Carolina primary: three.

Now if you aren’t in that subsection of the “east coast liberal elite” that is closely following every twist and turn of this primary season, you might be asking yourself at this point, “Who the hell is Saul Alinsky?”

I’m willing to bet that has been the reaction of the vast majority of Americans, even for those who have really been tuning in to this race.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Saul Alinsky, Republicans, Newt Gingrich, Election 2012, Barack Obama

GOP Candidates Take Hard Line on Iran

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

getty images
Ron Paul

With Iowa’s caucuses set for tonight, Republican hopefuls are doubling down on their rhetoric on the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions in an apparent effort to distance themselves from GOP candidate Ron Paul.

Front-runner Mitt Romney, dark horse Michele Bachmann, and the late-surging Rick Santorum all promised a readiness to launch military strikes on Iran if sanctions failed to stifle the country’s alleged nuclear program.

Their threats are in stark contrast to the position of Paul, who is close to the lead in most Iowa polls. Paul opposes a military strike on Iran, telling voters January 30 that the Iranians “don’t threaten our national security.”

“The reason that they’re talking about it now is that the vast majority of Republican primary voters and caucus voters are very passionate about this issue,” Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project told the Forward. “It’s become a real litmus test and a real values tests, and there is real difference between the candidates.”

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: ron paul, rich santorum, mitt romney, Republicans, iowa caucus, Jewish vote 2012, GOP

Rick Perry's New Best Friend

By Jane Eisner

Getty
BFFs: Perry and Danon

Now that Republican presidential wannabe Rick Perry has waded into the sticky-wicket of Middle East politics, it’s only fair to examine the influences on his thinking. After all, while Texas is a big state to govern, and he could probably see Mexico from the border, Perry doesn’t have much foreign policy experience, in the Mideast or elsewhere.

Not to worry. The governor has plenty of tutors. As Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev wrote after Perry’s press conference yesterday, the supposed GOP front-runner is sounding like a hard-line Likudnik with a southern twang.

And he’s following not just any Likudnik. Perry’s new BFF, it seems, who stood next to him at the press conference, who says he’ll usher him around Israel later this year, is deputy Knesset speaker Danny Danon.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rick Perry, Danny Danon, Republicans, Election 2012

Mideast Politics Tilt Queens to GOP. Next: Queens Tilts the Mideast

By J.J. Goldberg

The Republican upset victory in the Brooklyn-Queens special election to replace ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner is obviously bad news for Democrats. But it has more far-reaching ramifications, most of them bad, according to this take by Haaretz’s new New York bureau chief, former CNN commentator and onetime Forward Jerusalem correspondent Chemi Shalev.

Shalev thinks there are plenty of reasons for Democrat David Weprin’s loss, including anger at Obama over the miserable economy and especially the influence of social issues among the district’s many conservative Catholics and Orthodox Jews. But Republicans are certain to package it big time the way former mayor Ed Koch pitched it, as a “message” to President Obama about his policies toward Israel. (Here’s what the Republican Jewish Coalition is saying the morning after.) And that could cause a heap of very real collateral trouble, Shalev says.

For one thing, there’s going to be a negative impact on Jews and pro-Israel advocacy within the larger American body politic.

Emboldened by their astonishing achievement in a district held by the rival Democrats throughout the past 88 years, the Republicans are bound to try and exploit their newly-found “wedge issue” in order to pry the proverbial “Jewish vote” away from its historic Democratic tilt. In the process, many Jewish leaders fear, the Republicans may irreparably erode the bedrock of bipartisanship that has characterized U.S. support for Israel for many decades. And by appealing to the Jews to “vote Israel” at the expense of all other considerations, they maintain, the Republicans may also be lending credence, albeit inadvertently, to the age-old canard of “dual loyalty” leveled at American Jews by their detractors.

Beyond that, it’s likely to increase tensions in the Middle East. Here’s where Shalev, for years one of Israel’s most respected diplomatic writers, gets most subtle and alarming:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: The Village Voice, The Advocate, Special Election, Same Sex Marriage, Robert Turner, Republicans, Politico, Modern Orthodox, Middle East Tensions, Julie Bolcer, Jewish Vote, Haredi, Haaretz, Family Research Council, Democrats, David Weprin, Chemi Shalev, Ben Smith, Anti-Semitism

Shock and Irony: Poll Shows GOP Leading Dems for Weiner's Seat

By J.J. Goldberg

Shock now, irony later: The latest Siena poll shows Republican businessman Robert Turner leading Democratic state assemblyman David Weprin in the race to succeed Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th Congressional District by a healthy 50%-44% margin.

The poll’s religious breakdown shows the Republican winning on the strength of a hefty Catholic showing, despite Jewish support for the Democrat. Catholic respondents favored Turner 62% to 33%, while Jewish voters backed Weprin 51% to 45%. (The poll questioned 886 respondents; the margin of error was 3.3%.)

The irony is that a Republican win will surely be trumpeted around the world as a Likud victory and evidence that Obama’s Middle East policies have done the unthinkable and shattered the century-old marriage of Jewish voters and the Democratic Party. Here’s CNN setting the stage for that trope August 10 in a report on the last Siena poll:

In one of the most Jewish districts in the country, Democrats have struggled to hold a wide lead as the campaign has turned into a competition over who’s a better friend of Israel.

While Weprin would be the only Orthodox Jew in the House of Representatives if elected, former New York City Mayor Ed Koch stirred controversy by endorsing Turner. Koch hoped his move would send a message to the White House that Jewish Americans are displeased with President Barack Obama’s policies on Israel.

Still, it’s a big-time “poll shocker,” as Politico.com aptly called it. Actually, that understates the case. The Democrats’ upstate upset victory last May 24 in the special election to replace Rep. Chris Lee was a shocker. A Republican victory in the heart of the Democrats’ home turf in Queens and Brooklyn might end up looking more like an earthquake. The Democrats own New York City. If they can lose in the boroughs, they’re reduced to fighting their way back from their last stronghold on the Upper West Side, like the forces of Middle Earth in their last stronghold in Gondor or the Israel Labor Party fighting to hold onto Givatayim.

The religious breakdown in the August poll showed Weprin doing slightly better in both groups: Turner led among Catholics by 55% to 37% and Weprin led among Jews 56% to 35%. Weprin was ahead overall at the point by 48% to 42% (501 likely voters polled, with a 4.4% margin of error).

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Anthony Weiner, David Weprin, Democrats, Ed Koch, Givatayim, Gondor, Israel Labor Party, Jewish Vote, Lord of the Rings, Republicans, Robert Turner, Siena Poll, Special Election

Debt Ceiling: How Jewish Lawmakers Voted

By J.J. Goldberg

Getty Images
Eric Cantor: A Yes Vote

House of Representatives: Of 25 Jewish members, 16 voted Yes on the final debt ceiling compromise and nine voted No. (Democratic votes overall: 95 Yes, 95 No.)

Yes. Democrats: Shelley Berkley (Nev.), Howard Berman (Cal.), David Cicilline (R.I.), Susan Davis (Cal.), Ted Deutch (Fla.), Gabrielle Giffords (Ariz.), Steve Israel (N.Y.), Sander Levin (Mich.), Nita Lowey (N.Y.), Jared Polis (Colo.), Steve Rothman (N.J.), Adam Schiff (Cal.), Brad Sherman (Cal.), Allyson Schwartz (Pa.), Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (Fla.). Republicans: Eric Cantor (Va.)

No. Democrats: Gary Ackerman (N.Y.), Steve Cohen (Tenn.), Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Bob Filner (Cal.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Henry Waxman (Cal.), John Yarmuth (Ky.).

Senate: Of 12 Jewish members, 10 voted Yes and two voted No. (Democratic votes overall: 45 Yes, 6 No. The two Independents split.)

Yes. Democrats: Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Barbara Boxer (Cal.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Dianne Feinstein (Cal.), Al Franken (Minn.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Ron Wyden (Ore.). Independent: Joseph Lieberman (Conn.)

No. Democrat: Frank Lautenberg (N.J.). Independent: Bernie Sanders (Vt.)

I know some of you are going to ask why bother making such a list, so let’s get it out of the way: No, it’s not antisemitism, obsessive ethnocentrism or atavistic parochialism. What it is, is one of the metrics that help us gauge the current condition of Jews and Judaism in the world.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Republicans, Jewish Members, Independents, Democrats, Debt Ceiling, Congress

Will Jews Defect to the GOP? This Clear Voice Says: No Way

By Jane Eisner

Getty Images
If only it were a pastrami sandwich…

Here’s a question that will surely be asked incessantly until the next presidential election: Will American Jews desert the Democratic Party and throw some of their electoral weight and considerable financial clout to Republicans in 2012? Already, there have been claims and counter-claims, polls that seem to be no more than political advertisements and occasional level-handed analysis, such as a solid piece of reporting done by the Forward’s Nathan Guttman a few weeks ago.

Since I wonder whether this is simply a preoccupation of our tribe and of little interest to anyone else, I find myself searching for smart political reporters outside the Jewish world who can bring some neutrality and perspective to the debate. So I was especially glad to read Dick Polman’s column yesterday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Polman, a former colleague of mine, has one of the clearest voices in the jumbled cacophony of political reporting, and I find him unafraid to cut through the babbling and use plain facts and historical perspective to write what he sees.

And how does he answer the question? “(D)octors will cure the common cold before most Jews vote GOP,” he writes, and then he backs up his claim with data and analysis. It’s an important read.

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Election 2012, Republicans, Nathan Guttman, GOP




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