Why Jews Should Vote for Democrats in 2018
The U.S. mid-term elections could greatly influence the future of the U.S., Israel, and, indeed, the entire world. While it is often said that “elections have consequences,” and every national election is touted as extremely important, in efforts to increase voting, there are reasons why the upcoming election is really especially important, a potential game changer.
Why? The Republicans currently hold the presidency, both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court. They have been doing everything they can to retain that power through gerrymandering and, following a Supreme Court ruling that substantially weakened the Voting Rights Act, taking major steps to make it more difficult for minorities, poor people, college students, and others likely to vote Democratic to vote by purging voter rolls, reducing polling place hours, and pushing voter ID laws. If they maintain power they would increasingly do this, with the even more conservative Supreme Court with the addition of Brett Kavanaugh, enabling them to do so. This would likely enable the Republican Party to remain in power for a very long time.
On the other hand, if the Democrats are successful in taking over the House of Representatives and many governorships and state legislatures – there seems to be little chance of them taking over the Senate – they can reduce the Republicans chances of continuing their efforts to rig elections. Since demographic trends favor the Democrats and a majority of Americans agree more with Democrats than Republicans on many key issues, the Democrats would likely be in power for many years.
Why is this important? To answer this question, let us consider some current Republican policies, among the many that are inconsistent with basic Jewish values.
President Trump and almost all, if not all, Republican Congress members deny climate change, an existential threat to Israel, the U.S. and the world. Despite an overwhelming consensus from climate experts and numerous recent severe climate events, including five monstrous hurricanes and many massive wildfires in California in the past two years, Trump remains perhaps the only world leader who denies climate change. With support from Republican Congressional members, he pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 Paris climate accord that was signed by all the 195 nations that attended, including Israel; appointed climate deniers to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and many other important positions; and is doing everything possible to eliminate or weaken efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Israelis should be especially concerned. It is in the sixth year of a major drought; the Sea of Galilee is at a dangerously low level; a rising Mediterranean Sea could inundate the coastal plane where much of Israel’s population and infrastructure are located; and military experts are warning that a hotter and drier Middle East make instability, terrorism, and war more likely.
Many Republican domestic policies are contrary to basic Jewish values of kindness and concern for the disadvantaged, the stranger, the hungry and the poor. Rather than improving Obamacare, which provided health insurance for tens of millions of Americans, Republicans supported legislation that would result in as many as 32 million Americans losing their health insurance and making others, including people with pre-existing conditions, pay higher premiums. Rather than support efforts to rebuild the U.S.’s crumbling infrastructure – which was graded D+ by the American Society of Civil Engineers – Trump and Republican legislators pushed through a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefits the wealthiest Americans and highly profitable corporations. This will increase the annual U.S. budget deficit to over a trillion dollars starting in 2019, giving the Republicans an excuse to carry out their long-time desires to cut Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs that most Americans depend on.
In addition, since Trump became president, Republicans have attempted to weaken the separation of church and state, reduce a woman’s right to choose, forcibly separate migrant families, close our borders to needy people, and gain a consistent conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
Jews should also be concerned that Trump has alienated our allies while supporting dictators and that other nations find it difficult to trust him since he often changes his positions, sometimes shortly after he asserts them.
Then there is the issue of character. As the New York Times’ conservative columnist Bret Stephens, a former chief editor of the Jerusalem Post, wrote in a recent article, Trump’s character involves “lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name-calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness.” Yet Republican legislators have generally uncritically supported his appointees, many of whom have proved to be corrupt and/or incompetent.
But don’t Trump and Republican Congress members deserve praise for their strong support of Israel? Somehow, some negative things about Trump’s positions and statements on Israel are being ignored. For example: his continued support for a $110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia threatens Israel’s qualitative military advantage; some of his actions with regard to Israel and the Palestinians make peace less likely and violence more likely; in his January 2016 Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, he omitted any mention of Jews, which led Holocaust expert Deborah Lipstadt to call it “softcore Holocaust denial”; Trump appointed white supremacists to senior positions; he retweeted neo-Nazi propaganda on several occasions; he failed to condemn antisemitism several times when it was called for before finally doing so; he has left vacant the post of special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism; he ended president Obama’s tradition of hosting a White House Seder; by sharing top-secret information with Russia, he compromised Israeli intelligence; he has stated that he expects Israel to “pay a higher price” for his moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem; he has imposed steel and aluminium tariffs on Israel; since Trump became president there has been a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents and other bigoted statements and acts in the U.S..
Shouldn’t voters consider a weakening of support for Israel on the part of Democratic legislators? Actually, except for a few outliers, congressional Democrats have consistently been strong supporters of Israel, backing financial help consistently for Israel. During the Obama administration, Israeli security experts indicated that security cooperation between the U.S. and Israel was never better. Democratic senators unanimously backed Obama’s record breaking aid package to Israel.
Yes, Democrats have been more critical of Israeli policies than Republicans but that is largely because they believe that Israel should make pursuing peace more of a priority, since without a resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Israel will not be able to avert continued violence and diplomatic criticism, effectively respond to its economic, environmental, and other domestic problems and remain both a Jewish and a democratic state. Many Israeli strategic and military experts agree with this assessment, including all the living former leaders of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Just as one can be anti-Trump while being pro American, one can be very pro-Israel while opposing some policies of the very conservative Netanyahu government. Democrats recognise that Palestinian obstructionism is a major problem and that Israel’s security must be an essential part of any resolution. By the way, Republicans also have their outliers, in terms of a number of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and Holocaust deniers running as Republicans in 2018 and Republican leaders have not adequately denounced them.