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Sheldon G. Adelson: I Didn’t Leave the Democrats. They Left Me

When members of the Democratic Party booed the  inclusion of God and Jerusalem in their party platform this year, I  thought of my parents.

They would have been astounded.

The immigrant family in which I grew up was, in the matter of  politics, typical of the Jews of Boston in the 1930s and ’40s. Of the  two major parties, the Democrats were in those days the more supportive  of Jewish causes.

Indeed, only liberal politicians campaigned in our underprivileged  neighborhood. Boston’s Republicans, insofar as we knew them, were  remote, wealthy elites (“Boston Brahmins”), some of whose fancy country  clubs didn’t accept Jews.

It therefore went without saying that we were Democrats. Like most  Jews around the country, being Democrat was part of our identity, as  much a feature of our collective personality as our religion.

So why did I leave the party?

My critics nowadays like to claim it’s because I got wealthy or  because I didn’t want to pay taxes or because of some other conservative caricature. No, the truth is the Democratic Party has changed in ways  that no longer fit with someone of my upbringing.

One obvious example is the party’s new attitude toward Israel. A  sobering Gallup poll from last March asked: “Are your sympathies more  with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” Barely 53% of  Democrats chose Israel, the sole liberal democracy in the region. By  contrast, an overwhelming 78% of Republicans sympathized with Israel.

Nowhere was this change in Democratic sympathies more evident than in the chilling reaction on the floor of the Democratic convention in  September when the question of Israel’s capital came up for a vote.  Anyone who witnessed the delegates’ angry screaming and fist-shaking  could see that far more is going on in the Democratic Party than mere  opposition to citing Jerusalem in their platform. There is now a  visceral anti-Israel movement among rank-and-file Democrats, a  disturbing development that my parents’ generation would not have  ignored.

Another troubling change is that  Democrats seem to have moved away from the immigrant values of my old  neighborhood—in particular, individual charity and neighborliness. After studying tax data from the IRS, the nonpartisan Chronicle of  Philanthropy recently reported that states that vote Republican are now  far more generous to charities than those voting Democratic. In 2008,  the seven least-generous states all voted for President Obama. My  father, who kept a charity box for the poor in our house, would have  frowned on this fact about modern Democrats.

President Truman holds the Torah presented to him by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, May 25, 1948.

Democrats would reply that taxation and government services are better vehicles for helping the  underprivileged. And, yes, government certainly has its role. But when  you look at states where Democrats have enjoyed years of one-party  dominance—California, Illinois, New York—you find that their liberal  policies simply don’t deliver on their promises of social justice.

Take, for example, President Obama’s adopted home state. In October, a nonpartisan study of Illinois’s finances by the State Budget Crisis  Task Force offered painful evidence that liberal Illinois is suffering  from abject economic, demographic and social decline. With the worst  credit rating in the country, and with the second-biggest public debt  per capita, the Prairie State “has been doing back flips on a high wire, without a net,” according to the report.

Political scientist Walter Russell Mead summed up the sad results of  these findings at The American Interest: “Illinois politicians,  including the present president of the United States, have wrecked one  of the country’s potentially most prosperous and dynamic states,  condemned millions of poor children to substandard education, failed to  maintain vital infrastructure, choked business development and growth  through unsustainable tax and regulatory policies—and still failed to  appease the demands of the public sector unions and fee-seeking Wall  Street crony capitalists who make billions off the state’s distress.”

At times, it seems almost as if President Obama wants to impose the  failed Illinois model on the whole country. Each year of his presidency  has produced unsustainable deficits, and he takes no responsibility for  his spending. Worse still, unemployment has become chronic, and many  Americans have given up on looking for work.

Whenever President Obama deplores the wealthy (“fat-cat bankers,”  “millionaires and billionaires,” “at a certain point you’ve made enough  money,” and so on), it tells me that he has failed to learn the economic lessons of Illinois, and that he still doesn’t understand the vital  role entrepreneurs play in creating jobs in our society.

As a person who has been able to rise from poverty to affluence, and  who has created jobs and work benefits for tens of thousands of  families, I feel obligated to speak up and support the American ideals I grew up with—charity, self-reliance, accountability. These are the  age-old virtues that help make our communities prosperous. Yet, sadly,  the Democratic Party no longer seems to value them as it once did.  That’s why I switched parties, and why I’m now giving amply to  Republicans.

Although I don’t agree with every Republican position—I’m liberal on  several social issues—there is enough common cause with the party for me to know I’ve made the right choice.

It’s the choice that, I believe, my old immigrant Jewish neighbors  would have made. They would not have let a few disagreements with  Republicans void the importance of siding with the political party that  better supports liberal democracies like Israel, the party that better  exemplifies the spirit of charity, and the party with economic policies  that would certainly be better for those Americans now looking for work.

The Democratic Party just isn’t what it used to be.

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Posted by on November 5, 2012. Filed under Jewish News,Slider. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.