By Larry Gordon
It seems that voters—Democrats and Republicans alike—have had it with the fashion in which the Obama administration has been conducting itself. According to knowledgeable political activists, those sentiments will most likely be made clear to a yet unknown degree on Election Day, November 4. The country as a whole is headed in that direction.
“This coming midterm election is rapidly shaping up as a rejection election,” said Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush and a widely consulted personality on matters of electoral politics. Fleischer will be in the Five Towns on October 20 as a keynote speaker at a rally hosted at the Lawrence Country Club by the Republican Jewish Committee.
Fleischer says he is certain that a number of Republicans in otherwise potentially close races can be “swept into office by the nationwide rejection of the Obama policies.” Local philanthropists Ben Heller, Elliot Lauer, and Phil Rosen of Lawrence are hosting the event on October 20 specifically to boost the candidacy of Republican congressional hopeful Bruce Blakeman, who is facing off against Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice for the seat being vacated by the retiring Carolyn McCarthy.
“Blakeman is one of the candidates that I can foresee getting swept by this tide,” Fleischer said.
Conventional wisdom says that, with rare exception, the majority in the Jewish community across the country vote Democratic. In our phone conversation last Friday, Fleischer said that while that may be technically true, Jewish support for Republican candidates has been increasing dramatically for the last two decades. He said that while George H.W. Bush received only 11% of the Jewish vote and George W. Bush attracted 19%, in 2012 Mitt Romney received 31% of the Jewish vote. Fleischer expects this year’s midterm elections to surpass that in certain segments of the country.
By and large, support for Republican candidates in the Jewish community is about U.S.–Israel relations. Elliot Lauer, a prominent New York attorney and one of the hosts of the RJC event, says that a community with a large Orthodox Jewish population like the Five Towns should have a greater understanding and appreciation for what the GOP represents to a Jewish community, on a national as well as international level. Aside from support for Israel, he says, our community should be sensitive to issues like family values and lower taxes that can create jobs on a much larger scale than the statistics now indicate. We are witnessing the ongoing fundamental transformation of the American way of life, and only a dramatic shift in D.C. can put the brakes on what we feel here is a societal downward spiral.
One of the mysteries of the current dynamic in the political arena is the ongoing attachment of the American Jewish community to Democratic Party agenda issues. Some of these items are not exclusive to the Democrats, though they would like us to think so. If six years of the Obama administration has proven anything, it is that the concept of big government is counterproductive to building healthy communities by just directing and allocating good money after bad.
In our talk, Fleischer interestingly pointed to the congressional victory of Republican Bob Turner in a race for a vacated seat against New York State Assemblyman David Weprin in New York just a few years ago. Weprin was the favorite by a significant margin but then some issues arose and the race was turned on its head, with Turner winning by a small margin.
Amongst the most closely watched races this year are eight senatorial elections that are in play along with a number of congressional races, including the one here on Long Island between Blakeman and Rice. The Republicans need to win six seats to find themselves with a 51–49 majority in the Senate. A win in all eight races gives the Republicans a 53–47 edge. Some of the political analysts we’ve spoken to see the Republicans’ gaining the majority as a real possibility, which would be a clear repudiation of the president.
In addition to what is happening currently on the American political landscape, I digressed for a few moments from the matters at hand to talk with Fleischer about what it was like to be the press secretary to George W. Bush and how he feels the Obama press people have been handling the job.
As a presidential press secretary, you spend an inordinate amount of time with the president. And that runs the gamut from everyday routine meetings to traveling around the globe or meeting with world leaders at the White House. To that end, Fleischer spoke glowingly of the meetings he attended that took place between Mr. Bush and the prime minister of Israel at the time, Ariel Sharon. He said they were wonderful and inspiring meetings and that it was heartwarming to be a witness to true leadership at work.
I asked Ari Fleischer about the dynamic of Mr. Sharon’s plan to evacuate Gaza in 2005 and what Mr. Bush’s position on the issue was. He responded that the Sharon plan was a manifestation of the prime minister’s desire to take real risks to test whether peace with Israel’s Arab neighbors was possible. Those risks, we now know, were not a good bet by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s important to note the reason that the Republican Jewish Committee has focused its sights on this community just a couple of weeks prior to an extremely important election. Some involved in organizing the event said that the focus was to bring the Jewish community and the Republican Party closer together. When considering the Obama approach to Israel—the potential risk that Israel can be exposed to in the final two years of the administration—it is puzzling why an otherwise right-leaning, politically conservative community, like large segments of the Jewish community on Long Island, would be so noncommittal in terms of its support for national Republican candidates.
In talking to observers involved in the political process, it becomes baffling why there is not greater emphasis on the upcoming senatorial and congressional races, which can be such a determining event in shaping the scope and the path forward in the U.S.
“I’ve gone to Tomchei Shabbos and Hatzalah events where the crowd was overflowing,” an RJC event supporter said, “but when it comes to political functions that are so vital to our future, it is difficult to get people to show up.” The hope is that over the next few weeks, as Election Day draws near, that unfortunate truth will revise itself in a positive way. The future of this country and our communities is in our hands and at our fingertips on November 4. v
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By Larry Gordon