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Beginning in 1952 and accelerating during the Nixon presidency, the values projected by the two political parties went through a historic and well-chronicled polar shift. Now, it was the Republicans who were interventionist, and the Democrats who imposed top-down social controls. By the mid-seventies, the Democrats had long since ceased being either the party of economic opportunity or the protector of traditional values. Understandably, many ethnic components of the classic coalition migrated to the Republicans. The values of these ethnic Polish, Italian, and Irish hadn’t changed — but those of their party had. Quite conspicuously, the Jews remained on the Democratic ranch. While within the walls of their home they maintained a conservative lifestyle and inculcated a Jewish/Protestant work ethic to their children, these same Jews in the political arena aligned with those who chose to “pursue justice” not through the preservation of individual political and economic freedom, but rather through the expansion of the state’s control of daily life.
Unfortunately, it took the shock of September for many American Jews to see the structural dissonance of their position. The wake-up call has been multifaceted: in the Middle East, on the campuses, in the Government — Jews are coming to the bracing realization that the Left is not its friend. A world socialist brotherhood that once grudgingly tolerated a nationalist Golda Meir now lionizes beasts like Arafat. And from the thoughtful, pragmatic Eurocrats, we hear polite people with educated accents commit the first round of blood libels of the 21st century.
Quickly, the Jews are beginning to appreciate once again the uniqueness of America as a host nation. Because of this country’s special people and special mission, we alone stand with Israel against the world. Evidence abounds — witness the reader response on this site to the Mason-Felder clarion call — that a growing number of Jews know that the time has come to integrate this amazing national response back into their own identities as Americans. It’s as if the other groups are saying, “Jump in — we’ve been holding your place in the melting pot.”
The surest pathway to re-injecting Jews into the ethnic coalition is through the cultivation of gratitude. At every level — home, school, community — Jews need to internalize and then articulate for themselves the specialness of living in America. A minor but telling point: throughout the country, Jewish organizations have been holding waves of political rallies and prayer sessions in support of Israel. Often, they begin with the national anthems, American then Israeli. At these moments, I have seen too many people mumble through “O say can you see” as if it were a legal disclaimer, and then, for “HaTikvah” act like they’re channeling Pavarotti. To be obtuse to the love and support of friends is no way to build one’s own strength.
3. Re-Define the Underdog
Not least because of their own history of persecution, Jews are instinctively sympathetic to the unfortunate and the powerless. In political terms, their social agenda has always been to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. On humanitarian issues, identification with the Democratic Party has been an easy, if intellectually lazy choice. However, what white papers and bar charts from right-wing think tanks couldn’t do to move Jewish attitudes toward the middle, the left has done by itself to itself: by time after ghastly time employing moral relativism as a defense of Palestinian terrorism, the mask of “humanitarianism” has been ripped off, and the movement’s totalitarian (and thus, anti-Semitic) agenda exposed.
The “shattered faith” caused by this moral dissonance is far more than simply an occasion for the Republican National Committee to pick up some polling percent points. For the first time in maybe a century, Jews are attitudinally capable of seeing that there is a reductio ad absurdum end point of every social program, that point in the advanced stage of social planning where the intended consequences become inverted and deliver exactly the opposite intended outcome. Until now, the only real flash point of exposing this absurdity has been the issue of affirmative action — because there the ox being gored has been both personal and visible.
Now that the most strident left-wing voices in this country have been marginalized and discredited, their arguments must be reframed issue-by-issue to define which is actually the true side of the little guy. Presented properly, Jews will gravitate toward a middle ground that rejects that state enforced misery where, as Andrew Sullivan recently put it, “[the] fusty puritanisms of the new left and the old right combine.”
• A few generations ago, Jews’ enthusiasm for civil service was due to its merit-based hiring policies, replacing the feudalism of the existing power structure. Today, when it takes several years and an average of $194,000 plus staff to terminate an incompetent teacher in New York state, who is the lord and who is the serf?
• Let’s hear more testimony from people who’ve lost their jobs when the minimum wage has gone up. How has this humanitarian law impacted their family?
• Who takes care of the families on the margin who can’t afford health insurance due to the government decreed raise in coverage, such as “drive by pregnancies”?
• The twelve-year-old girl impregnated by a 22-year-old man. Does giving her an anonymous abortion empower her to choose, or does it merely allow a lawbreaking pedophile to continue at large to victimize other young girls?
These arguments need to be absorbed through both the head and the heart. Recently, talk radio — with its hours of airtime and one-on-one relationship with each listener — has become a remarkably effective medium to change attitudes on social issues. Alas, I question whether Rush Limbaugh, the father of modern conservative talk radio, will be the most effective voice to our target group. Even though his moral and military arguments for the support of Israel are second to none, years of wickedly effective theatrics combusting with the left’s ignorant, slanderous criticism of him have made Rush ideologically radioactive. Instead, I suspect the most effective persuasion on the airwaves right now is being broadcast by the next generation of talk show hosts: friendly, less threatening conservatives such as Michael Medved, Dennis Prager and Sean Hannity.
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The benefits of Jewish re-entry into normative American society go both ways. America will be a stronger society if this small but powerful group once again starts pulling its oars in sync with Middle America. And, as Jews abandon the lonely far left and become more mainstream, they will paradoxically become better Jews, and more particularistic in their identity as ethnic Americans.
To accomplish this political-spiritual perestroika, I am not proposing “The Committee to Solidify the Jewish Majority.” Nor am I pleading for the creation of a new lobbying or public relations arm. Rather, I am simply directing my words to all you Rudolphs out there — you know who you are, and there are more of us than people realize. You know that real change can only occur one heart at a time. Each of you has your local Donners and Blitzens. Speak to them carefully, without bombast. Guide the sled.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
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