THE BLOG
05/07/2009 05:24 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Specter Marks the Death of Jewish Republicanism? Not Quite...

Jonathan Tobin, Executive Editor of Commentary magazine, penned a piece in The Jerusalem Post, "The Death of Jewish Republicanism?" Tobin uses a hyperbolic title to sell an attack on the Republican Party's latest defector, but in exploring the role of Jews in the Republican Party, what's most shocking is that Tobin seems to concede that Jews don't have a home in his tent. I, of course, disagree with some of Tobin's points, but the op-ed is still an interesting read.

Tobin's promotion of Israel as a partisan wedge issue is misguided and wrong. Ironically, this op-ed was published during AIPAC's Policy Conference. Those of us who attended the Policy Conference know that this kind of partisan rhetoric is both not true and hurtful to the U.S.-Israel relationship. Here's Tobin's attack: "The ascendancy of social conservatives in the Republican Party has ensured that [the overwhelming support for the Democratic Party by the American Jewish community]...will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, even if this puts the Jews in the position of rejecting their closest allies on the question of security for the State of Israel."

However, more interesting than Tobin's repackaging of tired partisan rhetoric is his seemingly genuine concern that the Senate's last Jewish Republican's decision to run as a Democrat is not seen as the "death of Jewish Republicanism." Tobin puts forward the argument that "Specter"s departure from the Republican Party has far more to do with his personal political dilemma than it does with the future of the GOP." The piece continues with predictable smears against Specter as egotistical and opportunistic, but Tobin does not argue that Specter was wrong to leave the Republican Party. Rather, he argues that Specter took too long to switch. Tobin writes, "The demise of liberal Republicanism happened decades ago, not this past winter. Nelson Rockefeller-style GOP liberals disappeared a generation earlier."

Clearly, Tobin intended for his op-ed to be used as a GOP defense against Specter's switch, but his argument concedes that the future of Jewish Republicanism is bleak "for the foreseeable future."

Jews remain incorrigibly liberal and more loyal to the Democrats than every sector of the population except for African-Americans. The ascendancy of social conservatives in the Republican Party has ensured that this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.

Tobin also seems to agree with NJDC's assessment that "the Republican tent is far smaller than it used to be."

I imagine that when Tobin wrote an op-ed under the title, "The Death of Jewish Republicanism?," he was responding to the idea that Specter's switch was an indicator for the health of Jewish GOPs. Although, after reading his article it sounds like Tobin is making the argument that "the death of Jewish Republicanism" already happened. (That sounds a bit harsh. After all, the Jewish vote for Senator John McCain was 21%, and there is still one Jewish member of congress. That's not nothing.)

The GOP has a long way to go before they will be seen as welcoming to the Jewish community. Conservatives, like Tobin, are right to take note of the paltry amount of support they get from American Jews, and I can see why Republicans would be upset. However, in their attempt to justify the very concept of Jewish Republicanism, I ask that they not denigrate themselves to partisan attacks in the name of Israel. Bi-partisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship is the cornerstone of the pro-Israel community. Maybe, Republican leaders should turn inward and take a good look at the future of their party. The fact that there is so little room in the Republican Party for Jews is an indication of both how far out of the mainstream their ideology is and how small the GOP tent has become.