There is a famous saying, frequently misattributed to Albert Einstein, that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If that is true, then the GOP’s current pitch for the Jewish vote looks like another example of their detachment from reality. But looks can be deceiving. While Mitt Romney has no realistic chance of winning the Jewish vote in November, he could conceivably achieve his two real goals: winning Florida and shoring up support on the religious right.
Every four years conservatives hopefully assert yet again that this may finally be the election where Jews start voting like rich white people. As Milton Himmelfarb famously noted, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.” The circumstances that would encourage Jews to switch parties—they are more assimilated, Republicans are less overtly anti-Semitic—keep improving, but the GOP’s performance among Jews does not. In every election since 1992 Democrats have received between 76 and 80 percent of the Jewish vote. In 2008 President Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote, to John McCain’s 22 percent.
And yet Republicans are trying again. Romney just went to Israel to pledge fealty to the Likud Party’s agenda and hoover up donations from a handful of rich Jewish-American donors like billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who flew out to join Romney for the occasion.
Meanwhile, the Republican Jewish Coalition has, thanks partly to generous donations from Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, launched an effort to capitalize on “buyer’s remorse” among Jews who voted for Obama. They have devoted $6.5 million to air commercials targeting Jewish voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Why would Jews regret voting for Obama? Because of his supposed snubs to Israel, which are really just trumped-up Republican talking points. The first ad quotes a supposed former Obama supporter named Michael Goldstein, who says:
I was a big Obama supporter. I had a fundraiser in my home, gave money to his campaign. I really believed in him and believed in what he stood for. When he gave the speech about the ’67 borders, it was nothing that had come up in his campaign originally. That really changed my mind about him. When he had the prime minister of Israel, [Benjamin] Netanyahu, to the White House…he was disrespectful to him to the point that I’d never seen.
Goldstein, it turns out, donated $250 to Rudy Giuliani in 2007. But even if he is telling the truth about his political history, it just shows how easily he is snookered by misinformation from Republicans. The right-wing hysteria about Obama’s speech was much ado about nothing. American presidents have always called for using the 1967 borders with land swaps to make a peace deal. Obama did not specifically say Israel should be allowed to keep the settlements outside the Green Line. But then, he shouldn’t. As for Obama’s supposed mistreatment of Netanyahu, Glenn Kessler, who writes The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog notes, “Netanyahu also has been publicly tough with Obama, especially after the president’s speech on the 1967 boundaries. He in essence lectured Obama in full view of television cameras, suggesting the president had an unrealistic view of the region.” Kessler also points out, “By virtually all accounts, the Obama administration has been especially strong in bolstering security ties between Israel and the United States.”