Blacks, Jews, and the Post-Racial Candidate

New Voices and the Jewish Student Press Service is hosting an evening on the theme of Blacks, Jews, and the Post-Racial Candidate this week.:

With Ari Berman (The Nation), Ta-Nehisi Coates (Village Voice and The Atlantic Monthly) and Sam Freedman (Professor of Journalism, Columbia University and New York Times columnist). The discussion will be moderated by Marissa Brostoff (The Forward).

The event will take place on Wednesday, May 28th at 7 p.m. at the
Center for Jewish History, on 15 West 16th Street in New York City.
Dessert reception to follow. $10, general admission. $5, students and
CJH members. Buy tickets now by clicking here.

Everyone should attend, of course. But while we’re waiting for the the experts to have their say, let’s start our own JewSchool symposium on this very subject

I’ll get the ball rolling with my current thoughts on the topic.

I think the organized Jewish community is running head-long into something nasty.

I think the gap between the 50+ crazy-about-Israel set is going to collide with the 40- crazy-about-Obama set to cause the biggest Jewish communal explosion — or implosion — in two decades.

Obama is going to be the most polarizing figure for American Jewry since Abbie Hoffman.

I think this will prove a net gain for Obama…. and provide some grim entertainment among those of us who like watching Jewish communal self-immolations.

What do you think?

28 thoughts on “Blacks, Jews, and the Post-Racial Candidate

  1. the 50+ crazy-about-Israel set
    “Crazy” is the right word. Those who support Israel and don’t want to see it at the center of World War III will vote for Obama this November.

  2. Biden was the best candidate for Israel, and for the world. Could somebody explain to me the American primary system, whereby a few thousand voters in New Hampshire elect the president?

  3. Thanks. It’s a disasterous system, as I have no clue what qualifies somebody like Obama over somebody like Biden, at least in terms of foreign policy.

  4. I think Americans should stop thinking about Israel and start thinking about their own country for a change. Regardless of who’s “best for Israel” (Obama), we all know who’s best for America (Obama), and who will drag your sorry army out of Iraq (Obama) thus averting world war III, with Israel in the center. And reduce your trade deficit. And maybe restore some of your collapsed economy.
    Put America first – and maybe Israel will be in better shape for it.

  5. You are so funny Amit. You think Americans should stop thinking about Israel and start thinking about their own country, but you are thinking about America instead of worrying about your own country.

  6. And, really, while Bush has been a disaster and McCain would likely be more of the same, let’s tell the truth:
    Obama sucks.
    He has no experience whatesover and never says anything substantive other than “change.”
    If he weren’t African-American he wouldn’t have a shot at being President.
    The system really should be changed, as there are far more qualified people out there.

  7. Jonathan– I rather suspect Amit doesn’t vote in Israeli elections according to which party he believes will further America’s interests.

  8. First, Barack Obama is not African American. He never grew up experiencing what blackness means in this country. And check the record, he never refers to himself as African American. And he’s not black. He actually appears in most shots I’ve seen to be kinda orange with purplish lips, and then there’s those little tiny ears perpendicular ears… But I digress, what he really seemed to me be was kinda green, actually. As in inexperienced. I used to say I’d vote for him in a second– in four to eight years’ time. But we are at war on two fronts, and getting us out is going to take someone with baytzim and Washington power and connections and hence, when my primary rolled around, I voted Hillary. But be that as it may, Barack Obama appears to be IT. As in the IT that shows up once in a very blue moon, maybe if you’re lucky in your generation and takes your breath away at every speech and seems to get better and better at it as the going gets tougher. Me, I’m self aware; I’m a sucker for a good orator and someone who can speak on his feet. I actually youtube JFK press conferences for a good time. I think Jack would’ve said Obama’s the real deal. Bottom line is that American foreign policy hasn’t changed towards Israel since before Nixon, and isn’t bloody likely to, no matter who’s in the oval office (not that you can convince anybody from AIPAC of that) so American Jewish voters can just drop that “Is s/he good for Israel?” fixation, or at the very least, place it a little lower on their issues list.

  9. Sof Maarav,
    That is a great analogy between JFK and Barak.
    However, JFK wasn’t a good president. (See: Bay of Pigs Invasion, Huge escalation in US involvement in Vietnam. And it is arguable that a more skilled President might have avoided the entire Cuban Missle Crisis.)
    Historians don’t talk about JFK like Roosevelt with the New Deal and guiding the country through WWII; Johnson and the Civil Rights legislation; Bush 41 and the post-Soviet world. People talk about JFK being handsome and articulate, and having an affair with Marilyn Monroe.
    Your sarcasm is cute about Barak’s color.
    But, let’s tell the truth–his being half-black is what got him so well known, coupled with one speech at the Democratic Convention.
    What are his credentials?:
    Two years in the US Senate, during which he hasn’t sponsored any notable legislation? Editor of the Harvard Law Review?
    Biden, who should be the nominee, said it best: The next US President will be operating with zero margin of error. The Democrats should do better.
    And, for the argument that Barak has the betzim to pull the US out of Iraq, can anybody explain what will occur in Iraq after that withdrawal?
    Why else

  10. Sure Barack gives good speech, but I don’t get this “he has no substance” business. His debating has gotten so much better over the last year, he has intelligent things to say about lots of issues, even if I sometimes don’t agree. (I tend more towards Hillary on health care). He has had more intelligent things to say about the Middle East than anyone running for office in my memory, strongly connected to Israel but aware that only a decent life and state for the Palestinians can lead to Israeli security in the long run. He is an amazingly quick study.
    He also has spent more time in elective office than Hillary and being a community organizer is worth a lot to me.
    And did I say he gives good speech?

  11. And Rebecca M,
    Amit probably doesn’t vote in the Israeli elections according to which party he believes will further American interests…….
    He actually tells Americans who to vote for in their own election!

  12. And rebecca m,
    Whether or not Amit votes in the Israeli election according to who he thinks is better for America, I don’t know.
    We do know that he is telling Americans who to vote for in their own election!
    I have no problem with Israelis telling Americans who to vote for in the US election, or voting in the Israeli elections according to who is best for America, or vice versa…
    But let’s not be hypocritical about things.

  13. I was routing for other Dems, but then again, I don’t vote on “what’s good for Israel.” I’m not if either of them will be good for Israel.But BZ’s concern about WWIII is probably something to consider. Again, I see problems with both candidates.
    But what I don’t really understand is the premise. Obama is bi-racial, certainly not “post-racial.” He has a very race conscious past, and a different, but still race conscious, present.
    What I find specifically risible is the idea that Jews–particularly us affiliated folk–being post-racial in any way.
    Steve Sailer defines race as, “an extended family that’s partly inbred.” http://isteve.blogspot.com/2008/05/he-loved-big-brother.html
    We are an exceptionally race conscious people, even as Judaism itself transcends race. The State of Israel prefers a more racially determined Law of Return to a large extent over even traditional Jewish law.
    Who are we kidding?

  14. Could somebody explain to me the American primary system, whereby a few thousand voters in New Hampshire elect the president?
    I don’t like it either, but this is a strange year to complain about this aspect of it — this year unlike in 2004 and other years, voters in all 50 states (and 5 territories) will have had the opportunity to cast meaningful votes in the Democratic primary.

  15. If he weren’t African-American he wouldn’t have a shot at being President.
    That’s why he’s only been winning heavily African-American states like Idaho, Alaska, and Maine.

  16. BZ,
    I think Jonathan was referring to the idea that volvo (hybrid) driving, wine drinking, whole foods shopping white people probably would not give Senator Obama a second thought if they could not tell their friends that some of their favorite candidates are black.

  17. Thanks. It’s a disasterous system, as I have no clue what qualifies somebody like Obama over somebody like Biden, at least in terms of foreign policy.
    I didn’t vote for Obama in the primary either (I voted for Edwards), but at this point, that’s water under the bridge; the viable candidates in the November election will be Obama and McCain and we have to choose accordingly. I can understand Clinton supporters still feeling sore right now, but the rest of us have had plenty of time to get over it.
    I agree that the primary system needs a severe overhaul, and that’s an important conversation to have after the election, when Bush is clearing brush to his heart’s content in Crawford, Texas, and McCain is part of a filibuster-proof Senate minority. Electing Obama (and not McCain) increases the odds that we’ll be alive for the next four years to have that conversation.

  18. I hear what you’re saying BZ.
    Let’s just pray that Obama (the presumptive president) knows what he is doing, or at least surronds himself with people who know what they’re doing…
    because I don’t need to explain to anybody here that we live in an unbelievably dangerous and complicated world, and the next President will be operating with zero, ZERO, margin for error.
    Ok, I’ve written way too much.

  19. Jonathan, if I know one thing about “foreign policy experience”, I know that Biden will lead us ever closer towards financial annexation by China.

  20. Also, we’re fresh off a housing crisis, largely instituted by the credit card companies of Delaware, and you STILL want Biden to be President? He’s not called “MBNA Biden” for no reason, you know.

  21. B.BarNavi is right. Biden knows better, but because of the credit card companies in his home state, he takes a horrifically corporate line. The last thing we need is a guy owned and operated by the corporations. He is most culpable.

  22. Maybe you guys didn’t watch the Democratic debates last year. I did, and Biden clearly had the best grasp on foreign policy.
    Even more, he had an actual plan to put the US in a better position visa-visa Iraq, instead of Obama, Clinton, et al who said that they will pull the US out ASAP (even though doing such might lead to more of a disaster.)
    As BZ said, though, it is all academic, because Obama will most likely be the next President.
    I don’t envy him for that, because he has unbelievably difficult decisions ahead of him (Iraq and Iran)…
    and I don’t envy the citizens the US, because, after being led by a bufoon for 8 years, they will soon have at the helm a President who’s main credential to date is that he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. How does this happen?
    This time I am done writing.

  23. Obama wasn’t near my first choice: I was tending towards Richardson, Dodd, and Biden over the experience issue. However, once the Massachusetts primaries were underway– they were all out of the race. Why did I vote for Obama? Because both my Senators, whom I respect greatly, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry both endorsed him. They worked with both Obama and Clinton on a daily basis in the Senate and I think they have a better idea than any of us of either candidates’ pros and cons.
    I’ve certainly been impressed with his debate performance– he’s clearly intelligent and he treats the audience as if it is made up of adults.
    So many of Obama’s statements in interviews regarding both the Middle East in general and about the Jewish experience certainly demonstrates that he’s done his homework more than any other goyische candidate. So I have no fear of whether or not “he’s good for the Jews.”

  24. In addition, rumor has it that John Kerry will be Obama’s pick for Secretary of State. I don’t think there is any legitimate argument that an Obama/Kerry foreign policy will not support a middle east peace process and a secure Israel, despite what the fear-mongers say.

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