Debating for the Democrats

As part of my personal efforts this election season to generate a larger voter turnout, and particularly to energize progressive Americans, I’ve been taking part in a number of community debates targetted at the Jewish community. The next (and last) one is tomorrow evening during a Shabbat dinner/debate on the campus of Emory University.

I like to solicit the input of others when I prepare for these encounters, so now I turn to the Jewschool readership. Any things you’d like me to go out of my way to bring up? Any substantive pointers? In particular, how would you go about neutralizing the Bush-support amongst Jews, which is due to the issue of Israel?

26 thoughts on “Debating for the Democrats

  1. i suggest you point to last nights debate, in which we learned from kerry that dick chaneys daughter is a lesbian (of course a burning issue in this campaign and something dems should mention at every occassion); and that kerrys mother, on her death bed, found it necessary to tell kerry to maintain his integrity (what does she know that we dont). so go out, spread the word, massa insists we keep those little jew boys and girls on the reservation.

  2. First and foremost, I think that it is important to stress that in a free, democratic society, it is our duty to vote based on much more than one particular foreign policy issue. The question a responsible citizen asks is: Who is better for the U.S.?
    Second, I would remind people that the answer to that question is not independent of the Israel issue. With the U.S. as Israel’s prime ally, it is most definitely in the best interest of Israel to have a strong, respected, U.S.–something currently lacking.
    Then, point out the simple fact (lost on most people), that we really have no idea who is best for Israel. Israelis don’t even know or agree on which Israeli leader is best for Israel. They are as split as we are. So, are we to honestly think that due to his retoric and unwillingness to engage with Palestinian leaders, Bush is definitely better for Israel? Remember that Rabbi Yochanan so prized Resh Lakish as a student not because he always agreed and supported his positions, but because he always had arguments. Sometimes blind agreement can be bad.
    Finally, if you cannot convince folks that they shouldn’t vote for Israel only and that they don’t know who is best for Israel, point out that AIPAC feels that Kerry has a near-perfect Israel record.
    And if you get desperate:
    I found it on an Al Jezeera site.

  3. Well, there’s two different ways of approaching this. Depending on what manner of Jews you’re addressing, you could point out that for better or worse (worse, I think, but that’s just my view), Kerry is just as much of a mindless supporter of Sharon as Bush is, if possibly a little more inclined to push the peace process forward. So the many Jews who are left-wing on domestic issues and Iraq but reflexively Israel-can-do-no-wrong-ish should feel free to vote out the scarier guy.
    On the other hand, if these are young Jewish “progressives” who can get past Jewish identity politics and genuinely want to see some measure of justice and equality (and hopefully someday peace, although the Israelis can’t make that happen alone) in Eretz Yisrael, you could make the argument that as more of a multilateralist and all-around smarter guy, Kerry may be more open, once safely elected, to other nations’ perspectives re: the Israel/Palestine issue. (Coincidentally, i just posted a long-ass comment about Israel/Jews and the election under Mobius’s “And the winner is…” post.)

  4. One must also point out that Bush is questionable for Jews domestically as well. Among his many unsavory allegiences (e.g. to the rich, corporations, energy concerns, Saudis, etc.), he is an evangelical Christian who is seeking to further the Christian Right’s agenda in this country. He straight out says (as he did in last night’s debate) that his faith informs his decisions and actions as president (such as his stances on abortion, stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, his doubts about science, and of course Israel — need all those Jews back in the holy land so that Jesus can come back and kill them!). More disturbingly (especially for Jews and other religious minorities), he wants to weaken our first amendment (freedem of, and from, religion) protections. Currently, he is pushing faith-based initiatives in welfare, so that welfare recipients can be subjected to prostelityzing in order to receive benefits. Also, religious organizations can now discriminate against people of other religions in terms of hiring. If given another four years, expect Supreme Court appointments that will further erode the Constitution. Would school prayer, the mandatory teaching of creationism, and/or the allowance of Christian decoration/iconography on government/public property be far behind?
    Sorry for the lenght of this comment – Bush just really pisses me off.

  5. Can you imagine if someone said that candidate X is, “an Orthodox Jew who is seeking to further the Jewish consporacy in this country.”
    You can knock Bush all you want, but the smaeful anti-christian sentiment among Jewish Democrats is a chillul hashem.
    For some of us, our jewish identity is NOT rooted in a reflexive paranoia over what christians do. Pop in to your average Reform or Conservative shul with a thousand members on the list and count how many are in shul when it’s not a high holiday…and yet they worry so much about what the christians are doing. Shame on you.

  6. Excuse me, but my prior comment was not a bigoted attack directed at Christians. Rather, it was a poignant criticism regarding Bush’s intention to erode the First Amendment protections of the Constitution, among other policies informed by his evangelical Christianity. And whether you think pointing it out is distasteful or not, the Christian Rights agenda (in regards to abortion, same-sex marriage, science, education, etc.) is not good for the United States in general, or American Jews in particular.

  7. — AIPAC’s high rating of Kerry.
    — The difference between rhetoric and record (Bush’s rhetoric is great, his record, not so much)
    — Bush’s record on other things Jews care about (social justice, separation of church and state)
    — Bush’s poor record on antiterrorism stuff in general (mention the slow progress on things like inspecting containers, securing nuclear materials in the FSM… and the fact that terrorism worldwide is at a 20-year high!)

  8. Yes it was bigoted, and if you need to refer to your own posts as poignant, well, go ahead while we giggle.
    Again, you are a bigot and your statements continue to be pigoted. By assigning political issues to a religious group, you paint yoursefl with the B word. And again, if Christians pointed to a “Jewish Agenda” and that “Jews are bad for America” you and the rest of the liberal jewish community would would plotz.
    Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not specific issues have merit. I disagree with you. I hold opposite positions on many of the issues you reference. I am a Jew. I do not believe that one can make blanket statements like you have on what is good or not for American Jews for the most part, especially with the issues you mention.
    The idea that Christians are eroding 1st amendment rights is ludicrous and delusional. That young jews are intermarrying and leaving the fold is NOT the fault of Bush and the Christian community. Stop patting yourself on the back. Look in the mirror. The problem is not Bush or Christians, maybe the problem is you!

  9. Nameless,
    It’s not about bigotry against Christians but a concern over the erosion of our Constitution’s most enduring innovation: the separation of Church and State. One of the main reasons Jews have fared so well in America is that from the beginning, religion and faith were understood to be personal matters, protected from dominance by the majority’s faith. Bush is seeking to erode the sacred gap between Church and State, making the private public and the public private. This is an issue of concern to Jews and all Americans who value freedom of religion.

  10. By assigning political issues to a religious group, you paint yoursefl with the B word. And again, if Christians pointed to a “Jewish Agenda” and that “Jews are bad for America” you and the rest of the liberal jewish community would would plotz.
    That doesn’t seem bigotted to me. Rather it seems to acknowledge that the interests of certain groups are often at odds with one another.
    Need one be anti-Christian to vote a fundamentalist Christian out of the White House?
    And what’s intermarriage have to do with this? By your own standards, one might conclude that strong opposition to intermarriage is also bigotted.

  11. Eli, you can imagine a history that didn;t exist if you like, but please don;t try to pass that off as reality. The modern liberal conception of seperation of church and state meaning that religion can only be expressed in the home is not historically accurate. There is NO threat to the practice of Judaism by conservative christians whatsoever. The biggest threats to Judaism is within our own community, which is my point on intermarriage. The majority of Jews who throw hissy fits over 10 commandments in courts or prayer in schools are those jews whose judaism translates into high holiday shul attendance and bagels and lox before gold on saturday.

  12. Jonny, one does not need to be anti-christian to vote against a sitting president, but if you do it because of his religion and not because of the specific policies he enacts, then you are a bigot.

  13. “Jonny, one does not need to be anti-christian to vote against a sitting president, but if you do it because of his religion and not because of the specific policies he enacts, then you are a bigot.”
    He himself says that his religous beliefs inform his decisions. And his actual decisions cohere with his religous beliefs (pro-life; anti-stem cell research; anti-gay marriage etc.). Furthermore, his position of power allows him to enact legislation that conforms with his religous beliefs. It is not bigotted to consider this when casting your vote. If a Hassidic president tried to enact legislation that made intermarrige illegal for Jews I would be opposed, despite the fact that I am personally against the idea of Jews intermarrying.

  14. “The Nameless One” says:
    The majority of Jews who throw hissy fits over 10 commandments in courts or prayer in schools are those jews whose judaism translates into high holiday shul attendance….
    That’s what we call a spurious statistic.
    The “majority of Jews” in America, PERIOD, “are those Jews whose Judaism translates into high holiday shul attendance.”
    Why should we be surprised that the religious lives of activist Jews are the same as the religious lives of most other Jews in the country?

  15. The tactic is not spurious sir, the reality that most Jews are high-holiday types is spurious. More so is that they identify themselves more through their opposition to Christians and Christianity then they do through their own positive Jewish actions.
    Last time I checked, “voting for the Democratic Party” was not in the Torah.
    So we should not be surprised that the religious lives of activist Jews are the same as the religious lives of most other Jews in the country, we should be ashmaed and work on changing that. Not focus on attacking Christians.

  16. Nameless,
    There once was a threat to religious freedom. It was the Catholic Church’s domination of European society for centuries. Although it’s true that fundamentalist Christians do not pose an immediate threat to freedom of worship, their goal is government rule by religious law. This would pose a serious threat to everybody in this country who doesn’t agree with that religious law, and who wish to worship differently or not at all.
    The separation of Church and State actually employs a concept quite familiar to Jews — the “fences” erected in order to guard against transgression. In this case, the transgression would be fundamentalist theocracy. The fence that protects and preserves our Republic is the complete and total separation of Church and State. Baruch HaShem.

  17. a few more things that warrant emphasis:
    – we didn’t have to respond to the attacks of 9/11 in the way that the bush administration did. we were also attacked by al qaeda in 1993 (albeit less successfully), but bill clinton handled those attacks much more responsibly than bush’s administration has. we didn’t invade iraq in 1993 just because some saudis tried to blow up the wtc garage.
    – we now have a choice in how we will respond to future attacks. either we can follow the bush prescription (invade sovereign nations unprovoked, and without multilateral support) or we can follow the clinton/kerry prescription (solicit input and aid from the international community when embarking on any military incursions). note that the clinton/kerry approach has led to the spread of more “freedom” and human welfare than has the bush/cheney approach.
    – the impacts of the choice we make now, as americans, reaches much further than the confines of our own borders. for example:
    millions of africans have died preventable deaths from hiv/aids as a result of george bush’s faith-based de-funding of family planning clinics across the african continent. if george w really cared about *life*, he would do the math: preventing abortion in the US might save a few thousand “lives” (in quotations, because i do not consider a fertilized egg to be living). at the same time, funding african family planning clinics could several million LIVES each year, plus the cost of human suffering from hiv/aids.
    you do the math. the right answer seems pretty clear to me. unless you can convince me that american embryos are worth more than african adults, we should be funding family planning clinics in africa.
    – the bush/cheney administration is rife with lies, deceipt, corruption. as the president of the union of concerned scientists has said, “everyone is entitled to their own opinion. but you are not entitled to your own facts“.

  18. 1) If I voted against Bush in 2000 because of his declaring “Jesus day” in Texas is that because of his religion or because of his policies? I think one issue many Jews have with Bush is the belief he is unable to separate the two.
    2) The original comment didn’t attack “Christians” but the “Christian Right”. If you don’t believe the Christian Right have an agenda, your head is buried in the sand. Of course, “Christian Right” doesn’t refer to all Republicans who happen to be Christian, or vice versa. I consider Christian Right to be synonymous with the Moral Majority, Religious Right, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Cal Thomas, etc. I don’t know if my attributions are similar or not to Kuzari’s.
    3) The “Moral Majority” is an organization. They have a stated agenda. Ascribing that agenda to them isn’t bigotry, it’s just reporting facts. Maybe “Religious Right” is a better term than “Christian Right”, but honestly, there isn’t much difference.

  19. If you still think the original coment is bigoted, go back and reread it. After saying Bush was a member of the Christian Right, it proceeds to talk about issues. Things Bush supports and has done. Reasons Jews should be afraid of what he might do in the future. Claiming that Bush is unable to separate his strong religous belief from government policy is an attack on Bush. It is not an attack on all Christianity. The majority of Christians I know *CAN* separate the two.

  20. Thank you John, and your attributions and mine regarding the Christian Right are the same.
    If I was attacking Christians, or advocating that Jews should not vote for a candidate who holds Christian views, then I would attack John Kerry as well, since he stated that he is an avowed and devoted Catholic. I have not done so, because unlike Bush, Kerry has explicitly maintained that he is fundamentally opposed to the imposition of his faith (especially through legislation) on people who may or may not share his views. In other words, he will uphold the First Amendment (the importance of which seems to escape Mr. Nameless).

  21. madon, did you actually post: “we didn’t have to respond to the attacks of 9/11 in the way that the bush administration did. we were also attacked by al qaeda in 1993 (albeit less successfully), but bill clinton handled those attacks much more responsibly than bush’s administration has.”
    yes, and clintons responsible response resulted in the death of 3,000 boys, girls, men and women; + made a hero of al qaueda to the muslim extremists which will lead to many more dead americans.
    unbelievable; and its bush thats a moron?

  22. Avi, you have it all wrong. Madon is a Bush supporter, and his post is a wicked parody of the left-wing view. I wish everyone in the country could see it.

  23. People think Bush is good for Israel because he has totally diengaged. Parents who love their children don’t turn a blind eye to the things they do; sometimes, tough love is the best approach.
    Moreover, to argue that Bush is any better for Israel than Kerry would be borders on absurd. Kerry has a history of supporting Israel. Read his statement in the Forward a few months ago and all will become clear.
    Good luck!

  24. fkn liberals will do everything the republican ‘nazis’ will do when it suits them
    Kerry Film
    WASHINGTON (AP) – The Federal Communications Commission won’t intervene to stop a broadcast company’s plans to air a critical documentary about John Kerry’s anti-Vietnam War activities on dozens of TV stations, the agency’s chairman said Thursday.
    “Don’t look to us to block the airing of a program,” Michael Powell told reporters. “I don’t know of any precedent in which the commission could do that.”
    Eighteen senators, all Democrats, wrote to Powell this week and asked him to investigate Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan to run the program, “Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.
    Powell said there are no federal rules that would allow the agency to prevent the program. “I think that would be an absolute disservice to the First Amendment and I think it would be unconstitutional if we attempted to do so,” he said.
    He said he would consider the senators’ concerns but added that they may not amount to a formal complaint, which could trigger an investigation. FCC rules require that a program air before a formal complaint can be considered.
    Sinclair, based outside Baltimore, has asked its 62 television stations – many of them in competitive states in the presidential election – to pre-empt regular programming to run the documentary. It chronicles Kerry’s 1971 testimony before Congress and links him to activist and actress Jane Fonda. It includes interviews with Vietnam prisoners of war and their wives who claim Kerry’s testimony demeaned them and led their captors to hold them longer.
    In the letter to Powell, the senators – led by Dianne Feinstein of California – asked the FCC to determine whether the airing of the anti-Kerry program is a “proper use of public airwaves” and to investigate whether it would violate rules requiring equal air time for candidates.
    Separately, the Democratic National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Tuesday contending that Sinclair’s airing of the film should be considered an illegal in-kind contribution to President Bush’s campaign.

  25. i’m certainly not the only one who feels that bush made an irresponsible choice. let’s talk some more about dead americans:
    The Bush administration has succeeded in making the Iraq war a recruiting poster for Osama bin Laden’s region-wide cause of Islamic jihad, a rallying point for the Islamic fundamentalist movement that serves as a source of heroic televised images, stirring propaganda, and vital on-the-ground training— serves, that is, roughly the same function that the jihadist struggle against the Soviets in Afghanistan did in the 1980s. It was the Afghan struggle that produced Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. And now, during eighteen months of a war that should never have been fought, the Bush administration has managed to create out of Iraq the new Afghanistan.
    Berkeley, California
    The two most revealing moments in Mr. Bush’s presidential career were the dead-heat election of 2000 and the September 11 attacks by al-Qaeda. In both instances he chose responses that were startlingly inappropriate to the political reality of the situation.

    Bush’s response to September 11 showed the [same] tendency to do something astonishingly inappropriate to the occasion. His immediate reaction —declaring “war on terror” and attacking al-Qaeda’s host government in Afghanistan—was sound enough. Its swift success and its popularity at home and around the world promised an extraordinary political triumph.
    Yet at this moment, with glory beckoning, he decided to make war in Iraq, thus opening the path to what looks increasingly like a disaster in the making. His purpose in transforming the “war on terror” into a war on Iraq is still unclear. The reasons given for it at the time—Iraq’s connivance in the September 11 attacks, Saddam Hussein’s development of atomic, biological, and chemical weapons—have since proven fictitious.
    What was clear from the outset was that the President was determined to have this war. Intelligence that did not support its necessity was pushed aside. News that cast doubt on its necessity was buried inside newspapers when it was published at all. Editors, like intelligence bureaucrats, sensed that the war was inevitable, and all seemed resigned to some obligation to accommodate the President’s desire.
    To thrust the United States into a region that has always presented unmanageable difficulties for Westerners, he was willing to damage relationships with important allies of long standing, arouse anti-American hatred across vast stretches of the Islamic world, and divert military resources from the “war on terror” into war aimed at democratizing tribal cultures. This single-minded rush to war was not only an inappropriate response to the global situation, it must also, inevitably, drain away military strength and diplomatic support needed to make the “war on terror” succeed. What drove him?
    His responses to both the dead-heat election and September 11 showed a startling impetuosity. In neither instance did he seem to seek the counsel of the wisdom, age, and experience in which Washington, and especially the Republican Party, abound.
    Leesburg, Virginia

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