Politics

First Jewish President?

Jews have been overrepresented in US Government for quite awhile. For instance, currently 15% of Senators are Jewish versus 2% in the general population. Who has the best chance of being the first Jewish President?
In the past few years several leading contenders have had small setbacks, some have had career ending ones.
A couple years ago I would have had Elliott Spitzer high on the list but I think we all know how his fortunes have turned.
Following his rise to prominence in the late 90s, Senator Lieberman was another candidate but his mangling of Iraq resulted in a terrible political response in CT where he couldn’t even win the Democratic Primary.
Governor Rendell is a two-term Governor from a big swing state. He is now about 65 and couldn’t run until 2016. By then he’d be older than McCain was this past run. More vital for sure, but probably has aged out.
Though I’d love to vote for him, I suspect Senator Feingold is too far left.
Though not a pretty man, Senator Schumer is one of the few yidden whose presidential stock has risen since the early 90s. He is associated with Wall Street, from New York City, and it’s easy to see how the religious right might use xenophobic attacks to marginalize him. I suspect they will say he is too “New York” to connect with “real” Americans. Everyone will know exactly what they are saying without them saying it.
Also of note, is Rahm Emmanuel. He’s been successful as a political operative and also as an elected official. If the Obama years are good, could he run on that?
There is only one Jewish candidate I can imagine becoming a serious candidate in 2012 (though this is unlikely). That man is none other than George Allen.*
Who do you guys think is the most likely person currently alive to be the first Jewish President (of the US)?
*Though many would consider Allen a Jew, including anyone applying Orthodox Halachic standards, I tend towards the Recon standard and wouldn’t consider him a Jew. Here is some more nuance.

29 thoughts on “First Jewish President?

  1. I think George Allen is done.
    But I’m stumped. Spitzer would have been my guess 2 years ago, but yeah. Eric Cantor is young and may have a long career ahead of him as House Minority Leader and perhaps as a presidential candidate but (this may be wishful thinking…) I don’t see him getting elected.
    The first Jewish president will probably be someone who is still young right now, since no one is an obvious choice for 2016, and it’s too early to know who among the younger generation will rise to the top.

  2. Eric Cantor is young and may have a long career ahead of him as House Minority Leader
    On second thought, maybe not. Cantor’s district voted 46% for Obama, and Virginia is trending bluer. Maybe the right challenger could unseat him in a few years.

  3. It makes me a little sad that there are no ladies in this pool (not blaming you but simply noting that there don’t seem to be any female Jewish senators). My vote’s for Rahm Emmanuel though 🙂

  4. there don’t seem to be any female Jewish senators
    Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are both Jewish. But I don’t expect either one of them to be a national contender.
    I’m curious why you think George Allen could make a comeback. I’d written him off.

  5. Wow… I had all but forgotten about Mr. Macaca. That said, stranger things have happened, like McCain being practically lynched out of the Republican party in Summer 07 for his amnesty proposal. If George Allen keeps his nose clean and works his butt off, he has a strong chance. The American people have a short memory and have a fondness for comebacks.

  6. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are both Jewish. But I don’t expect either one of them to be a national contender.
    Yeah, Boxer will be 76 in 2016 and Feinstein will be 83. They missed their chances.
    Will Gabrielle Giffords break Arizona’s presidential curse? Mark Kelly would be a cool First Spouse.

  7. Ezra Klein asks whether Spitzer deserves a second chance. (I’ll save you the suspense. The answer is yes.)
    Who is more likely to revive his political career … Allen or Spitzer?
    As for Giffords, she would have a decent shot at McCain’s Senate seat, probably a better chance than any Democrat I can think of (though my money’s still on Jeff Flake). But I just don’t see her as presidential material.

  8. I suppose there is a chance that Bennett ends up being a big-leaguer (I had no idea he was Jewish).
    Boxes and Feinstein, as BZ said, are probably too old though I considered them and should have made the point initially.
    My sense is that Allen could still do a decent job claiming the vaguely nativist conservative space. His crime was in keeping with his public persona (using a racial slur) rather than Spitzers which was perceived as deeply hypocritical, counter to his persona (busting pimps, sleeping with a prostitute).

  9. I would love to see a Jewish president and all that (actually I would love to see a president from any of the other major world religions, but Jews are currently the most accepted in the USA), but we have to ask ourselves, would a Jewish president actually be good for Israel [in the Jewschool sense]? It is so likely that any Jew that made it to that point would be a hardcore, don’t-compromise-with-the-Arabs reactionary Zionist. Schumer and Lieberman are perfect examples.
    One possible exception: While it is true that Rahm Emmanuel, given his background, appeared likely to fit that pattern (many Muslim Americans were not happy with his appointment), informal statements he has been making lately to the press seem to indicate that he and Obama have plans re: putting pressure on Israel to move towards a 2-state solution. If that effort proves successful and Rahm is associated with it, he would score a lot of political points — and not for conforming to Jewish-American dogma, but for bucking it.
    Can a super-in-your-face former ballet-dancing Jew with a foreign-sounding name (and a Hollywood agent brother who served as the model for the Jeremy Piven character on Entourage) possibly be elected? Who knows, Obama looked even more unlikely on paper. Certainly I would welcome the election of a fellow male graduate of Sarah Lawrence College — there’s not too many of us.

  10. As a member of the so-called religious right, as well as a Yid (we do exist), I’d be offended by what you said about Chuck-You Schumer if it was not so predictable. Get this clear: We on the right can’t stand Schumer because he is a complete asshole. (I’d say “schmuck”, but apparently you “know exactly what [I am] saying without…saying it.”
    The same hold for both California Senators, Spitzer (even before his scandal) and Rahm “Sharp-Elbows” Emmanuel. Allen, Feingold and Lieberman would be acceptable, but their victories unlikely.
    Wouldn’t mind seeing Michael Chertoff or Elliott Abrams make a try, or Norm Coleman…or Arlen Specter, of course.

  11. Since the U.S. is a overwhelmingly a Christian country, and since Jews only make up 2% of the population, wouldn’t it make little sense for a Jew to be president?
    When Israel elects a Bahai as Prime Minister, I’ll take this idea more seriously.

  12. DK writes:
    Since the U.S. is a overwhelmingly a Christian country, and since Jews only make up 2% of the population, wouldn’t it make little sense for a Jew to be president?
    Since the U.S. is an overwhelmingly right-handed country, and since left-handed people only make up 10-15% of the population, wouldn’t it make little sense for a left-handed person to be president?

  13. Since Illinois only makes up 4% of the population, wouldn’t it make little sense for an Illinoisan to be president?

  14. BZ, I think there are a lot more important differences among P.O.V.s between Jews and Christians than there are among Left vs. Right handers. And again, this seems to be true in Israel as well, where it seems that the majority population prefers a leader from the majority population, but do not appear to overtly attach the same concern to regionalism or hand preference.
    As if you need me to explain the difference, BZ.

  15. “Since the U.S. is an overwhelmingly right-handed country, and since left-handed people only make up 10-15% of the population, wouldn’t it make little sense for a left-handed person to be president?”
    Wouldn’t it make little sence for people to vote for a candidate so that they could say, “I voted for the first left-handed candidate”…and wouldn’t it make little sence for people to say that “anybody who didn’t vote for that candidate hates all left-handed people?

  16. BZ, I think there are a lot more important differences among P.O.V.s between Jews and Christians than there are among Left vs. Right handers.
    In American politics, the differences in point of view between Jews (in general) and Christians (in general) are far less than the difference between, say, Barbara Boxer and Paul Wolfowitz, or between James Dobson and Al Sharpton.

  17. BZ, that is true on many issues, but growing up in a small town as a Jew in an overwhelmingly non-Jewish population (we’re talking 1 or 2%), my own experience is that we may indeed think quite differently and process things differently than our Christian countrymen. And there is always more to a president than just his position on issues. It’s different than the other offices.
    After careful deliberation, I have decided to recuse myself from the presidential race in 2016, and I would strongly suggest that my co-religionists consider doing the same. And I would note that even without the presidency, there are plenty of wonderful positions in civil service for us to choose from.

  18. First, thank you Daniel for the endorsement, I think that is the first such endorsement I have ever received.
    As for the question of whether a Jew could be elected, I suspect it is unlikely, though entertaining to think about who has the best shot (though no one has even a 10% shot).
    The US will soon be a “majority-minority” country. If you total the populations of Jews, Latinos, Blacks, Gays, Asians, Muslims, etc, you get to an awful lot of people. These people tend to be concentrated in swing states, notable Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Part of what propelled Obama to victory was how broad the appeal of his underdog outsider message was. It resonated with many many people. A successful Jewish candidate would need to weave a narrative of outsiderness and competence to be viable and it wouldn’t surprise me if many other minority groups could relate.

  19. I second the endorsement of ZT (unless it means I’m going to be under media scrutiny for being on a nonprofit board with him).

  20. The US will soon be a “majority-minority” country. If you total the populations of Jews, Latinos, Blacks, Gays, Asians, Muslims, etc, you get to an awful lot of people.
    Oh, the Muslim vote should be a shoe-in. They love living under Jewish authority.

  21. 4 out of the 5 last US Presidents were left handed. Take a guess which genius was not. Historically speaking I am also left handed. Coincidence I think not.

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