Turner victory in overwhelmingly Dem district suggests that Obama could be primaried from the right

Last night I listened to many broadcasting accounts of the Republican victory in the special election to Congress from Brooklyn Tuesday, in which former TV executive Bob Turner made Obama’s policy re Israel a fighting issue and won; and one commentator after another played down the Israel angle.

Longtime liberal radio host Alan Chartock, Steve Israel (the Long Island congressman and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair), Hardball contributor Howard Fineman– all dismissed the Israel angle as just another thing that hurt David Weprin, the Democrat and loser. 

This seems timid, unimaginative, and unresponsive to events. Turner will be representing an overwhelmingly-Democratic district. Nearly a third of the voters are Jewish, and not all are Hasidim. Many are bourgy, many are liberals. And so I ask whether it is not time to retire the late Milton Himmelfarb’s formulation, Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans. The other day many voted like tea-partiers, and Israel was a big factor.

Just look at the numbers at Brooklyn Politics: Of Jewish voters, 73 percent say they are Democrats, only 12 percent Republicans. And those Jewish voters don’t cotton to Obama: 56 percent disapproval/41 percent approval.

Earlier this year Isaac Luria formerly of J Street and Eric Alterman both insisted that Jews are still liberals. But they’re not liberals on Israel/Palestine. They are generally for the settlement enterprise, and against dividing Jerusalem. And when Israel becomes the issue in a campaign, they will expose this intolerant conservatism.

Chartock, Fineman and Israel said this is a one-off. I don’t buy it. I think the race will have large consequences. The fact that Jews are overwhelmingly Democratic and overwhelmingly down on Obama creates the potentiality that Obama will be primaried from the right, by a Joe Lieberman-type who makes Israel the issue. I say potentiality not possibility because I don’t think Obama and the party will allow it to happen; Obama will keep making rightwing signals on Israel.

But in Democratic circles these days, they must be worried about such a chance. Were Obama to be primaried on the right, the good thing would be that Chris Matthews would have to talk about the issue, the New York Times would have to report on the Israel lobby (as it did in a small item on the DNC making Jewish donors the third-most important issue other day)… and non-Zionist Americans would finally get to vent and be heard by the MSM…

Update: New York Times is honest about the consequences. Mark Landler:

The Democratic National Committee has established a Jewish outreach program. The campaign is singling out Jewish groups, donors and other supporters with calls and e-mails to counter the Republican narrative that Mr. Obama is hostile to Israel.

Among those efforts is a multi-page set of talking points circulated last Friday with the title, “President Obama’s Stance on Israel: Myths vs. Facts.” David Axelrod, a close Obama adviser, has sent e-mails to Jewish voters, pointing them to a speech by the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, praising Mr. Obama and saying he had deepened the military cooperation between the United States and Israel.

And the White House is drawing attention to recent expressions of gratitude from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israelis after Mr. Obama intervened last Friday to help prevent violence after a mob attacked the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, threatening the Israeli diplomats inside.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 14 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Dan Crowther says:

    Man, reading Phil channel his inner Tom Friedman is rather painful.

    He isnt going to be primaried from the right, for the sheer fact that democrats are angered by Obama’s rightward shift. Joe Lieberman is about as well liked as cancer- and the 2010 election saw the “blue dogs” delegation lose HALF of its members – a far greater percentage than the “liberal” wing of the democratic party. The Evan Bayh’s and Blanche Lincolns of the world are reviled among democratic primary voters – any “primary challenge from the right” would be completely laughed off.

    Now, there could be a PEP primary challenge. A Russ Feingold for example – but NO WAY would he make Israel the “central” issue. This is not to be discussed.

    The Israel issue only works nationally when both parties, and all candidates sound off on their “I LOVE ISRAEL” bona fides, but quickly move on to something else – the Lobby doesnt want a protracted “no, I love Israel more” national debate among candidates- especially as a primary campaigns focal point; that would just lead more people to think “this is really strange, making a tiny foreign country the main issue in a campaign, why is this happening?”

    And also – a “Jewish” primary challenge to Obama would not look good for anyone involved. But you know, maybe thats a good thing.

  2. Les says:

    What percentage of eligible voters voted compared to that of a regular election? Which is asking who didn’t vote?

  3. Potsherd2 says:

    Jennifer Rubin certainly didn’t avoid the Israel angle.

    link to washingtonpost.com

    It seems that a lot of Jewish Israel supporters haven’t gotten the word that no one is supposed to talk about the political influence of Jews.

  4. richb says:

    I agree with Dan. This is to be discussed in the smoke-filled rooms only. Never in public. While I focused on the answers of the Democratic-sponsored PPP poll, the questions are just as instructive. There were tons of questions on Israel and gay marriage and none on the economy! Partisan pollsters either ask questions to change the narrative or obtain information they don’t know. It’s clearly the latter since the PPP poll pushed the Republican narrative.

    When you compare AIPAC against other plutocratic lobbyist organizations such as Crossroads GPS or Americans for Prosperity a key difference just pops out at you. The issues the right wing lobbying groups have substantive differences between the parties and these lobbyists fund their friends. On the Israel issue there is zero difference. So why upset a party that already agrees with you by taking sides? Simple. Israel depends on having a phony existential threat. If no one within the U.S. government was “against” Israel then it’s not at risk and the crazy behavior of the government would not be so quickly ignored or rationalized.

    Of course the problem with this is people get scared into making this non-distinction into a major voter criterion. So, even though Jewish voters would never want Republicans because of their domestic economic policy will vote for Republicans nonetheless in order to guard against the non-existent existential threat. This allows the Republicans to continue trashing the economy and the rationale for my throwing America under the bus comment.

    No amount of large Jewish donor money to the Democratic Party will overcome the “fear factor” because the same effect for Jews in Brooklyn is amplified for evangelical Christians nationwide. In fact, it could even backfire because these large donors get demonized as being anti-Israel even though they are both Jewish and Zionist.

    The Democratic Party needs to understand how Israeli Hasbara redounds almost entirely to Republican benefit and if they truly believe that the American existential threat is due to Republican intransigence then it also redounds to America’s harm.

  5. yourstruly says:

    “primary” obama from the left, not the right

    left on every issue, including justice for palestine

    with the immediate goal being a takeover of the democratic party, as per the tea partiers takeover of the republican party

    & the long term goal the transformation of america into a nation that’s truly of, for & by its people

  6. Chu says:

    nytimes has an op-ed that is worth reading about the Weprin election.

    What did Howard Fineman say about Ed Koch?
    I guess they played that down as well.

  7. yourstruly says:

    the israel-firsters’ playing down of the crucial role that the i/p issue had on this latest election suggests that they know that this could boomerang on them, so rather than own up to the importance of the i/p issue, they’re minimizing it.

  8. Keith says:

    Folks, this is all political theater. Poor Obama! He’s under attack and has no choice! Sure, he has given away 99% of what little we have left, but without him to protect us, that final 1% is threatened! The Jews have abandoned BO! Oy, Oy! Thank God those radical lefties on Wall Street will come through with tons of progressive moola to save us from the Republican Tea Party barbarians! Rejoice, rejoice! Medicare going. Social Security going. More wars and debt servitude coming. But, you know, it could be worse. What if the Republicans win in 2012? And so the familiar drama replays itself endlessly. Ah, but there is comfort in tradition!

  9. RE: “Earlier this year Isaac Luria formerly of J Street and Eric Alterman both insisted that Jews are still liberals.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Zionists ♥ Rick Perry! “The Rick Factor”

    P.S. Rick “Crotch” Perry is blowin’ free kisses to all Zionists 24/7!!! Free Ziocaine® for everyone!

  10. chris o says:

    A Democrat could say that Jews vote overwhelmingly Democratic because they are more informed and enlightened on the issues. But how can anyone accuse Obama of being hard on Israel? He has displayed such fealty to the conventional relationship. The Jewish voters are behaving like ignorant Tea Partiers here.

    I always presumed Obama would get at least 70% of the Jewish vote (vs. 78 in 2008) but perhaps not. And it’s not just how you vote, but how you vote with your money.