A sea change is upon us in Democratic Party attitudes on Israel

Israel/Palestine
on 8 Comments

Scott McConnell has a piece up at Lobelog about working for Obama in Virginia to get out the vote. The insight about the Israel question comes at the end of this excerpt:

It is a core axiom among Democratic activists that the essence of the Republican “ground game” is to suppress the Democratic votes with lies, intimidation and whatever might work.

It was a curiously moving experience. Much of the sentiment comes from simple exposure. I have led most of my life not caring very much whether the poor voted, and indeed have sometimes been aware my interests aligned with them not voting at all. But that has changed. And so one knocks on one door after another in tiny houses and apartments in Chesapeake and Newport News, some of them nicely kept and clearly striving to make the best of a modest lot, others as close to the developing world as one gets in America. And at moments one feels a kind of calling — and then laughs at the Alinskian presumption of it all. Yes, we are all connected.

At times when I might have been afraid — knocking on a door of what might of well have been a sort of crack house — I felt no fear. I was protected by age and my Obama campaign informational doorhangers…

A very small sample size, but of the white female Obama volunteers with whom I had long conversations, one hundred percent had close relatives who had failed marriages with Mormon men. I think Mormonism is the great undiscussed subject of the campaign, and I don’t quite know what to make of it myself. But contrary to Kennedy’s Catholicism (much agonized over) and Obama’s Jeremiah Wright ties (ditto), Mormonism is obviously the central driving factor of Romney’s life. This may be a good thing or a bad thing — but it is rather odd that it is not discussed, at all. I think it’s safe to say that if Romney wins, the Church of Latter Day Saints will come under very intense scrutiny, and those of us who have thought of the church as simply a Mountain West variation on Protestantism will be very much surprised.

I spent a good deal of time driving and sharing meals with three fellow volunteers, professional women maybe in their early forties, two black, one white, all gentile, all connected in some way, as staffers or lobbyists, to the Democratic Party. All had held staff positions at the Democratic convention. They had scoped out my biography, knew the rough outlines from neocon, to Buchananite, to whatever I am now. They knew my principal reason for supporting Obama was foreign policy, especially Iran. They spent many hours interrogating me about my reactionary attitudes on women, race, immigration, all in good comradely fun of course. At supper last night before we drove back to DC,  I asked them (all former convention staffers) what they thought about the contested platform amendment on Jerusalem. Silence. Finally one of them said, with uncharacteristic tentativeness, “Well, I’m not sure I really know enough about that issue.” More silence.

Then I told them I thought it was a historic moment, (though I refrained from the Rosa Parks analogy I have deployed before) which portended a sea change in Democratic Party attitudes on the question. I cited various neocon enforcers who feared the same thing.

And now, with permission to speak freely, they spoke up. It came pouring out. Yes, obviously Israel has to give up something.  There has to be a two-state solution. We can’t just one-sidedly support Israel, and so on. But really striking was their reluctance, perhaps even fear, to voice their own opinions before hearing mine.

8 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    November 6, 2012, 11:10 am

    “It came pouring out. Yes, obviously Israel has to give up something.” I think this was the “Don’t annoy your Jewish friends” syndrome, a piece of politeness which acts as a political-speech-suppressor (at least in public). These people could “pour it out” when you gave them permission. Sort of like talking to a psychiatrist about what you cannot say to your spouse or boss.

    The feminists had to develop the habit of speaking out in favor of — gosh — women’s rights! Imagine the bravery! We all need to develop the bravery to speak out on Palestinian rights, on the importance of the USA’s supporting (rather than suppressing) the rule of international law, etc.

    Part of what is needed is the bravery of politicians to say to BIG-ZION that they support Israel’s right to exist as a secure and law-abiding state, but not as a permanently usurping expansionist and aggressive warrior. THAT would require special bravery.

  2. Krauss
    November 6, 2012, 11:59 am

    And who can blame them? They saw that the convention “vote” was fixed on beforehand(it was even on the teleprompter).

    These staffers are loyalists. They might be liberal deep down, but they are loyal to the party to an even greater extent. That’s the same phenomenom which now creates a weird situation where supposed liberals defend drone attacks on civilians “because they are bad guys”. If pressed on civilian casualties, some reveal just how far into the loyalist mindset they’ve sunk, such as Joe Klein(of Time) who said on live TV that “well it isn’t our 16 year olds at least”.

    These women don’t seem capable enough of that, but their self-induced silence is a democratic problem in of itself. Insurgency against your own party is easier on the right, it appears.

    Despite that conservatives are thought of as rigid-minded, discpiplined people and liberals the independent, free-wheeling types.

    The entire exchange just makes my belief about the notion that genuine political change always begins outside the tightly controlled confines of mainstream political parties, no matter how “liberal” these parties want to pretend to be.

    Once the cultural war has been won, these women won’t feel fear.
    But by then it’s already over.

    • Annie Robbins
      November 6, 2012, 12:41 pm

      These staffers are loyalists. They might be liberal deep down, but they are loyal to the party to an even greater extent. That’s the same phenomenom which now creates a weird situation where supposed liberals defend drone attacks on civilians “because they are bad guys”.

      nope, you’re missing the point. israel is not like addressing drone attacks and it has nothing to do with dems or republicans or what party one affiliates with. americans have been programmed against criticizing israel for fear of being accused of antisemitism. there’s obviously been a huge propaganda offense put in place called the ‘new anti semitism’. they fear expressing themselves face to face sans ‘permission/safety space’ or identified in print. note the difference at the convention when it was a floor vote, the loud neys.

      • MRW
        November 6, 2012, 4:44 pm

        nope, you’re missing the point.

        Annie’s right, Krauss. It flew over your head. ;-) I’ve been writing about this here for 18 months: the sea-change that’s happening sotto voce. It’s spoken in code. The moment Israel started sucking all the oxygen out of the legislative air as soon as Obama was elected when the country needed its legislators to concentrate on fixing the economy, the die was cast. There was real anger about that. Remember the summer of 2009 when the House newbies made a two-week trek to Israel instead of going home to their districts to assess the damage? And even Greta van Sustren bitched that it was the ‘wrong tone’? Add on the destruction of public figures (Thomas, Nasr, Sanchez) for anti-semitism. Now they’re going after the 15 church leaders and Stephen Sizer. The latter is where the Zios are making their biggest mistake, especially if Romney wins. Especially if Romney wins, because all eyes will be on the Mormon brand of Christianity, which no one knows anything about. The Zios are making the numbers mistake. They think they’ve got the Christian Zionist numbers on their side, in the bag. Boy, are they in for a surprise.

      • Krauss
        November 6, 2012, 4:57 pm

        Annie, the people at the convention floor aren’t loyalists, they’re activists. The outsiders, the grassroots. It’s the same in both parties. They get a once-in-4-years chance to affect the party platform(which both presidential contenders then duly ignore).

        As I wrote before, the result on the “vote” was already decided. The people who show up at these votes are not your rank-and-file staffers. They’re niche activists. When the vote was on, the arena was already filled to less than half.

        People, like Arab-American actists, fly in from all over the place to make a special effort. But they’re not the broad base. Even if the broad base thinks like them, it’s those people who drive the change, they’re the tip of the spear. That was my point.

    • ToivoS
      November 6, 2012, 1:38 pm

      This is not the first issue where Democratic Party activists lived a conspicuous contradiction. As a child I recall national elections (1956 – 1960) where Northern Democrats cheered national election results as the Southern vote came in. I lived in a very progressive household. It was perfectly obvious to me at the time that those votes depended on the racists. Even though members of my family supported the civil rights movement this embarrassing fact was not discussed. In 1964 everything changed extremely fast.

      I think Phil is right to be hopeful.

      • Krauss
        November 6, 2012, 4:57 pm

        I hope he is.

  3. radii
    November 6, 2012, 12:23 pm

    once there was “permission to speak freely”

    yes, savvy people wait to see if they’re dealing with a zionist enforcer or real person with honest opinions who isn’t frightened by actual discussion on the issue

    the zionist enterprise is built upon control – including controlling the narrative

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