On September 13, 2011, there will be a special election in the congressional district spanning Brooklyn and Queens that was represented by Anthony Weiner, who was forced to resign for scandalous behavior. The 9th Congressional District (CD 9) has been described as the district in New York State having the largest Jewish electorate. I’m probably safe in saying that in New York, that district has always elected a Democrat.
One of the mysteries of political life in the U.S. has always been the question of why Jews to a greater extent than any other religious, racial or ethnic group, except for African-Americans, have given their votes overwhelmingly to the Democratic Party since the first election of Franklin Roosevelt back in 1932.
In the last presidential election in 2008, 78 percent of Jews voted for Barack Obama. The president’s recent demand that Israel negotiate a settlement with the Palestinian authority – tying Israel’s hands by demanding that the negotiations on borders begin with the 1967 armistice lines as the border, subject to agreed upon swaps – drew criticism from the American Jewish community. The president made no demands upon the Palestinian Authority. He did not demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state, if negotiations end successfully.
The president of the U.S., leader of a country that has been the only real friend Israel has ever had among the nations of the world, has ended the special relationship which began with President Harry Truman, who first recognized the state of Israel over the objections of a long-time Arabist U.S. State Department.
President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, probably Israel’s greatest friend among U.S. presidents, made clear that he would not permit the Arab countries to gang up and dismember Israel.
I have not recovered from my shock when I learned from a Gallup poll conducted in February 2010 that 48 percent of Democrats supported Israel and 70 percent of Republicans did. Those figures are permanently seared in my mind.
CD 9 can play a role in the coming special election similar to that played by the state of Massachusetts in 2010 when Scott Brown was elected senator. Brown’s election shocked Washington, D.C. and the president by reducing the Democratic majority to 59, one vote short of the number needed to stop a filibuster by the Republican Party. If CD 9 elects a Republican to the House of Representatives, it will be another political shot heard around the nation.
If Jewish New Yorkers and others who support Israel were to turn away from the Democratic Party in that congressional election and elect the Republican candidate to Congress in 2011, it might very well cause President Obama to change his hostile position on the State of Israel and to reestablish the special relationship presidents before him had supported. His own reelection will be decided next year in 2012. The outcome of the 2011 congressional special election in CD 9 will certainly get his attention.
There are equally important domestic issues that should also cause the voters in CD 9 to send the Democratic Party a message. President Obama, to the consternation of many Democrats, myself included, in negotiating with Speaker John Boehner in seeking to arrive at a debt reduction plan, has, according to The New York Times of July 10th, “been the major advocate for seeking a far-reaching deal that would have combined a debt limit increase with substantial spending cuts; significant changes in social programs like Medicare, Medicaid and perhaps Social Security; and as much as $1 trillion in new revenue.”
Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, now Democratic minority leader in the House, has said in rejoinder, “When we take a look at Social Security, then look at it on its own table, but do not consider Social Security a piggy bank for giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in our country. We are not going to balance the budget on the backs of America’s seniors, women and people with disabilities.” She is right on this one.
If the Republican candidate runs on these four issues: Israel, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in CD 9, which will probably no longer exist after redistricting takes place in 2012, I believe that candidate would win. Are the voters of CD 9 up to this opportunity? We will soon see. They can consign themselves to oblivion or be remembered in the history books.