Shabbat Surfing: The Jewish Vote and Obama

Image from USA TODAY

While the four remaining GOP hopefuls are rallying supporters in South Carolina, President Obama and his supporters are ramping up his re-election campaign. Yesterday the Obama campaign ran its first television ad in six states, including swing states with significant Jewish voting populations. These voters in swing states are important to both Democrats and Republicans because Jews have historically voted at a higher rate than the general public and they are concentrated in states with a high number of electoral votes. As national voting trends shift and change, it leaves one to wonder: what about the Jewish voter? (“Jewish voter” being a monolithic entity and painted with broad brush strokes, of course).

In September Gallup released an analysis which concluded that “although Obama’s approval rating among Jewish Americans has been declining, it has generally declined no more than it has among all Americans.” Yesterday, news broke that some staffers at the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely associated with the White House, publicly used language that could be construed as anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic…potentially complicating the president’s reelection outreach to some Jewish voters. But, wait! President Obama traveled down the East Coast yesterday to announce executive orders to boost international tourism in Florida and the up the East Coast to attend some fundraisers, the first of which was with “about 100 Jewish supporters.”  Not so fast! Shmuel Rosner includes some great graphs and interesting explanations to unpack the question of  whether or not Jews are “trending Republican” in his post on Wednesday.

Is there anyone out there who can explain how Jewish voters feel about Obama and/or predict the group’s voting patterns in 2012? Maybe this post by Brent E. Sasley will clear things up.

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Post-Presidents Day Salute: A.L. Levine

Barack Obama may very well become the first African American President, or alternately Hillary Clinton may become the first woman elected President. It is even possible that John McCain may become the first, well, really really seriously old white guy to be elected President (72 on inauguration day). It is safe to say however, that the first Jewish president is yet to be on the ballot.The Wanting of Levine

So for the time being Jewish Presidents belong to the realm of fiction, which brought to mind Michael Halberstam’s 1978 bestselling novel The Wanting of Levine. It is long out of print, though it appears in the catalog of the Montgomery County Public Library system. When I went seeking a copy this weekend, the librarian I consulted noted the book had not circulated in five years and was probably long-gone from the shelves. Lucky for me, she was wrong.

Set ten years in the future from its publication date (and twenty years before our current quadrennial contest), the novel presents a United States that is well on its way to being a second-rate power. Energy rationing is in effect, standards of living are declining, racial violence is increasing, individual states are involved in border wars over trade and tariffs — there’s a general sense that things are going to hell very quickly. To top it off, the Democrat’s front-runner for the nomination has just stabbed his wife to death in a drunken rage. Enter the mercurial figure of A.L. Levine, until now a back-room DNC committeeman after a fortune made in sales and real estate development. When circumstances thrust him into the spotlight, Levine begins his own unlikely candidacy.

The novel is one-part political insider fiction, one part-late seventies sex romp, one part liberal Jewish wish-fulfillment and one-part a canny take on the rhythms of political enthusiasm and what Americans want from a President. Written as it was in a pre-AIDS, pre-Reagan, pre-Internet and pre-collapse of the Soviet Union (just to mention a few epoch shaping “pre’s”) era, the novel obviously has limits when applied to today’s political landscape. Certainly, Levine, with a libido Bill Clinton could only envy, would not be electable, never mind even runnable in today’s climate. Continue reading

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