Many people in the Republican Party wonder why the majority of Jews continue to vote Democratic. The last time Jews preferred a Republican Presidential candidate was 1972. Not even in 1980, when the clearly anti-Semitic Jimmy Carter was running against Ronald Reagan, or when George W. Bush was running for re-election in 2004 after proving himself the best friend of Israel ever to inhabit the White House, did the majority of Jews cast their ballots for a Republican. I have spent most of the last ten years attempting to change that pattern in hand-to-hand combat with the left. And yet despite my battle scars, I was still frustrated and enraged over a recent set of events that only confirmed how profoundly challenging it is to enlighten Jews who vote for Democrats.
Last month, a prominent temple in Los Angeles decided to open its doors to the four candidates running for Governor and U.S. Senate in California. Knowing that they would never get a debate between the respective parties, the temple invited each candidate to address the audience (both members and the surrounding community) in separate forums, believing that an opportunity to speak to a large audience of Jews would both benefit the candidates and promote the Temple’s mission of educating the public. The temple asked influential members of the congregation (of which they have many) to contact the campaigns and extend their invitation. Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for Governor, was the first to accept, followed by Carly Fiorina, who was running for the U.S. Senate. The Jewish press reported that Barbara Boxer declined the offer, and Jerry Brown’s campaign claimed that they never received a formal invitation; a statement known to be categorically false.
Once the first event with Meg Whitman was announced, there was a deluge of complaints from Democrats at the temple. If Whitman was coming, why not Brown? Ignoring the fact that Brown turned down his invitation, they attempted to suppress Whitman’s appearance. To its credit, the temple worked hard to promote the series – always making sure to remind its members that all four candidates were invited, and that the Whitman forum was merely the first one – but the complaints keep coming. To be fair, some of the kvetching died down when people were informed of the process, but several Democrats continued to be shrill and adamant: if Brown was not coming, then Whitman should not be allowed to speak.