Monday, July 9, 2007
The rise of Republican Jews
I'm not sure my wife believed me Sunday night when I threw on a suit for a late meeting at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum. I told her I was going to talk with conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt and former Knesset member Natan Sharansky, that I was covering a banquet for California Republicans who happen to be Jews.
"Who's going to be there?" she asked. "All eight of them?"
A year ago, I might have cracked the same quip. Sure, Jews have figured prominently in Republican White Houses since Nixon, and we're all familiar now with President Bush's band of neoconservatives -- a derogative as synonymous with Jews as "New York liberals." But 15 years ago, the possibility of Jews voting Republican was rare. In LA a little farther back -- like Bradley-Westside coalition days -- it was a statistical blip.
The times, though, have changed. Pollsters debate numbers, but it's clear the percentage of Jews voting Republican in presidential races has increased each of the past four elections -- from 11 percent in 1992 to as much as 25 percent in 2004. In the past three plus years, the California chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition has swelled from 1,500 members to 8,500.
Bush might be an unpopular politician, but among Republican Jews he remains a venerated figure. Why? Because Bush is seen as a proactive warrior in the fight against Islamic militants. And that, they believed, is good for Israel.
"I'm not a one-issue voter," my tablemate Rick Richman said, "but I'm close. What they do right about Israel is they support it. And you've got a president who recognizes that Israel is on the frontline of the war on terror, whose future will set the course of the 21st century."