by Barry Rubin

I was horrified by reports that the powerful congressman, Henry Waxman, had said that Jews in the ninth New York district voted against President Barack Obama “to protect their wealth.” Could the obsession with backing Obama have led a leading Jewish politician to make such a stereotypical antisemitic remark?

In fact, Waxman’s statement was taken out of context. As usually happens, however, a proper understanding of what someone is saying teaches far more than stereotyping their argument.

Let’s examine Waxman’s statement as quoted in The Hill newspaper:

“I think Jewish voters will be Democratic and be for Obama in 2012, especially if you get a Republican candidate like [Texas] Gov. [Rick] Perry. But there’s no question the Jewish community is much more bipartisan than it has been in previous years. There are Jews who are trending toward the Republican Party, some of it because of their misunderstanding of Obama’s policies in the Middle East, and some of it, quite frankly, for economic reasons. They feel they want to protect their wealth, which is why a lot of well-off voters vote for Republicans.”

Let’s consider this statement. The first part is correct: More Jews are voting against Democrats and will vote against Obama, but the majority will continue to support them. The problem comes in the second part and an accurate reading teaches us several things.

First, the Democratic Party has taken a sharp turn to the left and much of which passes for “liberalism” nowadays is in fact a radicalism that opposes traditional liberal ideas. American liberalism has never been systematically or doctrinally anti-capitalist, much less anti-American.

There is a vast scam going on that represents the current left’s success in doing what the Communist Party tried to do in the 1930s. That’s why many liberal—and especially Jewish—intellectuals have turned against what’s happening now. Even many of those Democrats and Jews in general who vote for radicals-pretending-to-be-liberals do so with deep doubts.

Hey, Mr. Waxman, I’d love to vote Democratic but I can’t because your party and president advocate and implement policies that endanger the United States, destroy the economy, create unemployment, and destabilize the world. They also damage Israel’s security, Middle East stability, the struggle against revolutionary Islamism, and even build anti-Israel views and hatred among many American supporters of your side. If you want my vote, get rid of Obama and change your policies.

Instead, what we’re getting is the manipulation of habit and fearmongering to make Jews–and others–think that conservatives and Republicans as a blend of country club antisemite, Nazi storm trooper, and religious fanatic. The administration and its supporters are doing everything possible to spread hate, fear, and arrogant snobbishness toward fellow Americans.

The reference to Perry is an example. Is the fact that Governor Rick Perry is a pious Christian really some threat to Jews? Definitely not, but how many Jews will believe that? Well, under 50 percent for sure. There is, however, a new paradigm, at least in the United States, in which believing Christians are more friendly to Jews and Israel on the whole than are atheists.

Second, it is absurd to say that Jews “misunderstand” Obama’s Middle East policy. They understand it all too well. I want to stress, however, that the problem is not just U.S .-Israel relations but the wider regional approach taken by the administration that makes Israel’s situation far worse and more dangerous.

Let’s remember that Waxman campaigned hard for Obama by telling Jews that the candidate loved Israel and was no problem for it. Waxman lied; the peace process died, thanks not to Israel but to Obama. Equally, Obama has been soft on or actually favored the forces most inimical to Israel: Egyptian revolutionaries including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the Islamist regime in Turkey, and the Syrian government. His policies have helped to block any discussion of Islamist and Islamic antisemitism, the main threat to Jews in the world today.

Thus, while many have overstated the problems Obama’s policies have brought to Israel–for example, military ties are as good as they have ever been; Obama will veto the unilateral Palestinian independence move in the UN–the dangers and damaged arising from Obama’s administration have been gigantic. Incidentally, in three years I don’t think Obama has made a single statement ever that combined support for Israel with blame for its enemies.

Finally, there is the big controversial point. Waxman doesn’t say that Jews are voting based on their wealth but only Jews who vote against Obama and his supporters. This is an old theme: anyone who doesn’t support this administration is doing so because they are greedy while supporters vote for it because they are noble and altruistic.

This mirrors Obama’s own claim that those who vote against him are merely reactionaries, racists, religious fanatics, and gun nuts. When he said that, Obama was speaking to a wealthy crowd of rich people in San Francisco ridiculing the less affluent. In some ways, despite the pejoratives, it was more truthful than what Waxman said, implying that Jews who don’t vote for Democrats are “bitter clingers” to Israel and their wallets.

Of course, this misrepresents points that people like Waxman want to hide.

I would bet that on the whole the income of Jews who will vote for Obama in 2012 is higher than those who will oppose him. A large proportion of those opposing Obama are not affluent but are hurt by his policies. I wouldn’t be surprised that if one only counts white voters, the average income of Obama supporters is higher than that of Obama opponents.

While the most wealthy people are probably disproportionately anti-Obama (though by a smaller margin than many would think), the upper middle class is disproportionately pro-Obama. Among white workers, at least, Obama supporters come from what Marxists used to call the “labor aristocracy,” highly paid union members. The ninth district of New York is a good example. Those voters are not affluent at all.

I cannot prove the above points statistically but there is undeniably a lot of truth in them.

In addition, Obama supporters are also acting “for economic reasons” and “to protect their wealth.” On one hand, there are the beneficiaries of government spending, many of whom don’t pay taxes. Those who work for government and those who benefit from handouts are also voting for their material interest. What do they care if taxes go up and debt becomes dangerous? And what of crony capitalism, in which favored fat-cats get billions in taxpayer money? Bureaucrats of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your entitlement claims.

A useful way of thinking about it is that Americans who vote against Obama are indeed thinking about their wealth. If the depression continues, if the economy collapses, if they cannot find a job or lose their job, if the dollar is reduced in value, if energy and other prices rise due to administration policy, then these people will certainly have less wealth. Since the administration’s policies are so damaging, there are likely to be more people worried about losing their life style or livelihood than those who think the administration will give them “free” (that is, funded by other American) goodies.

Of course, Waxman is still playing with dangerous antisemitic concepts. Similarly, the demonization of Israel by Obama supporters also feeds antisemitism. What is one to make of such common themes as Israel doesn’t want peace, is oppressive and brutal, etc. How far is the distance between that and saying that terrorism against Israeli citizens is justifiable or that Israel should be a pariah?

We haven’t gotten to the point where Waxman is saying that Jews who oppose Obama kidnap little Democrats and use their blood to make matzot but—and, yes, I’m joking—we may see something like this before November 2012.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). GLORIA Center site is articles published originally outside of PajamasMedia are at   

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