The Jewish Establishment Seeks Consolation in Pointless Activity

By Stephen Steinlight on January 24, 2011

The incongruence between the grimly inhospitable political climate in the new Congress for the robotic liberal agenda of the Jewish Establishment and what comes across as equanimity about a minor focal readjustment in some and delusionary myopia among other "Jewish groups adjusting agendas for new GOP-led Congress" recalls Albert Camus' closing observation in The Myth of Sisyphus, his classic essay on life's inescapable meaninglessness. Condemned by the gods to spend eternity strenuously pushing a huge boulder up a steep hill only to watch it roll to the bottom and repeat the exercise – Camus imagines Sisyphus as happy.

Sisyphus is "happy" because his acceptance of Camus' view of life as pointless has freed him from anguishing over its vicissitudes. There's an undeniable logic to such tranquility in the face of hopelessness. But how does this apply to what appears to be an attempt by the Jewish Establishment to strike a similar posture? The organizations that constitute the Establishment certainly haven't given up on their grand political agendas, on immigration and other issues. How do they balance the understanding of politics as the art of the possible with the political cul-de-sac in which they currently find themselves?

Of course reactions among the groups' leaders differ, sometimes starkly. Those quoted in JTA's piece linked above assume stances ranging from apparent equanimity or resignation (read putting a brave face on a major reversal) all the way to undimmed optimism. Some key players appear chastened by the election results and recognize, at best, they will pursue modest goals by seeking areas of common ground with the majority Republicans. Josh Protas, the Washington director for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella group representing the great majority of national Jewish organizations which have public policy agenda, confesses, "Some parts of our agenda won't have much traction in this new climate. We are looking for items that have bipartisan priorities." The "parts" he references constitute, in fact, the entirety of domestic policy. But even his modest hope to find an agenda working on "bipartisan priorities" seems like misplaced tokenism. Given the fractious, extremely partisan tone on Capitol Hill and the record of the White House when it comes to cooperating across the aisle, circumstances are hardly conducive to bipartisanship. Things are certain to remain that way (with a passing genuflection to greater civility in reaction to the recent tragedy in Tucson), indeed divisions will almost undoubtedly harden with regard to the third rail issues as each party positions itself for the 2012 election. And part of that positioning traditionally accentuates the differences as Republicans first veer to the right (further to the right these days to keep the Tea Party movement happy), and Democrats veer to the left to satisfy their historical constituencies and seek to gain the Hispanic vote through that means before both try retrenching closer to the center.

Every organization that belongs to the Jewish Establishment espouses left/liberal positions on every domestic public policy issue, positions wholly at odds with Republican philosophy and politics. It is also the case that these unrepresentative organizations – whose combined membership represents a minuscule, aging fraction of American Jews and includes a high proportion of the most politically correct – toe an ideological line increasingly at odds with the political views of a clear majority of American Jews. Recent research by the liberal American Jewish Committee (AJC) confirms that the November 2010 midterm elections marked the first time fewer than 50 percent of American Jews identified as Democrats in a national election; AJC also reports while the minority within the Jewish community that describes itself as liberal is larger than within other groups, most American Jews, like most other Americans, describe their politics as right of center.

For that reason, Republican congressional leadership, no less than Democratic, does American Jews a major disservice by pandering to Jewish Establishment organizations that groundlessly claim to speak for America's Jews, legitimating and perpetuating their usurpation. This process of validation is already underway. The JTA article discusses meetings between John Boehner's staffers and JCPA representatives.

While Boehner's staff might reasonably characterize such outreach as a political courtesy, its consequences are pernicious. When Majority Leader Boehner's staff meets with an advises left/liberal Jewish groups that have usurped the voice of the Jewish community and despise the Republican Party, they simultaneously give credence to an undemocratic sham and inflict a superfluous wound on the interests of the Republican Party. Rather than forging a working relationship with a dying left-wing Jewish Establishment, it should be focusing on outreach to centrist and right of center Jews who are increasingly open to Republican philosophy.

At the other end of the spectrum, the ideologically blinkered appear to believe they can continue to make progress on the mainstays of their agenda despite Republican recapture of the House. This includes – believe it or not – what they define as progress on immigration, notwithstanding the seismic shift in the relative political power of the pro-amnesty, open borders crowd and that of those pressing for tougher enforcement of immigration law. One of the most radical of that ilk is Sammie Moshenberg, the Washington Director of the National Council of Jewish Women, one of the most left-wing of Jewish Establishment organizations. The focus of that organization in the coming year will be securing passage of President Obama's judicial nominees, pay equity for women, and, yes, immigration reform.

In JTA's piece, Moshenberg cites a very unlikely source as providing a model for Jewish progressives to follow in these iron times: the Tea Party movement. She states, "The inside-the-Beltway strategy is to find our friends where we can, on a bipartisan basis. But also to get the grassroots to speak out – that's key, that's what always turns the tide. If the Tea Party taught us anything, it's that getting folks to speak out and be persistently involved makes a difference."

Moshenberg's analogy betrays astounding ignorance of the Jewish grassroots, but she is hardly alone in this. Like most of her colleagues at JCPA, she works among ideological clones for an organization with a board comprised of a tiny set of limousine liberals in an office in Washington, D.C. Most do the same in New York City, working for board members who reside mostly on Park Avenue. The "professionals" hardly venture out among ordinary Jews and seldom address them.

The fantasy that the Jewish grassroots represents a natural constituency for the left is widely shared among the leadership and policy professionals of these coteries. The people they call "grassroots" are ordinary folk, in essence Jewish middle Americans that form the majority within the Jewish community. All statistical data as well as empirical data indicate these people are well to her political right. A recent AJC poll revealed a finding that shocked many in leadership positions in the Establishment: a clear majority of these "grassroots" Jews support Arizona's SB1070. In response to that finding, Moshenberg first argued that the data had to be mistaken. Her reason: most Jews (among the best educated and informed in America) are too uninformed or stupid to know what racial profiling is. Then she attacked AJC for posing the question at all. Instead, she argued, it should have rounded up the usual suspects – in the polling context – by using one of their standard push polls engineered to show 80 percent of American Jews are supportive of illegal immigration.

But Mosheberg clearly means something else when she speaks of "grassroots." She is not talking about a majority of ordinary folk or some sort of sociological mean. She is using code language, precisely in the same way Marxists historically employed it when they spoke of "power to the people." Of course they don't mean "the people" as most would understand the concept: the democratic majority. The language is meant to convey one thing to those untutored in their political lexicon and another to those in the know. "Power to the people" means power to those who are committed Marxist-Leninists, that is to say, "power to the Communist Party." Of course I'm not suggesting that Sammie Moshenberg is a Marxist. Rather, she shows every indication of being a post-American multicultural racialist with a predilection for politically correct solutions to every problem – that is to say, a moderate left-winger. But her readiness to equivocate with language and resort to the political lie makes her, in effect, an honorary fellow traveler.