What does the Republican Convention mean for Jews?
Not much – for two reasons.
First off, the conventions, Republican or Democrat, are virtually meaningless. This is true for Jews and non-Jews alike. They are so tightly scripted, you might as well add in the laugh and applause tracks from the Price is Right. We’ll hear the narrative each candidate wants us to hear, the media slanted in his direction will declare the speeches inspired, and the opposing Spin Doctors will say, “it was predictable, but passible.” Such is the jaded view of anyone who has lived through a couple of these, seen the movie Wag the Dog, and lives in the shadow of Universal Studios. Folks, it’s all about the sound and light show (this year I mean that literally – the Republican Convention will have two musical stages, 13 video screens, and a $2.5 million dollar theatrical main- stage). Conventions highlight style points, “can I imagine this guy as president”, but let me save everyone the money and time, with all the stagecraft that goes into these things the answer is “yes.”
Secondly, when it comes to the Republican party, Jews largely prefer to stay behind the curtain. Of course there are exception. Here are two interesting examples: Linda Lingle, Hawaii’s first female governor is a Republican and is jewish – she’s running for reelection. And there is Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who became popular as Michael Jackson’s rabbi, and is running as a Republican in North Jersey. In the current congress there are 13 Jews in the Senate, not one is a Republican (both Joe Lieberman and Bernard Sanders are Independents). On the House side, there are 26 Jews, all Democrats, save one, Republican Majority Leader, Eric Cantor. However, behind the curtain there is Sheldon and Miriam’s $10 million plus as well as millions more from other conservative jewish power-brokers.
To my eye, these numbers are stark. There is disproportionate (to population) Jewish representation on the Democratic side, and disproportionate dollars on the Republican side. While I expect that others will respectfully disagree, I read the above stats as follows: There is an innate comfort for Jews in the stereo-typical positions of the Democratic Platform (social responsibility that begins by lifting up the bottom) that does not exist for Jews who embrace the individual liberties, and “hands-off” mentality of the Republicans.
There are real issues that separate the positions. And, Israel is certainly a hot-button issue, but what does it mean if they court your donations but keep you behind the curtain? I’m not sure. Still, I’m reminded of an ancient caution:
“Be careful in your relations with the government; for they draw no man close to themselves except for their own interests. They appear as friends when it is to their advantage, but they do not stand by a man in his time of stress.” – Pirkei Avot 2:3 (200 C.E.).