There was little good news for the Democrats in the new American Jewish Committee Survey of American Jewish Public Opinion, released only weeks before critical congressional midterm elections.
While confidence in President Barack Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations continues to drop after a stormy year in U.S.-Israel relations, the most dramatic decline centered on his handling of the economy, with only 45 percent approving — a drop of 10 point since a similar AJC poll in March.
That suggests that while Israel remains a core concern, it’s not all about Israel for Jewish voters, a message politicians in both parties need to hear.
With unemployment still at frightening levels, the economic recovery stalled and Congress and the administration paralyzed over the question of what to do next, American Jews are experiencing the same fears and frustrations as their non-Jewish neighbors.
People in our own community are hurting — just ask the proprietors of kosher food pantries — and they’re angry about leaders in Washington who aren’t willing to rise above toxic partisanship and find real solutions.
Obama, for all his reputed skills as a communicator, has been woefully ineffective in conveying that he grasps that pain and fear. The Democratic majority in Congress, likewise, seems disconnected from real-life Americans and their everyday worries.
This isn’t to say that the Republicans are ready with political panaceas. Both parties have carried partisanship to disastrous excesses; neither has offered a coherent vision for how to solve the economic woes that have adversely affected the lives of so many Americans, Jewish and non-Jewish.
But one of the perils of leadership is that you get the lion’s share of blame for inadequate government performance. So it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that 33 percent of the Jews surveyed in the AJC poll say the nation would be better off with a Republican-led Congress — below the number for Americans as a whole, but a dramatic shift for a Jewish electorate that still tilts to the Democratic side in party identification.
The AJC survey should be a wake-up call to both parties: Jewish voters, like their non-Jewish neighbors, are in a deep funk and want real change. And while Israel policy is critically important, it’s not the only engine driving Jewish politics.
Angry campaign slogans and partisan sniping aren’t real solutions. What we need are thoughtful, practical and creative ideas about how to restore an American dream that is fading for so many.