In recent weeks, a number of prominent Jewish intellectuals have been publicly praising Sarah Palin. This despite a recent poll, reported by veteran analyst James Besser (Nov. 26), that well-educated Jews appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to Palin. How do we explain this discrepancy?
Besser focuses on a recent poll showing Palin with stronger support among voters in general who are "less educated" and "less affluent." That poll made no reference to Jewish voters, but Besser argues that since Jews are "more educated than the population at large and more affluent," therefore one may safely assume they oppose Palin too.
Let’s recall that pundits made similar assumptions about Ronald Reagan when he was a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1980. Reagan also had considerable appeal among the less educated and the less affluent; surely educated and affluent Jews would support President Jimmy Carter – or so the pundits reasoned. But on election day, the majority of American Jews repaid Carter’s disdain for Israel, his impotence in rescuing the Americans held hostage in Iran, and his mismanagement of the American economy, by abandoning him for Ronald Reagan, the most conservative Presidential candidate of the post-Vietnam era. Reagan received the largest share of the Jewish vote of any Republican presidential nominee in U.S. history.
While it is certainly too early to assume that 1980 will repeat itself in 2012, there are signs of growing respect for Gov. Palin’s policies and positions – especially among some of the Jewish intellectuals whom Besser presumes now oppose her.
Just two days after the Nov. 2nd elections, Palin authored a 1500-word manifesto, published in the pages of National Review, detailing her strategy to "renew, revive, and restore" America according to free-market economics, energy independence, a strong national security policy and traditional moral values.
John Podhoretz, editor in chief of Commentary magazine, immediately hailed the Palin Plan as "brilliant." It is perhaps no coincidence that his father and predecessor at Commentary’s helm, Norman Podhoretz, had endorsed Palin in the Wall Street Journal in March of this year, and was an early supporter of Ronald Reagan’s presidential ambitions at a time when many of his colleagues also questioned Reagan’s intellectual bonafides.
Then hear the views of Seth Lipsky, founder and editor emeritus of the English-language edition of The Forward, now editing at The New York Sun. For Lipsky, a serious student of the Constitution and author of the recent book The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide, the genius of Palin’s platform is in her advocacy of “Constitutional conservatism.”
According to Lipsky, Palin insists on adhering "to the original intent [of the Constitution], the principles of the Founders," a determination "to wrestle with what they were actually talking about," not what contemporary policy wonks wish they had been saying. "This is an idea for our times, if there ever was one," Lipsky concludes, because unlike other contemporary conservative strains, “every American has a relationship to the Constitution.”
Palin’s Constitutional conservatism, in Lipsky’s view, "is unifying, uplifting, and inclusive."
Or consider William Kristol, a Fox News contributor, founding editor of one of America’s most important journals, The Weekly Standard, and son of renowned Jewish intellectual Irving Kristol. Bill Kristol was one of Palin’s earliest supporters, and remains so.
Even U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, certainly no knee-jerk conservative, recognizes that Palin’s effectively address wide-spread concerns: "Sarah Palin for a lot of people has become a spokesperson. People worried that government has forgotten them, has grown too big, that the deficit is growing too large, and in some sense that we’re not being as strong as we should be in the world — Governor Palin has spoken to those concerns as much as anyone."
Lieberman, Kristol, Lipsky, and the Podhoretz’s are sophisticated, educated, thinking Jews who appreciate Palin’s heartfelt support for Israel, her forceful and informed advocacy for energy independence, her strong stance on national security, and her fealty to traditional moral values (sometimes we forget these are Jewish values, too!). All are bellwethers of the increasing respect for Sarah Palin amongst us – the educated and affluent American Jews.
Benyamin Korn, former executive editor of the Jewish Exponent, is director of Jewish Americans for Sarah Palin and JewsForSarah.com. He hosts “Jewish Independent Talk” every Sunday from 5 to 6 PM on WNTP News-Talk 990 AM in Philadelphia.