To Jewish Democrats, the defeat of Minnesota’s Norm Coleman, the last Jewish Republican in the Senate, is proof that GOP should stand for the Gentiles-Only Party. Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition is having none of it. The Philadelphia native, 42, who has been national director of the group for 19 years, says there are still plenty of prominent Jews in the party ranks and, if he can help it, plenty more to come.
Q: What was your reaction to the court decision ending Coleman’s suit for a recount?
A:Obviously we are disappointed; he was one of the most important voices we had in the Senate, but the reality is his time in the public stage and his career in public life is obviously far from over.
[The National Jewish Democratic Council] is purposely trying to create a false argument. Yeah, there are no Jewish Republicans in the Senate, but we have a Jewish Republican who is one of the most influential and innovative governors in America, Linda Lingle in Hawaii.
The Republican leader in the Florida House of Representatives is Jewish. A Jewish Republican is speaker of the state legislature in Texas. Next to [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger, the second-highest Republican elected statewide in California is Jewish, Steve Poizner, the secretary of state who is running for governor.
We have a great state representative in Ohio, Josh Mandel, who is running for state treasurer. A former president of the state Senate in Texas, Florence Shapiro, is running for [U.S.] Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s seat when she runs for governor.
One of the top priorities of the RJC is a program to identify Jewish Republicans and help them run for office, and all the people I just mentioned are part of that.
What would you say to [GOP Senate defector] Arlen Specter if you saw him?
I don’t know. We get along very well, he’s been my senator, and we’ve known each other for 20 years.
Why are you a Republican?
Growing up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the juxtaposition of Jimmy Carter and his failed policies and Ronald Reagan were a sharp contrast. I remember very clearly the hyperinflation, stagflation, long gas lines, America as a weak power around the world, when we were unable to stand up to Iran and it was a very dangerous situation with the Russian Cold War. It was not an America that was as good as America can be, and Reagan changed all that.
Are you married to a Republican?
Talk about bucking the trend. My wife is a Jewish woman social worker who is also a Republican.
How many Jewish Republicans are there?
I don’t know. But what I do know is that with exception of 2008, we have made very significant gains in the amount of support that Republicans get at the national level. In 1992, George Bush’s father got 11 percent of the Jewish vote; in 1996, Bob Dole got 16 percent; then it was 19 percent in 2000 for Bush and in 2004, 24 percent.
Now this time the vote was 22 percent, which is a slight little dip, but I really think that was a special circumstance. I fully believe especially with what’s going on with President [Barack] Obama and the unprecedented pressure on Israel and significant policy changes and the weakness on Iran and other issues, there is going to be a lot of buyers’ remorse in the Jewish community.