During the last Presidential election, Jewish voters made a significant difference in helping put Democrats back in power. We came out in full force to show the country that Democratic values are truly Jewish values. This election cycle our core beliefs are again being challenged by a Republican Party that continues to move further and further to the right. On November 2, we one again have a chance to make an impact on the outcome of key races.
With the emergence of the Tea Party, too many Republicans have taken increasingly extreme right-wing views – wildly at variance with the views of the vast majority of American Jews. Across the county, the Republican Party has nominated candidates who support everything from repealing healthcare reform and privatizing Social Security, to abolishing the US Education Department and ending unemployment benefits. We’ve seen candidates speak out against women’s rights, question the legitimacy of climate change, and push to eliminate the separation of church and state. Some of them have even invoked abusive Holocaust rhetoric to make their political arguments and participated in Nazi reenactments in their spare time.
And to top it all off, we’ve noticed another frightening trend perpetuated by those on the right: the use of the U.S. – Israel relationship as a partisan wedge issue. This dangerous tactic undermines the unique bond between our two countries. Even Israeli officials have taken note of this pattern and spoken out against it. Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michen Oren recently told Ha’aretz that “Israel has become a partisan issue in the U.S., and this political ping-pong is bad for us.”
We simply can’t afford to let these candidates win.
As members of the Jewish community we have fought long and hard to see our government make real changes. Whether it was standing by our allies during the Civil Rights Movement, protesting genocide in Darfur, defending the separation of church and state, working to improve education or fighting for healthcare reform, we have been vocal advocates for the progressive issues we believe in. American Jews have historically supported the Democratic Party not out of habit, but because the Party’s progressive values are in line with the values that are of utmost importance to us as Jews.
We can’t afford to take a step backwards.
Though there is undoubtedly more work to be done, the Obama Administration has taken significant steps in the right direction. Under President Obama’s guidance and aided by Democratic leadership in both Houses, an historic health care reform bill was passed. The Lilly Ledbetter Act, ensuring equal pay for equal work, was signed into law. The ban on stem cell research was lifted. Two women – including the first Hispanic and a member of the Jewish community – were appointed to the Supreme Court. The largest amount of funding in U.S. history specifically allocated for Israel’s security apparatus – $2.8 billion – was given to the Jewish homeland.
We can’t afford to sit this election out.
With less than a month until Election Day, we need to do everything we possibly can to ensure that the extremist candidates nominated by the Republican Party do not achieve victory on November 2. Get involved. Volunteer with your local campaign. Write a letter to the editor of your community paper. Hold a cell phone bank in your house. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Your advocacy efforts and your vote will help make a difference.
Help us show the country that just as they have been since the New Deal, Jewish values are Democratic values.
David A. Harris is President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council