Recent polls have shown a higher-than-usual interest in this midterm election, with large early-voting turnouts and strong opinions among likely voters about issues like the economy, health care, and Israel. There is a deep sense that this election matters.
It certainly does to the Jewish community. Of course Israel, Iran, and other foreign policy issues are important to our community in particular, but the Jewish community shares the same worries and concerns of all Americans this year, about our struggling economy, our high unemployment, and the ballooning national debt that threatens our children’s and grandchildren’s economic security.
Americans who were looking for hope and change two years ago have watched the Democrats in Washington push for a wholesale transformation of our country, while digging the economic hole we’re in deeper and deeper.
And the majority of Americans don’t like it. Polls show strong public disapproval for many of the Democrats’ top policy goals. Among the most drastic and controversial are: the nationalization of healthcare; the billions of dollars in wasteful, inefficient “stimulus” spending (which stimulated the public sector and did almost nothing for the job-creating engine of our economy, the private sector); and the government takeover of companies (such as General Motors) and even whole industries (such as the student loan system).
These policies are not only hurting working Americans, they are dramatically re-shaping the role of government and its relationship with citizens. The election of Scott Brown in Massachusetts and Republican wins for governor in Virginia and New Jersey were a wake up call for Washington that voters don’t want higher taxes and don’t want government mandates to replace their independent, personal choices about health care, education, and the economic activities through which they support their families.
This election is important because, with Democrats in the majority, the Bush tax cuts will be allowed to expire and most Americans – not just “the rich”– will feel the sharp bite of higher taxes. It’s important because no economy can continue indefinitely to run the kind of deficits we do. Greece has shown us one troubling scenario. In addition, the unsustainable debt we’re accumulating puts our economic security in the hands of the foreign governments who own our debt, some of which are not our friends. (China is the largest holder of U.S. debt.)
Looking outward, voters also have many reasons for worry. President Obama’s foreign policy – from his apology tour and the mishandling of our relations with Russia to the disastrous all-carrot-no-stick approach to Iran – have seriously weakened the United States in the eyes of both of our allies and our enemies. It has also brought the possibility of a nuclear Iran closer than ever. A nuclear Iran is not only an existential threat to Israel, it increases the danger that the U.S. and other Western countries will face terrorist attacks from nuclear-armed clients of Iran. Time is running out on the most serious foreign policy challenge we currently face.
The vast majority of Americans support the State of Israel, consider it a vitally important ally, and want the U.S.-Israel alliance to be strong. Sadly, American policy makers do not always seem inclined the same way. Israel has been berated by the Obama administration for building in Jerusalem. The traditional American support for Israel in the United Nations has been diluted. Because President Obama put pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions (the building freeze), his much-touted peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians ended almost before they began. Fifty-four Democrats in Congress urged President Obama to pressure Israel to reduce its defensive measures at the Gaza border.
With all of this in mind, the Republican Jewish Coalition has run a powerful issue advocacy effort in eight key states over the last few weeks. The ads we’ve run in newspapers and on television, and the direct mail campaign we’ve conducted, have focused on a mix of domestic and foreign policy issues. We want to educate the Jewish community about these issues and encourage the community to question the status quo, to examine the issues thoughtfully, and to make informed decisions. American Jews have the privilege and obligation to be active participants in our democratic process, and they should be knowledgeable participants as well. The response has been tremendous.
Republicans, independents and disappointed Democrats alike are energized for this election. Grassroots activism is high, voter turnout will be high, and Republican candidates appear poised to win in some unlikely places, on both the national and state levels. The motivation for this energy across the country is the same: the overreaching, unrepresentative, extreme agenda of the Democrats in power.
This election is too important to sit out. We encourage the Jewish community to get informed, get active, and get out and vote.
Matthew Brooks is executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition.