The Jewish vote has been a cornerstone in President Obama’s coalition and that of the Democratic Party for decades. However, with calls from President Obama for Israel to return to the indefensible 1967 borders and disparaging remarks about Netanyahu caught on an open mic with President Sarkozy, one would think that Jewish support for this president should wane. Obama did win 78% of the Jewish vote in 2008 and recent polls show that 55% of Jewish respondents still back the president. However, that is a five point drop from last June, which coupled with Obama’s incremental drop in his approval ratings, is a net loss of eleven points amongst Jewish voters. Jewish conservatives see a break in the ranks. I was fortunate to have David Milstein, the President of Young Jewish Conservatives, to answer some questions concerning the objectives of the organization, how it started, and what they plan to do to alter the direction of the country in this critical election year.
1. When did you get the idea to start an organization that represents the interests of Jewish conservatives?
Milstein: A few years ago, two young rabbis realized it was time for politically conservative Jews to come together. There was no organization focused on this demographic. Central to the idea of YJC is to make it acceptable and eventually the norm for Jews to be politically conservative. The obvious stereotype is that Jews are usually on the Left. But there are more Jews on the Right than people realize. One of their major goals was to therefore form an organization that will reach out to the next generation and unite politically conservative young Jews who share our values and love of Israel. We are here to support, represent and defend their values in the public square.
The organization truly began over winter break when the two rabbis realized there was no better way to bring young Jews together than to lead a free trip to Israel. I had the amazing opportunity to go on a trip with 28 students from 21 different colleges and universities. We were all united in our support for Israel and our belief in conservatism. After such a successful trip, I decided to join Young Jewish Conservatives full time.
We are actually leading another free trip for students this summer. If you are interested in joining us or want to learn more about our previous trip, feel free to visit our website youngjewishconservatives.org.
2. How does it make you feel that most in the Jewish community vote overwhelmingly Democratic in elections?
Milstein: It certainly is difficult when many Jews are on the Left. As someone who is a conservative, I believe many of our conservatives values are interrelated with our Jewish values. But YJC is here to move the Jewish vote to the Right. Our goal is to focus on each new generation and tell them the truth about conservatism. Some on the Left, including President Obama, take the Jewish vote for granted. They pander during speeches but there actions show an entirely different story. We are here to expose their hypocrisy and deception to young Jewish voters across the country.
3. Why is it that Jewish Americans vote Democratic or cater to a more liberal point of view?
Milstein: This is the million-dollar question. Norman Podhoretz has a great book titled “Why are Jews Liberal?” that explains his theory behind it. Some theories tie it back to their support of FDR when waves of immigration came to the US or the traditional kibbutz style of living that was the result of thousands of years of persecution. This election will show a shift among the Jewish vote. Jews across America will see how Obama’s policies are undermining Israel and won’t vote to give him a second term.
4. Do you think Obama’s rather insensitive Israeli policy will affect the attitudes of Jewish voters in the 2012 elections? If you think it will not have an impact, how do you explain Bob Turner’s win in Anthony Wiener’s old congressional district in 2011?
Milstein: Absolutely. The most recent polls on the Jewish vote show higher disapproval of Obama and much higher support for the presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney than John McCain received in 2008. The Jewish community is beginning to recognize that President Obama is no friend of Israel. They may see him gave big speeches at AIPAC saying he supports Israel, but his actions tell an entirely different story. Actions speak louder than words, which in general is a great theme to run on against Obama.
You are right. We have already seen a prime electoral example of a referendum on Obama’s anti-Israel policies in the Bob Turner election. An orthodox Jew, Bob Turner ran much of his campaign exposing Obama’s true record on Israel. The Democrats had no response to the truth. It is very hard to defend someone who has backtracked from his promise for an undivided Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and who has embraced the Palestinian narrative calling on Israel to accept an indefensible border of 8 miles wide. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Jewish voters in the Bob Turner election recognized that Obama is saying one thing and doing another, electing Bob Turner in a typically Democrat district. The message they sent to Washington was clear. Sadly, President Obama has ignored them.
As a steadfast supporter of Israel, hearing Obama say to the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that a second term will give him more “flexibility” to conduct his foreign policy makes me very worried as to how he will treat Israel for another four years.
YJC will take this message across the country. We are planning to be very active in the 2012 election. We are developing a strategy to expose Obama’s real record on Israel and recruiting volunteers to go straight into the Jewish communities across America to tell the truth.
5. Who have you networked with on Capitol Hill, the media, and others in the activist circle?
Milstein: We have been in touch with quite a few people in politics who are very excited about our goals and endeavors. We are filling a very important vacuum. Our board is already made up of some very prominent Jewish conservatives who are listed on our website.
YJC held the first ever Shabbat service at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in February. We had more than 100 CPAC attendees come celebrate Shabbos including many prominent conservative leaders and candidates for elected office. Again, there is more information on our website here.
6. Any GOTV operations planned with fellow YJC members across the country?
Milstein: We are working to spread the message all across the country, within the Jewish community and throughout the conservative political circle. Now more than ever we need a group who will take the conservative, pro-Israel message into the Jewish community to reach out to the next generation. However, in a few months, we will have a more defined strategy.
7. Does Mitt Romney make the cut for an endorsement from the YJC?
Milstein: As of now, YJC does not endorse any specific candidates, but it is clear that Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for President. For Mitt Romney to beat President Obama, he must not only expose how Obama has failed, but also the ideological reasons why they have failed. He must also articulate that this election is about voting for two very different paths for America’s future. Romney cannot just say this in a speech; he must also prove it in his platform. He must propose very bold, conservative solutions that promote economic freedom and defend the free enterprise system. Doing so will show the American people a clear contrast and that he is a reformer willing to take on the biggest problems facing our country.
8. What possible Vice Presidential candidates makes the cut for YJC support?
Milstein: One of the best ways Romney can bring conservative enthusiasm to his campaign is to pick a true conservative running mate. The person must be conservative in the eyes of conservatives, not just the pick of the establishment, inside the beltway pundits. The candidate must have a real record of conservative reform and who is trusted to stand on conservative principles. A few examples that come to mind are Governor Bobby Jindal, Governor Bob McDonnell, Representative Paul Ryan, Senator Toomey and Senator Jim DeMint.