US Presidential Race – Being a pro-Israel Republican candidate is not enough

Being a pro-Israel Republican candidate who can win the general election is what counts.

There are those Americans who look at all issues and there are those whose most major concerns relate to foreign policy, Israel, terrorism, etc.  And of course there are our friends in Israel and elsewhere watching and hoping, whose US election concerns are only foreign policy in nature.

With the first contest of the 2016 US presidential race – the Iowa caucuses – only a month away, and with the first primary – in New Hampshire – a little over a week later, I think it is important for people to understand the post-nomination repercussions of their choice for president.

Over these last several months, I have seen and heard much impassioned rhetoric about so-called non-establishment “outsider” candidates’ pro-Israel bona fides; their words and views have been bandied about social media and through emails, and by enthusiastic word of mouth.

For those of us, Republican, Independent and even Democrat, who dread any kind of continuation of the policies we have witnessed these last seven years, domestic as well as foreign by the way, we must look at the whole picture and not just who makes the nicest comments about Israel during the nomination process, or who has a strong pro-Israel record.

Now some don’t care about who wins the general election as long as they send a message in the primaries and caucuses, and to me that is selfish.  But there are many who feel their guy or gal has a chance to take the White House, when he or she has no chance in hell.  And by the way, it is not just this election cycle with this large bloc of angry voters where this delusion takes place.  It happens in every election cycle.  The true believers will never be deterred.

I cannot blame new voters for not fully understanding the process, but election after election, people who should know better don’t or won’t.  For example, many liberals actually think this center-right country can and will elect a socialist, while many Republicans think the most conservative contender can write off moderate voters and minorities because there are enough evangelicals for example, who will take up the slack.

This isn’t so in either case, but some are so deeply entrenched within their ideologies they refuse to see reason.

Israel is an important issue to Jews and Christians alike on the Republican side – that’s a good thing, and many Israel supporters here and in Israel are pointing to one or another candidate as Israel’s savior.  I am even seeing Israeli columnists who know how American elections work but who are pushing a particular contender as if wishing will make things different than what they are.  Well, it won’t.

Yes, the Republican Party is more pro-Israel than the Democratic Party.  I know my Democratic friends will disagree, but the best and most recent example of this is the Democrats’ support of the P5+1 Iranian nuclear deal when not just the right and center, but also the left in Israel was strongly against it.  But guess what?  It doesn’t matter.

I will say it again.  Being the most pro-Israel Republican candidate who can win the general election is what matters.

And that means no Donald Trump and no Ted Cruz.

Let’s look at those leading Republican aspirants at the moment – businessman Donald Trump, ahead overall and in New Hampshire, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, ahead in Iowa.  Others who would get trounced, such as former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, have faltered or never caught fire, so they don’t worry me.  At the moment.

Trump has made many pro-Israel statements in the past but a few weeks back he did say were he to become president, Israel might need to make sacrifices (as if it hadn’t made enough already) and he refused to commit to Jerusalem being Israel’s undivided capital.  I just don’t know where Trump will be when it comes to Israel – he has been all over the place with many issues over the years, but let’s assume he will be perfect on Israel.

I have no doubts about Israel when it comes to Ted Cruz; he has always said and done the right things.  He has been an articulate supporter and defender of the Jewish State, and in opposition to President Obama’s dangerous Middle East policies, and for that I am grateful.

The two leading candidates each have limited support, but in this cycle’s crowded field that support is enough for winning the most states and delegates.  Were either Trump or Cruz to become the Republican nominee, each would lose the general election, and take out many down-ticket candidates (others running on the Republican ballot, state by state).  A number of pro-Israel stalwarts might very well become collateral damage.

Both Trump and Cruz are too strident and extreme for those who will decide the election.  These are moderates, Independents or otherwise, in swing/battleground states like Colorado and Florida. Also, while the Democratic nominee will win the majority of Hispanics and other minorities, and demographics such as women, a Trump or a Cruz will take too big of an upside down hit with those demographics in swing states like Nevada and Virginia generating a very lopsided electoral vote loss.

I know Cruz has said many millions of born-again Christians had been staying home in previous elections, and that this missing-in-action army of voters would help insure a win were a “true” conservative the nominee, but this has been proven false.  Of course that doesn’t matter to some “purists” who believe the fallacy, and who, thinking they are the only “real” Republicans, dismiss others who dare to stray even a little to the left of their far right orthodoxy.

A Pew Research Center study released last year showed that 39% of the US electorate identified as Independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans.  For a declining party in changing times, it cannot continue to be perceived as narrow and narrow-minded, and I am sorry to say some of that perception is deserved.

If I didn’t love my country (and if I didn’t love Israel), I would want either Trump or Cruz to become the nominee just to teach the short-sighted a lesson.  Of course, many would not take responsibility for the disaster, but would instead blame the electoral catastrophe on Republicans who stayed home or who voted for gulp, Hillary Clinton, never mind that their supposed invisible army stayed home in 2012 and 2008.  And everyone would lose.

So yes, a particular candidate might say all the right things about Israel and terrorism and the Middle East, and may even mean it, but if that candidate gets crushed in the end, how does that help?  Winning the argument in the primaries but losing the general election is a very bad proposition.

People, there are conservative Republican candidates who are as pro-Israel as Trump or Cruz who can actually win, and they need to be considered before it’s too late.

About the Author
Shia Altman who hails from Baltimore, MD, now lives in Los Angeles. His Jewish studies, aerospace, and business and marketing background includes a BA from the University of Maryland and an MBA from the University of Baltimore. When not dabbling in Internet Marketing, Shia tutors Bar and Bat Mitzvah, and Judaic and Biblical Studies to both young and old.
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