Election 2010: it’s not about Israel

Yesterday we posted a nice Ron Kampeas preview of the 2010 congressional midterms, now only two weeks away.

Ron argues this is an election like none other in recent history, with many races too close to call and an angry public mood that makes predictions even riskier than usual.

To that let me add one point: it’s also interesting because while partisan forces are trying to spin a number of races as meaningful tests of what it means to be pro-Israel and to milk that for partisan value, in reality Middle East matters are all but invisible as factors shaping the outcome of the vote.

Sure, J Street’s opponents are trying to portray the Pat Toomey – Joe Sestak Senate free for all in Pennsylvania as a critical test of the pro-peace process group’s clout, and hoping Sestak loses so they can J Street is toast. If he wins, J Street supporters will say it’s proof the group has weathered recent controversies.

But watching the Pennsylvania numbers and reading reports from the campaign, it’s pretty obvious that despite expensive attack adds by conservative Jewish groups attacking Sestak as an enemy of Israel, this election will turn on the same factors that are shaping the midterm nation wide – the sour economy, high unemployment, frustration with the paralysis in Washington, fear about worse times ahead, dislike of President Obama.

Whatever the outcome of the Pennsylvania contest, it will be mostly because of those domestic factors, not J Street, not Israel and not the Jews, unless the final vote tally is razor thin and a small swing in the Jewish vote is decisive.

That can happen – but the odds are very much against it.

You can count on one hand the congressional races in which Israel and Obama administration Middle East policy is playing any substantial role. And even in those, it’s highly unlikely to prove decisive.

It’s a conceit of our community – and a slur by anti-Semites and Israel lobby-phobes – that our special issues dominate American politics. They don’t – and that’s even more true that usual in this year’s explosive political environment.

The much more interesting question: to what extent will Jewish voters reflect the anti-government, anti-incumbent anti-just-about-everything mood of voters in general? Here we can only guess. My own guess: they will, to a degree but not an overwhelming one. And it will be very much a race-by-race thing.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.