Once again Republicans are predicting a sea change in Jewish voting and are working to make support for Israel a partisan wedge issue in the 2012 election campaign. Their 2008 fear-and-smear campaign, with some virtually accusing Barack Obama of being a Moslem Manchurian candidate, failed dismally.
Obama wound up with 78 percent of the Jewish vote against a Republican, John McCain, who had a solid pro-Israel voting record.
One critical lesson of that outcome is that Jews are not single issue voters; polls repeatedly show it is as low as sixth on their priority list behind such issues as jobs, health care, Social Security and Medicare, the environment, education and protecting civil liberties.
One of those who was most effective in delivering the message of Jewish diversity and debating Jewish Republican operatives on Israel and other issues during the 2008 campaign was Ira Forman, a veteran activist and a founder and the longtime executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. As we reported here earlier, he has been named to head President Obama’s outreach to the Jewish community for 2012.
Forman has his work cut out for him as the President’s approval rating is sinking on all fronts, including the Jewish community, which has been his strongest constituency after African Americans.
Disclosure: Ira and I are fellow Clevelanders and worked together at AIPAC when he was the senior member of my lobbying staff, until he went off to Stanford University to get his MBA.
described him as “a party loyalist with deep roots in the complicated swirl of American Jewish politics (who) spent years (accurately) knocking down predictions that Jews would shift to the Republican Party, and will arrive at a complicated moment for Obama’s relations with Israel and the (not all that Jewish) American pro-Israel community.”
Forman is a skilled debater and political tactician as well as a scholar. He was the co-editor with L. Sandy Maisel of the book Jews In American Politics, which was published in 2001 by the Solomon Project. He has continued to study and write about Jewish American political participation as the research director of the Solomon Project.
"These are difficult times for the country and the American Jewish community,” Forman told me. “But many of us helping the President are convinced that if we get a chance to make a fair presentation of the President’s record and to confront those who would misstate his policies and statements, then the President will again receive the overwhelming support of the Jewish community. We think the contrast on policy between the President and his GOP challengers will speak for itself."