The Jewish Republicans’ Paul Problem: Ron and Rand

If I were running the Republican Jewish Coalition, I’d be getting a little nervous about the battle going on in their party.

On one hand, the GOP stands to benefit with Jewish voters in 2012, at least a bit, from the perception President Obama has been either too tough on Israel or too inept in Middle East policy.

We know a majority of Jews don’t vote based mostly on the Israel issue, but under normal circumstances this administration’s uneven performance on Middle East matters – and the relentless campaign to portray it as anti-Israel — could be expected to add a few points to the GOP’s traditional Jewish vote count.

Even a 5 percent rise in Jewish GOP voting in the presidential contest could prove important in key states.

But then there are the Pauls – Ron in the House, Rand in the Senate.

Rand Paul, the newly minted senator from Kentucky, wants to eliminate foreign aid entirely, including Israel’s $3 billion – a slap at one of the most important pillars of pro-Israel activism in this country.

Jewish Republicans point out that Paul’s proposal has garnered no support from the party leadership and that none of his GOP Senate colleagues seem eager to join him.

True enough.

But there is growing fear in some pro-Israel circles that Paul reflects an ascendant Tea Party faction that has little use for foreign policy – and not much for Israel, either.

Over in the House, Rand’s dad, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) gaveled his first hearing as chair of the House subcommittee that oversees the Federal Reserve this week. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, he called as a witness “Thomas DiLorenzo, a longtime activist in the neo-Confederate hate group, League of the South (LOS). The LOS advocates for a second Southern secession and a society dominated by ‘Anglo-Celts’ – that is, white people. LOS leaders have called slavery ‘God-ordained’ and described segregation as necessary to the racial ‘integrity’ of black and white alike.”

Yes, I know there are a very few Jewish voters think the world of Ron Paul’s libertarianism. But dark conspiracy theories about the Federal Reserve and connections to “neo-secessionists” will be a godsend to Democrats who worry that the Israel issue – and the growing proportion of Orthodox among the Jewish electorate – are slowly drawing more Jewish voters to the GOP side of the aisle.

I’m not suggesting the two Pauls are emerging as major powers in the GOP; so far, Ron has been pretty much on the fringes despite his strong 2008 presidential nomination run, and Rand is too new at this game to make any judgments.

But at the very least, they have handed the Democrats a handy tool to use every time the Republicans bring up Jesse Jackson, Rep. Jim Moran and others as “proof” of a Democratic Party that is turning away from Israel.

And to the extent that the factions that have propelled the father and son team to new heights gains clout within the party, Jewish GOPers could find themselves with a major problem on their hands.  And I think the RJC knows it; during last year’s election they conspicuously rejected Rand Paul’s Senate candidacy, not something the partisan group does lightly.

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.