It’s fitting that Omri Ceren is just a dissertation away from having a doctorate in communication. The author of Mere Rhetoric—a blog popular with Republican Jews that deals mainly with American foreign policy, Israel and anti-Semitism in the Muslim world—Ceren is a many of many words.
Throughout the campaign Ceren blogged with concern about the prospect of Barack Obama winning, and as Obama earned a seemingly insurmountable lead during the final weeks of October, Ceren became a bit more of a prophet of doom then usual. The day before the election he churned out an epic post titled “70 Percent Of American Jews Ready To Say “We Didn’t Know” When Obama Detonates US-Israel Alliance (Plus: They Most Definitely Know).”
In the end, Obama actually received 78 percent of the Jewish vote. It turned out Ceren had undershot.
Though he comes from a very different place on the political spectrum than Philip Weiss, Ceren bases his feelings about Obama’s plans from Israelf on the same premises. For Ceren they cause fear, for Weiss excitement. Coincidentally, I disagree with both of them and think Obama won’t be all carrot and no stick with rogue nations and will stay the course, for lack of a better expression, on U.S.-Israel relations.
Over the weekend I e-mailed Ceren a handful of questions about Obama, the president-elect’s fans in unfriendly Muslim countries and the path to peace. His responses are after the jump; like I said, he’s never at a loss for words:
On the eve of the election, you wrote “70 Percent Of American Jews Ready To Say ‘We Didn’t Know’ When Obama Detonates US-Israel Alliance (Plus: They Most Definitely Know).” In the end, Obama got 78 percent of the Jewish vote. What happens now?
The fundamental lesson of this election – predicted almost to the decimal point by cutting-edge social scientific research that came out at the end of October – is that American Jews are voting Democratic for reasons other than sound argument and good policy. That’s not exactly how the North American Jewish Data Bank described it in the study. They made it an issue of party identification: Jewish Democrats “respond to their identities… [and] their long-held, multi-generation attachment to the liberal camp in America, and to the Democratic Party.” But it’s the same thing.
The NAJDB took everything that pollsters know how to measure. Political views. Values and interests, Major socio-demographic variables. Everything. They crunched the numbers. They looked at the results. Then they concluded that the only way to explain how American Jews vote is by admitting that they’re Democrats mostly because they’re always been Democrats. They even went so far as to subtly mock American Jews for the way that they pretend to be “driven” by “rational and… carefully considered values.” Political considerations are largely just excuses that Jewish Democrats give themselves for voting how they were always going to vote. So those Jews emailing me that they were going to vote Republican until McCain picked Palin: either the world’s most comprehensive study of Jewish American voting patterns is flatly wrong or those people are lying.
Now: the consequences of this hard fact differ depending on who you are. If you’re someone who wants to swing American Jews over to the Republican side, I don’t know. You can’t reason people out of what they haven’t been reasoned into. The people who latched on to Bob Wexler’s transparent anti-Palin smears are just particularly pathetic examples of a broader demographic reality: American Jews will latch on to even the dumbest excuse to vote Democratic. I study rhetoric, argument, and communication – but I don’t know how you fix that.
But all these activist groups face the same problem that partisan Republicans do: finding a way to approach Jewish Democrats. This is a political community that, as of the last election, both refuses to change their political preferences and refuses to debate and justify those preferences in public forums. I wouldn’t be surprised if you begin to see activist groups giving up on the Jewish community and shifting their resources elsewhere.