The advantages of democracy in the usa haven’t been shared equally, despite ongoing rhetoric claiming otherwise. African Americans, women, some immigrant groups, the formerly incarcerated along with other marginalized populations have, at differing times, been denied equal citizenship.
But also for most Jews, liberal democracy in america, designed both to safeguard vulnerable minorities also to provide avenues for the common citizen to shape their government, has been consistently ideal for us. We thrive under democracy and do badly under authoritarian regimes.
American Jews dont acknowledge everything, but with this question we have been largely aligned. US democracy is really a system of government that people should desire to protect and expand.
So that it has been outrageous to see probably the most politically engaged American Jews, including AIPAC and its own allies, taking steps that effectively weaken our democracy by participating in unlimited spending to overwhelm unaligned candidates, supporting candidates that are against democratic laws and norms, and wanting to limit free speech if it’s critical of Israel.
Lets focus on the problem of unlimited spending.
The main topic of Jewish giving in politics is fraught. Similarly, it is being among the most important ways Jews in the usa impact public policy and the outcome of elections. Civic participation, including donating right to political campaigns, is an excellent thing. However, allegations of Jewish financial control over key institutions in domestic and global affairs is really a powerful anti-Semitic trope which has historically resulted in violent scapegoating. Way too many people believe Jews are pulling the strings behind the scenes and indicate large political donations as proof illegitimate influence.
Using its 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court opened the entranceway to virtually unlimited shelling out for elections. A person with deep pockets can make a brilliant PAC and pour huge amount of money into any race, from probably the most obscure to probably the most high-profile. The resulting avalanche of television, radio, and social media marketing ads, mailers, along with other communications is with the capacity of shifting public opinion rapidly.
Unlimited spending is harmful to democracy. In a global where a lot of people find out about candidates from paid media, the opportunity to overwhelm voters in a specific district with information for or against a specific candidate corrupts the procedure.
Which brings us back again to AIPAC. After years of insisting that it had been a bipartisan organization centered on lobbying Congress and the White House, not thinking about getting involved with elections, AIPAC made a decision to get directly involved with elections. With public opinion and elected officials turning contrary to the groups support for Israels policies, its understandable that AIPAC would cross a line that had once seemed inviolable.
First, it created a PAC, called AIPAC PAC, to provide money to candidates. Then, it created a brilliant PAC, called United Democracy Project (UDP), whose name is growing to be a textbook exemplory case of doublespeak. Among supporters of UDP at the $1 million level are major Republican donors.
Despite raising significant funds from Republicans, UDP has been extra cash in Democratic primaries, supporting AIPAC-aligned candidates against Democrats who’ve been more critical of Israeli policy. Among UDPs big targets: Representative Andy Levin of Michigan, a self-identified Zionist and former synagogue president with a solid record of support for workers and addressing international human rights violations, like the Israeli occupation. Levin, at the very least in part because of the huge influx of AIPAC-organized money, lost his primary on August 2. AIPAC claimed it as a victory for the pro-Israel cause.
AIPACs pr announcements and tweets attacked Levin for his record on Israel and Palestine. Its advertisements didnt mention the problem at all. AIPAC knew its issues didnt have salience generally in most of his district, so that they ignored Israel and Palestine. To place a finer point on which is going on, a national organization with usage of huge sums of money, a lot of it from Republicans, is wanting to determine the results of Democratic primaries by ignoring the issue the group works on.
This is simply not what sort of democracy should work. Summer Lee, a working-class US House candidate from Pennsylvania who were able to win despite millions in AIPAC spending against her, put it in this manner in a recent tweet. Im likely to somehow raise millions to fight multimillion dollar attacks. Limitless corporate and dark profit elections is objectively bad and antithetical to creating a truly reflective democracy. Amen.
Also harmful to democracy: insurrectionists wanting to overturn fair elections.
You almost certainly remember them from your day they stormed the Capitol building, wanting to stop the certification of the 2020 election and pave just how for another Trump term. You could also remember how, later that same night, 147 Republican members of Congress voted never to certify the election, signaling their disdain for the rule of law and our electoral process. And you also have seen most of the current crop of incumbents and challengers at the federal and state levels continuing to insist that the final election was stolen and that the January 6 attack was an act of high patriotism.
AIPAC has endorsed 109 of the insurrectionists, including Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania. Perry, you might recall, used a residence Foreign Affairs Committee meeting to market a conspiracy, embraced by white supremacists, that immigrants, (encouraged by Jews), are flocking to america to displace native-born Americans. Perry also voted against certifying Bidens election.
You’ll think a brilliant PAC with the term democracy in its name, formed to aid a country it considers the only real democracy in the centre East, with respect to a community which has thrived in liberal democracies, would care if its candidates are hostile to democracy. You’d be wrong.
A third effort to undermine liberal democracy in the usa has been attacks on political speech by critics of Israel. Within their zeal to oppose the movement to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel, Jewish community leaders have crossed the line. Along with supporting anti-BDS laws that punish political speech, interrogating candidates positions on BDS has arrived at dominate the discourse around elections at every degree of government.
AIPAC, alongside a great many other organizations and voters, gets the to learn in which a candidate stands on the problem of BDS. But in the event that you browse the Jewish press, you’ll think this is actually the Jewish communitys single most significant concern. In NEW YORK, where both of us live, a Jewish Telegraphic Agency article covering an applicant forum at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn devoted 14 paragraphs to the main one question on BDS, and only nine paragraphs to another five questions combined.
Jewish communal concern with BDS has led us down a dangerous road by stifling free speech and distorting communal priorities. Candidates with nuanced positions are told to fall in line, if not. Simultaneously, it offers the impression that the Jewish community only really cares about a very important factor.
The Jewish Federations of UNITED STATES umbrella group says it can help secure $10 billion in public areas funds that flow to Jewish communities. These funds support a large number of agencies serving folks of all backgrounds, including hospitals, assisted living facilities, community centers, family and childrens service agencies, and vocational training programs. Other Jewish organizations advocate for abortion access, human and civil rights, international aid, criminal justice reform, and several other issues. Yet BDS has displaced nearly every conversation with candidates and elected officials concerning the back-up of social programs so many inside our community trust.
Finally, supporters of BDS, or those that defend its supporters, tend to be branded as anti-Semites or, if they’re Jewish, as not real Jews. This sort of poisonous rhetoric, which includes been endorsed by important communal leaders, reframes policy disagreements as hate speech. It turns forums of inquiry into forums of inquisition, where guilt is presumed and punishment is excommunication.
AIPAC really wants to win. And thats understandable. Most of us that are advocates for different causes have goals you want to achieve, changes you want to make, policies we have confidence in. Usually the stakes are high. But a lot more important than winning every fight is maintaining a good system where individuals who disagree can contest for power over and over on a reasonably level playing field. So long as dissent remains a core Jewish value, since it has been for millennia, we have to fortify a political system that protects it.
Our country reaches an inflection point. Way too many Americans seem ready to toss aside our liberal democratic traditions and institutionstraditions and institutions offering an even of stability critical to your communitys safety and success. Lets not join them, before we break a democracy that can’t be easily fixed.