Give the man his due. When Donald Trump sees an open wound on his opponents, he sure knows how to pick at it until it bleeds. Thanks to Nancy Pelosi and her attempt to shield Ilhan Omar from censure over her anti-Semitic remarks, Trump has a carte blanche to paint the entire party as hostile to Jews, fairly or not:
Trump repeated his claims that Democrats are "anti-Israel" and "anti-Jewish," ahead of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week and the pro-Israel group AIPAC's annual policy conference https://t.co/w6VgE5zkKh pic.twitter.com/Y8Fe4wqgQi
— POLITICO (@politico) March 22, 2019
Unfair? To a point, yes. Jewish voters still strongly tend to vote Democratic, and most Jewish members of Congress are Democrats. Both sides of the political divide have problems with anti-Semitism on its fringes. The problem for Democrats is that their fringe has started to assert itself by making anti-Semitic remarks acceptable, and the party’s leadership has failed to rise to the challenge. In fact, they’re running away from it, and that’s not just Pelosi’s fault:
Several Democratic presidential candidates say they are skipping this year’s meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee amid a roiling debate within the party over U.S. policy toward Israel under President Donald Trump.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is “concerned about the platform AIPAC is providing for leaders who have expressed bigotry and oppose a two-state solution,” his campaign policy director, Josh Orton, said in an email.
Representatives of Sens. Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, former representative Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Julián Castro said they won’t be attending the AIPAC conference, which begins Sunday in Washington, without giving a reason. John Delaney, another 2020 Democratic contender, said Thursday he also won’t be attending, citing a scheduling conflict.
Recall that AIPAC was the ostensible target for Omar’s remarks about dual loyalty, for which she pointedly refused to apologize. Her earlier remark, for which Omar did apologize, insinuated that AIPAC was corrupting America on Israel’s behalf by paying off politicians, especially Republicans. That’s nonsense on stilts, as AIPAC doesn’t contribute to anyone’s campaigns (which would violate its tax-exempt status) and has long embraced speakers and guests from both parties. Until this cycle, anyway, members of both parties also embraced AIPAC even when they didn’t fully agree on its policy stands.
The Washington Post today covers both sides of the Democratic question. Michael Tesler covers the immediate status quo, dismissing the idea of a “Jexodus” from the party. However, a team of reporters note that Democratic leadership is “scrambling” to shore up support for Israel, and not finding it an easy task:
Longtime Democratic supporters of close U.S.-Israel ties have been forced to regroup after freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) suggested Israel’s supporters are motivated by political donations and have “allegiance” to a foreign country, sparking a messy public reckoning over anti-Semitism. Democratic presidential candidates, meanwhile, have shown a new willingness to challenge Israeli government policy under Netanyahu.
Few Democratic leaders believe the party is in danger of seeing a mass defection of Jewish voters — a “Jexodus” some Republicans are calling for, including Trump — but many say they need to redouble their efforts to police anti-Semitic rhetoric and prevent further erosion of support for Israel. Jewish voters typically favor Democrats over Republicans by a remarkably consistent ratio of 2 to 1 or better, according to exit polling dating to 1980.
“What I’m hearing from the community is, ‘Do we have a problem?’ ” said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (N.J.), a moderate Jewish Democrat. “My answer to that is: There are a few individuals who are on the fringes, but that’s not where the party is, and we need to reinforce that message and ensure this never becomes a partisan issue.”
Yes, they have a problem. And Trump isn’t hesitating to exploit it to the fullest.