The Jewish Vote
Continued from preceding page
Jewish community, has emphasized the traditional Jewish preference for
the idea of continuity with the his party."
Dukakis's Jewish supporters have
policies of the current
administration—but he has yet to also complained that the candidate's
specify how a Bush administration pro-Israel sentiments tend to get lost
might carry forward the stalled in the noise of the campaign, while
"Shultz initiative" in the Mideast.
Bush is able to rely on the ac-
And Michael Dukakis, aware of complishments of the Reagan admin-
Shultz's popularity with Jewish istration to carry him through the
voters, has been forced to walk the shoals of foreign policy debate.
So Dukakis, with a little nudging,
precarious line between praising the
current state of U.S. - Israeli relations, announced in June that he supports
the official transfer of the American
embassy in Israel to Jerusalem—a
move opposed by the Reagan ad-
ministration. But the candidate's
position has not received much
attention in the Jewish community—
in part because Bush's links to the
Reagan-Shultz legacy allow him to
dominate the pro-Israel agenda, in
part because of what some observers
see as a lack of aggressiveness on the
part of the Dukakis Jewish campaign
Dukakis has also made strong
statements opposing the transfer of
advanced weaponry to nations un-
friendly to Israel; George Bush, part
and appearing to give the Reagan- of an administration that has fre-
Bush administration credit for those quently clashed with the pro-Israel
lobby over high-tech weaponry for
During the Republican conven- Arab nations, has been understan-
tion, Bush's Jewish supporters made
dably quiet about the issue.
"It's taken a while for us to get
much of the fact that the GOP plat-
form was detailed and comprehensive these kinds of messages across to the
in its support for the strong strategic Jewish community," said Hyman
relationship during the Reagan years. Bookbinder, special adviser to the
Rather Than Issues
Pro-Israel activists were delighted Dukakis campaign. "Gov. Dukakis
Few observers dispute the fact with the specific language of the plat- has talked about these things—but
that serious discussion of the issues form, and the accompanying Middle somehow it hasn't been heard as
has been largely absent from the 1988 East position paper put out by the much as we'd like?'
campaign—and that the Jewish cam- Bush campaign.
paigns have been no exception to this
The Democratic platform, in con- On Domestic Issues,
trast, was a relatively paltry
Crude symbolic thrusts have been document—a clear result of the Clear Differences
preeminent; the Pledge of Allegiance, agonizing coalition-building that took
In terms of domestic issues, there
foreign economic competition, the place as an inevitable result of the as- is a much clearer breakdown between
American Civil Liberties Union, the cent of Jesse Jackson in the the two candidates. Here, Michael
vaguely defined "back to basic primaries. The Democrats, also, hoped Dukakis comes in a clear winner with
values" agenda championed by the to avoid the special-interest overkill rank-and-file Jewish voters.
Christian Right have comprised the of prior campaign documents.
Jews remain the most liberal
real fabric of the campaign.
Republicans interpreted this ethnic group in the nation. The con-
"Every year we bemoan the lack brevity as ambivalence, and exploited servative Republican agenda—the
of issues," said political scientist it with zest. Again, Democrats found death penalty, opposition to gun con-
trol, limits on abortion, slashes in
Allen Lichtman. "But this year is themselves on the defensive.
"Dukakis is a clean slate, in terms social programs, prayer in schools—
eiren worse. On one side, you have in
George Bush a candidate who runs of foreign policy," admitted one finds only pockets of support within
away from anything resembling an Jewish campaigner for the the Jewish community, mostly among
issue; on the other, you have a can- Massachusetts governor. "Bush is, the ultra-Orthodox.
Jewish Republicans have run
didate who runs away from what he too—but he benefits from the legacy
is—a liberal. So what else are people of George Shultz and Ronald Reagan headlong into a paradox in Jewish
going to grasp in all this? The sym- on Middle East and Soviet Jewry voting behavior. Even though Israel
issues. In a way, he preempts the remains the number one issue in the
bols become critical."
The same factors seem especially issues without even talking about hearts of Jewish voters, a complex
active within the Jewish community. them—which makes it difficult for mix of domestic issues appear more
George Bush, attempting to Dukakis to use these issues. So important in determining which lever
benefit from the luster of Secretary of Dukakis basically just relies on Kit- Jews will pull on November 8.
So even Jews who concede the un-
State George Shultz within the ty to appeal to Jewish voters—and on
broader electorate suggest the
possibility of a Bush victory that
could render the Jewish vote a mere
footnote to the 1988 election.
Michael Dukakis still sees the
possibility of a close race, with razor-
thin margins in crucial industrial
states like New York, New Jersey,
Pennsylvania and Florida—states
with large Jewish populations. The
campaign has readjusted its priorities
to emphasize these states, a move that
could add to the importance of the
But in most of the scenarios spun
out by the experts, the Jewish vote
will be a very minor part of what
ultimately happens on election day.
So there is a curiously
schizophrenic quality to the cam-
paign in the Jewish community. In
the hothouse atmosphere of Jewish
politics, each new exchange of charges
sends shudders through the com-
munity; there is the distinct flavor Of
political apocalypse as Jewish ac-
tivists work their trade on behalf of
the two candidates.
But in the end, one of the key
lessons of the 1988 election may be to
remind the Jewish community that—
despite some visible signs of clout—
Jews remain a very small minority in
an increasingly competitive and
clamorous political world.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1988
The Jewish liberal center
seems to be holding —
record on the Mideast
and despite the looming
presence of Jesse
precedented support of the Reagan-
Bush administration for Israel will be
more likely to base their vote on their
uneasiness over Bush's myriad ties to
the Christian Right, or the
Republican emphasis on issues like
school prayer and the death penalty.
In fact, Republican sources con-
cede, the issues that are working well
for George Bush among the broader
electorate are sabotaging his efforts
to attract the Jewish community.
"It's very frustrating, from my
vantage point," said a Republican
Jewish activist. "Jewish voters are
looking at the domestic liberalism of
Dukakis and identifying with it.
They're turned off by Quayle, and
they're turned off by the flag waving.
So what seems to be working for the
rest of the population is turning off
On Both Sides
Few observers will disagree that
Jesse Jackson has been the preemi-
nent "issue" in the Jewish campaign,
followed closely by the question. of
Nazi collaborationists in the GOP
hierarchy and pro-Palestinian
elements in the Democratic National
Committee. These are issues that
have given the contest an unexpected-
ly bitter edge; both sides have arous-
ed primal feelings that go beyond the
traditional hostility of one party for
Most observers agree that the
GOP has been relentless in conveying
the impression of a Democratic party
in thrall to the controversial black
minister from Chicago, an impression
bolstered by the spectacle of the
Palestinian plank debate at the
Democratic National Convention.
Some GOP supporters still
whisper about the prospect of Jesse
Jackson as secretary of state—an ap-
pointment that more objective
observers consider ludicrous.
The Democrats, on the other
hand, have been sluggish in taking
advantage of revelations of Nazi sym-
pathizers in the Republican hierar-
chy, and they have been relatively in-
effective in exploiting the controver-
sy stemming from Frederic Malek's
involvement in a Nixon era purge of
Jews from a federal department.
"Jews are more worried about
Jesse Jackson:' said one aid to a
Jewish legislator, a Democrat. "Nazis
are terrible—but there's a tendency to
think of them as a bunch of old guys
who will soon be dead, anyway. With
Jackson, there's an immediacy; peo-
ple remember the convention." ❑