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February 03, 1989 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-02-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

IANALYSIS

SHERWOOD CLEARANCE
STUDIOS
CENTER

Losing Clout?

Continued from Page 1

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One element in this com-
plex equation • involves
changes in American politics
— and in the position of
American Jews in the two
major parties.
1988 was the year when
Jews found their traditional
allegiance to the Democratic
party tested by the ascension
of Jesse Jackson to the top
ranks of the party's leader-
ship — a test that continues
as the Democrats attempt to
recover from the wreckage of
the presidential election.
At the same time, there are
ample indications that
Jewish voters continue to feel
uncomfortable with the
Republicans — in part
because of a GOP domestic
agenda that bears the clear
imprint of the Christian
Right, in part because of
revelations of pro-Nazi
elements within the GOP's
ethnic coalitions.
One result of this bi-
partisan uneasiness is the
potential for a kind of
political disenfranchisement
for Jewish voters.
"The major problem for
Jewish political power is a
feeling of being a 'rootless'
group caught between two
parties," says Allan
Lichtman, professor of
political history at the
American University in
Washington and a close
observer of the Jewish
political scene. "Actually, it's
not just a Jewish problem; a
lot of middle and upper-
middle class people whose
Democratic roots come out of
the Thirties and Forties are
feeling that bind. But it holds
doubly true for Jews, whose
bonds with the Democratic
party are considerably
stronger."
Growing disaffection with
the two major parties could
translate into decreasing in-
volvement at every level of
the political process,
Lichtman warns. Jewish
strength has always depend-
ed heavily on above-average
participation; even a small
shift away from involvement
could cut into the Jewish
power base.
On a more immediate level,
the growing perception that
Jewish Democrats have a
"Jesse Jackson problem"
could chip away at their
power within the party. And
party leaders are aware that
some groups of Jewish voters

Jesse Jackson:
Do Jews have problem with him?

have been turning away from
the Democrats — especially
young male Jews.
"In the Democratic party,
we're seeing Jewish loyalty
wavering" says Lichtman,
himself a Democrat. "This
brings up a reason why
blacks are a rising group in
the party; when you vote 90
percent for the party, you will
be recognized. When you ap-
pear to be wavering, some of
your power within the party
is diminished."
The squeeze on Jewish
power is different on the
Republican side, but no less
traumatic.
George Bush, some Jewish
activists warn, owes very few
debts to the Jewish communi-
ty. And some top Republican
leaders are frustrated that
their efforts to court Jewish
voters have not resulted in
widespread defections.
"What kind of clout will we
have in a Republican ad-
ministration where the
Jewish vote was only 30 per-
cent — despite eight years of
one of the most pro-Israel ad-
ministrations ever?" asks one
leading lobbyist for Jewish
causes. "In that context, does
the appointment of a John
Sununu as chief of staff sug-
gest a decline of Jewish in-
fluence? I think we'd be stick-
ing our noses in the sand if we
thought otherwise."
Other Jewish activists take
a more cautious approach —
but still acknowledge that
Jewish discomfort in both
parties poses a serious
challenge for the community.
"On both sides, the fear and
unease are very real," said
Dan Mariaschin, director of
public affairs for B'nai B'rith
and a former campaigner for
onetime GOP contender Al
Haig. "I think it's too early to
make predictions; it's going to
have to play itself out in the
next two or three elections.
But it is fair to say that 1988
produced, for the first time, a
Continued on Page 20

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