By Will Shapira
When I was growing up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in North Minneapolis during the 1940s and ‘50s, there was no such thing as a Jewish Republican in Minnesota. Or, if there was, it was kept quiet in the same way that people "hid" family members who were mentally ill.
How times have changed! Today, we see the advent of a group of Republican Jews in Minnesota, no doubt proud to have helped put into the Oval Office for a second term probably the worst president in the history of the Republic.
Why have such Jews abandoned their traditional support of the Democrats?
I have several possible answers:
* It’s yet another manifestation of the famous Jewish self-hatred. (But why do they have to take it out on the rest of us, Jews included?)
* Some Jews may be foolishly impressed with Bush’s apparent willingness to accord Ariel Sharon and his rightist government total support for any and all actions they choose to take in dealing with Palestinians and other Arab neighbors, failing to get beneath the surface of that current support.
* Wealthy Jews may finally be voting with their pocketbooks.
* Wealthy or not, some Jews may, consciously or unconscisouly, may find this another way to assimilate. Assimilation into the larger (read: gentile) community always has been an issue with, if not a goal of, many Jews. They changed their name from Lifschitz to Lifson, dated and even married shicksas (gentile women) and now, apparently, they are going the last mile and helping elect a born-again evangelical fundamentalist neocon Christian as president. Hoo-boy! Is Rudy (I’m More Jewish Than You Are) Boschwitz smiling or what? Is Paul Wellstone spinning in his grave or what?
Converting to Republicanism, of course, is a right, but I wonder if those who did this realize the probable consequences of Bush II.
I believe the main one affecting Jews (and members of all other non-Christian faiths, and politically moderate and liberal Christians) will be an all-out attempt by the Bush Administration, liberally sprinkled with neocon fundamentalist Christians, to take a battering ram to the wall separating church and state. I believe they wil go all-out to make their brand of Christianity a virtual state religion, forever and ever, amen.
Now that the Bush Administration has secured the votes and campaign funding from its Jewish supporters for 2004 (The president can say, "Some of my best Republican friends are Jewish,") it need pay them no serious mind until the elections of 2006 and 2008 roll around.
Do Republican Jews really believe Bush and Co, care a whit about Israel beyond the Jewish vote in the U.S. and quid pro quo support from Israel for Mr. Bush’s hegemonic, oil-fueled plans for permanent Middle East dominance? (Today, Iraq; tomorrow Iran and Syria.)
In all likelihood, our newly-born (if not yet re-born) MNGOP Jews will settle for a few crumbs even though, to be sure, they will be from Master (George) Bread, not challah (traditional Jewish white bread.) With that glum scenario as a backdrop, I must express my deep sympathy for our
Jewish (and quite accidental) U.S. senator, Norm Coleman. If he does not have presidential aspirations then I don’t know a blintz (like a, you should pardon the expression, French pancake) from a bagel.
Having easily changed political parties to advance his political career, does The Chameleon now change his religion, too? In a political environment where "whatever work" is the moral code, I would not bet the kibbtuz (Israeli collective farm ) against it.
After all, anyone can see the new light of poltical careerism and be re-born, right? If George W. Bush can do it, surely Norm Coleman can, too. Nu? (So? Why not? What did you expect? )
Here, then, is your GOP national ticket in 2008: the president’s brother, current Florida governor Jeb Bush, for president (extending the Bush Dynasty at least four more years) and Norm Coleman for vice president.
Of course, the dirty little secret among the Republicans is that Norm never---and I mean NEVER EVER---would be allowed by the religious right (read: wrong on most issues) to run for president. But look at all of the Jewish votes and campaign money he could bring in as veep!
After a term or two as vice president, they would find Norm a cushy job with a company (maybe 3M or Honeywell, never over-populated with Jews although I managed to do a stint at each) or in the president’s cabinet or as an ambassador, maybe even to Israel (if it still exists by 2012 or 2016).
Failing that, Norm could say "Let’s let by-gones be by-gones" and offer to return to the Democratic party (if it still exists by then). In desperation, they’d probably take him back, new religion and all.
I frequently wonder what my mother, the late Rose Bromberg Shapira, would think of the swing to the Republican party by at least some Minnesota Jews.
Like virtually all Jews on Minneapolis’ North Side, she was firmly aligned with the Democrats: FDR nationally (never mind about refugee ships refused landing in the U.S. and the horrible fate that befell those poor Jewish refugees trying to escape from Hitler) and Hubert H. Humphrey locally.
My mother and her friends---most them also named Rose---saw virtually everything through a Jewish lens; if this or that happened, was it good or bad for the Jews? No subject was too minute to be so examined.
In her waning years, Ma became a devoted fan of the Minnesota Twins and of Kirby Puckett in particular. Thank God she died before the shandas (alleged anti-social behavior) of her all-star came to light. As it was, Ma was devastated when glaucoma (which she also suffered from and generously passed on to me) ended the career of No. 34.
God forgive me, but in the friendly confines of her room in the Sholom Home in St. Paul, when I gave her the bad news about Kirby I could not resist asking her, "Ma, is this good or bad for the Jews?"
Now, I certainly am not the only person concerned with the future of the Jews (not to mention America and the world!) under Bush II.
Even though he steadfastly denies that his new book, "The Plot Against America," is allegorical to the Bush Administration, Philip Roth’s fantasizing about the relocation of concentrations of Jews from the East Coast to the hinterlands reminds many of us (but maybe not necons) of the
internment of the Japanese in Western states camps during WWII.
In Roth’s book, the Jews also are dispersed to the hinterlands. But, since we MNJews (GOP or DFL) already live in the hinterlands, what, then for us? Even more hinter Crawford, Texas? (Any Jews there?) Roth’s birthplace of Newark, N.J?
Perhaps our MNGOP Jews should read Roth’s book and ponder its disturbing non-allegorical
Our MNGOP Jews also would do well to resurrect a little-known but very important book by our fellow Minnesotan, Sinclair Lewis, "It Can’t Happen Here." Written in 1935, it’s amazingly prescient in its subject: the rise of a fascist dictator in the United States.
But it really can’t happen here, you say? Bite your tongue! We have seen enough erosion of civil liberties and wanton destruction of our precious Constitution under George W. Bush I to last us ten lifetimes. Without the alleged restraints of re-election Bush II could be much, much worse, even with the recent resignation of attorney general John (Patriot Act) Ashcroft, yet another born-again Christian whose rank in the annals of U.S. attorneys general probably will be comparable to George W. Bush’s standing among our presidents. (Remember that old joke about Hitler suddenly returning and proclaiming "This time, no more Mr. Nice Guy!").
Following his election, President Bush, after delivering a canned, desultory statement about bi-partisanship and "healing," wasted no time in announcing that he has been given a "mandate" and has earned "political capital" and that he most definitely intends to spend it.
His brain, Karl Rove, freely talks of his dreams of (and plans for) generations of neocon
fundamentalist conservatives holding power. (This can only be bad for the Jews, Ma.)
It not only can happen here, folks, it is happening, and some of my fellow Minnesota Jews must take responsibility for their parts in making that true. Philip Roth notwithstanding, I intend to discuss this with them when we are shipped off to our "re-education" camps.
And just where will those camps be located? I predict that in an uncommon display of ironic humor the neocon born-agains will send us MNJews to Sinclair Lewis’ hometown of Sauk Centre, Minn. (Any Jews there? Well, at least it isn’t Texas.)
Please come visit me and if it’s not too much trouble, bring some hard bagel, matzoh ball soup, some chopped liver on a kaiser roll and some blintzes.
Thank you and mazel tov (good luck.)
Will Shapira is a retired public relations representative for major corporations and non-profit organizations. He once was a news reporter and writer for Minnesota’s largest radio stations.