In times of grave economic crisis, progressive groups have historically found an opening. This time, over the past five years, liberals and leftists have been left flailing away while the far right moved in to cause a seismic shift in American politics. I explore some whys and wherefores of this at Souciant this week.
This article was originally published by LobeLog, an indispensable source for foreign policy news and analysis. Check it out.
The 2013 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference wasn’t quite the same show of arrogant power that it usually is. There seems to have been a note of unusual concern among the 13,000 or so assembled activists. And those concerns echo some of what AIPAC’s detractors have been saying for some time.
The tone was set by AIPAC’s president, Michael Kassen at the beginning of the conference. In what Ha’aretz reporter Chemi Shalev described as “… an uncharacteristic ‘adapt or die’ alarm to the American Jewish community,” Kassen warned of “the growing allure of isolationism among our new leaders”, which would include an aversion to difficult foreign policy issues…like Israel.
Kassen urged the AIPAC activists to expand the base from its overwhelmingly Jewish one, and highlighted the participation of representatives from the African-American and Latino communities in the conference. Yet, despite this outreach, The Forward’s Natan Guttman reports that “…a look at the audience made clear that AIPAC is still largely an organization made up of white Jewish activists.”
There’s more here. Orthodox Jews are disproportionately represented at AIPAC. The Orthodox community represents around 15% of all US Jews. Support among non-orthodox Jews has been dwindling in a hurry, and despite intense efforts by AIPAC to reach out to younger Jews, the crowd is heavily skewed toward grey hair. Guttman also reports that an AIPAC official he spoke to rejected the idea that AIPAC had lost many liberal Jews to the more dovish pro-Israel group J Street by saying that “…if anything, liberal activists are turning away from the issue of Israel altogether and are not seeking a different kind of political approach.”
What AIPAC seems to be facing is the fact that its base, while very active and willing to mobilize considerable wealth as well as time and energy to support the AIPAC agenda, is aging and increasingly out of touch with most Americans. This is something commentators like myself, MJ Rosenberg and groups like Jewish Voice for Peace have been contending for quite some time. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of AIPAC’s problems. Continue reading
In Souciant this week, I examine the weakness of the Left in the US despite numbers that should mean it is much stronger. In times of economic stress like these, the left should be able to provide alternatives, and make them actionable. While liberals fight to hold the center and Tea Partiers push the country to a radical and self-destructive right, the left continues to eat itself. It need not be.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Barack Obama to jump-start the “peace process.” At LobeLog, I examine whether Obama is likely to heed that call and the grim position Abbas is in that prompted him to make it.
This week at Souciant, I look at the Chuck Hagel fiasco. The unabashed GOP plan to obstruct the entire US government in order to prevent Obama from doing, well, much of anything reaches new heights this week. The “Party of NO” is holding up Hagel’s confirmation, which even they say is still going to happen, for ephemeral reasons (the request for more information on Benghazi which was already furnished to even John McCain’s stated satisfaction), petty political ones and larger political aims. And what’s the role of the Israel Lobby in all of this? Not what some think it is. Check it out.
Something different in this week’s piece at Souciant. I take on the argument that voting for third party candidates helps bring about change, or at least shows you are not supporting the certainly awful policies Barack Obama has followed, which have little connection to his campaign rhetoric. I argue that unless we have a credible alternative we have no right to risk putting in someone who is far worse than Obama. There is a little bit of Mideast content if you were wondering…