Ever since Hamas’s attack on Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, the Rupert Murdoch media empire, led by the New York Post and Fox News, has belabored a distinction that continues to mystify me. It is, for want of more precise language, the supposed difference between “traditional Democrats” and “anti-Israel Democrats.”
The failure of liberal Democratic Representative Summer Lee, who represents the heavily Jewish Squirrel Hill District in Pittsburgh, to show up at a recent pro-Israel rally at the local Jewish Community Center has angered her Jewish constituents. The Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito in the Post, tells us confidently that Lee’s brazen defiance will earn her a “primary challenge.” Moreover, Zito sees what seems to be a “growing fissure between far-left Democrats and traditional Democrats,” and this may have enormous electoral ramifications.
Admittedly some establishment Republicans and their media mouthpieces may be trying to profit from this “fissure” besetting the other national party. It can’t hurt Republicans, and I won’t deny this, to pour salt into the other party’s wounds, if it will bring the GOP more votes. One must also notice the over-the-top support the Murdoch media empire has been giving the Israeli cause. Since the Murdoch family is a major funder of the Republican media, it may pay for Murdoch outlets to display the same exuberant enthusiasms as their sponsors.
But the same media have turned their ebullitions of fervent Zionist fervor into a “traditional” litmus test. By this criteria, two lifelong Democrats and continuing Biden supporters, former Democratic New York City Council President Andrew Stein and retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, both of whom write for the Post as impassioned Zionists, are really conservatives. National Review, another recipient of Murdoch largess, has just dutifully denounced Pat Buchanan as a critic of Israel as well. They say he is (of course) a mean-spirited isolationist.
Viewed in a more reflective light, however, there seem to be certain problems with the distinction under consideration. My degree of enthusiasm for Israeli nationalism should not be the determinative factor for judging who is a proper member of the American right. Although I personally stand with the Israelis, whether I am an obsessive Israel booster should not determine my suitability as an American conservative. And it is utterly ridiculous to elevate leftists to the status of conservatives because they become zealous, predictable right-wingers on questions concerning Israel. Unfortunately, this has become a common practice in the conservative movement ever since the neocons and their sugar daddies took that enterprise over in the 1980s.
Finally, I am utterly at a loss for what distinguishes the two supposed Democratic camps, except for their differing attitudes toward Israel. That most Jewish Democrats are pro-Israel is an interesting datum, but whether this indicates a far different orientation from that of the “far left” in the Democratic Party is certainly open to question. Have these “traditionalists” opposed late-term abortion, the sexual transitioning of children, or Biden’s open border policy—a move that is bringing terrorists into this country? The neoconservatives’ putative traditionalists are as much to blame for the explosion of political wokeness in the United States as are the “far left Democrats,” with whom they recently broke over the Israel -Hamas conflict.
I’m also not sure why I should believe that Dershowitz, Stein, or the Pittsburgh Jewish Democrats will break from their party definitively over the defection of the growing anti-Zionist faction among them. What seems more likely is that pro-Israel Democrats will rally behind sympathetic figures like Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and Joe Biden. Why would they do anything else? If Professor Dershowitz is reconsidering his intention to vote for Biden in next year’s presidential race, I haven’t yet heard about that change of plan.
Finally, we might note that there is an Eastern liberal wing of the GOP which seems much more comfortable with “traditional Democrats” than they are with the populist right. These are the people with whom big business Republicans in major cities would like to build an alliance, perhaps in pushing the presidential candidacy of Nikki Haley. The former South Carolina governor is popular with The Wall Street Journal editorial board and Fox news, and she also enjoys the good will of some habitual Democratic donors, crossover voters, and for the time being the editors of The Washington Post. Like the Democrats the Murdoch media have been courting, Haley has made a name for herself as an almost monomaniacal Zionist—but one with easily adjustable social positions. It would not be implausible to suggest that the frenzied courting of “traditional Democrats” by the centrist, but hawkish wing of the GOP is working towards a political alliance with the so-called “traditional Democrats.”
In any case, listening to the surging enthusiasm for the Israeli side and the fitful invectives against their opposition coming from the Murdoch-owned media, I am reminded of the story told about the terrified applause that used to greet Comrade Stalin’s addresses to the Soviet presidium. No one present at these events wished to be responsible for ending the ovations, lest he find himself transported to a gulag.