Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Of Santorum and Camembert

In much the same vein as the post below. Dan Savage is apparently incapable of condemning the readily condemnable homophobia driving much of right-wing American politics these days without bringing Jews into it. It's an age-old tradition, bringing up The Jews when trying to argue some unrelated point that has diddly-squat or near-diddly-squat to do with Jews. And I come at this as someone who agrees with Savage about Santorum, and also - as a Zionist, in my case - prefer the Democrats' stance on Israel. I'd just rather not see this:

[...] America's religious conservatives/extremists [...] argue that the LGBT community is so tiny – just 9 million Americans, according to the Williams Institute – that our calls for civil rights protections and full civil equality shouldn't be taken seriously. Rights, they implicitly assert, should be awarded only to minority communities that have attained some sort of critical mass. [....]
This is a curious argument coming from the same people – evangelical Christians – who seem to regard Israel as the 51st state in our union. There may be "just" 9 million LGBT Americans – but that number that is greater than the entire population of Israel (7 million). And if we are "just" 3.8% of the US population, the LGBT community – a figure that includes hundreds of thousands of LGBT Jews – is still more than twice the size of the total Jewish community in the United States (1.4% of the population), to say nothing of the Mormon community (1.7%).

All of which would be a neat little argument if Greater Israel nonsense were to Jewish Americans what same-sex marriage and the repeal of DADT is to gay Americans. Slight problem with that.

Evangelical and evangelical-vote-seeking politicians do not have the stance on Israel they do because they want Jewish votes. I mean, sure, they want all the votes they can get, but it doesn't add up. Jews are not voting for a Santorum, a Huckabee. Even the last remaining American Jews under 80 who care about Israel don't want for Israel what those politicians want for Israel, and tend to want the opposite as they do for America (reference is to the Rick Perry video, which Flavia is criticizing as a Christian, but I can't imagine too many Jews had a more favorable take). And what's the point of speculating about how many Jewish Americans are LGBT? Even the vast majority of American Jews who are straight and cisgender, are voting Democrat. It's not as if LGBT Jews are so conflicted in the voting booth, feeling that as Jews they must pull the lever for Santorum, but their sexual orientation or gender identity gets in the way. And last I checked, Republicans aren't even claiming their Israel stuff is primarily about honoring the wishes of America's Jews. Isn't it about allies in the War on Terror, Israel as "Western," and all that Bible stuff?

Put another way: there's no cabal above Zabars maneuvering Santorum via puppet strings. We would not let Santorum that near the really good (so runny and delicious I suspect it has to be raw-milk, whatever claims to the contrary the label bears; yes, intentional) Camembert.

And are we really to believe that Republicans are competing against one another - and the primaries are Savage's concern here - to please Israelis? What does the size of Israel's population have to do with Republican pandering? It's questionable that they're primarily pandering to American Jews when discussing Israel, but preposterous that their target is Israeli Jews.

It could be that Savage is pandering to the British left  (or much of it, not all), in choosing here, yet rarely elsewhere - and I've read/listened to a whole lot of Savage - to allude to U.S. Israel policy. It's a kind of roundabout quasi-anti-Semitism, I suppose, all the assumptions his claims here rely on, and I doubt Savage is even aware of it. Whatever the case, the concern is that "Jews" are now this stand-in for whatever the opposite is of progressive. Jews can of course be bigots, but it would be a tough case to make that Jews are more racist against African-Americans, more homophobic, than average. Yet, such are the perks of being a long-preferred Other. Whatever point one is trying to make, if one wishes to raise the blood pressure of one's (vast-majority-non-Jewish) audience, to excite them about an issue at hand, one may toss in something about Jews.

2 comments:

PG said...

While I take your general and previously-noted point about how it's rhetorically questionable to always be dragging Jews into debates that have nothing to do with them, I think Savage's intent with the comparisons to the population of Israel, of American Jews and of American Mormons was clear in the next paragraph after your quoted grafs:
'LGBT Americans, in short, are not "too small in number", or too insignificant a portion of the American electorate, to be equal under the law – or to be taken seriously as a political force. There may "only" be 9 million of us, if the Williams Institute got it right, but here's a fun fact: Barack Obama beat John McCain in 2008 by 9,000,000 votes and change.'

The reference to the population of Israel was clumsy, but he's not setting up Jews as somehow opposed to LGBT rights or otherwise bigoted. He's instead saying that if there are enough Mormons to fund Romney and enough Jews to influence one's speeches about Israel, then there are more than enough LGBT folks for Republicans to be cautious about using them as a punching bag.

As for how Jewish Americans will vote, I hope you're right and think you probably are, but I certainly encounter Jewish opponents of Obama on a frequent basis who gloat over how their community is turning against him.

Phoebe said...

PG,

"he's not setting up Jews as somehow opposed to LGBT rights or otherwise bigoted."

I don't quite agree, because why else is he bringing the existence of - forget Israel for the time being - LGBT American Jews? Why, if not to suggest that the Republican's implied Jewish constituency is somehow diminished by LGBT numbers that include - and why wouldn't they? - Jews.

But the Israel remark is more than "clumsy." His point is that there are enough LGBT folks out there for the LGBT vote to count. He's suggesting not only that Jews care about Israel with the same intensity as gays do about SSM, but also that Jews care about Israel in such a way as to like Republicans' stance on Israel, and to vote accordingly.

And I don't think there's much danger of Jews voting Republican en masse. For one thing, among moderates, there's been a lot of 'I supported the Iraq war initially but am so over that.' I can't imagine more Jews voting Republican now than in that post-9/11 moment.

For another, the more heavily Republicans lay on the I'm-the-most-Christian-no-I-am stuff, the more Jews are going to vote Democrat. It's important to remember that even if we're just looking at the ways Jewish voters vote as Jews, and not at other issues voters who happen to be Jewish care about, Israel's not everything.