The current Democratic coalition is a fragile alliance of groups with often conflicting interests. For instance, President Obama recently postponed, until after the 2012 election, a decision on the Keystone Oil pipeline, which would bring Canadian oil extracted from tar in a pipeline through the United States to the Gulf of Mexico and other destinations. Environmentalists disapprove the project, just as they oppose almost any energy development other than so-called "clean energy" sources, like wind and solar power. Unions, however, see the pipeline as a major job producer, as they do the development of the United States's vast shale oil reserves and numerous other projects that would go a long way to securing America's energy independence. The President could not afford to alienate either group. So he punted.And from the look of things, as the November election draws nearer, the rhetoric is only going to get sharper.
Israel too seems destined to be another wedge issue in the Democratic coalition.
Democratic congressional support for Israel – at least outside the Black Caucus – has always been high. That congressional support is a reflection of the concentration of Jews in a handful of Blue States and their dogged faithfulness to the Democratic Party since the New Deal and also to the disproportionate share of "Jewish money" funding Democratic campaigns. But polls have long shown that Israel is far less popular with Democrats than with Republicans. And many important Democratic constituencies, including Blacks and Hispanics, harbor largely negative views of Israel.
Politico reported at length last week that the Center for American Progress (CAP), described as "the party's key hub of ideas and strategy," and Media Matters, "a central messaging organization," have veered sharply from the Democratic Party's congressional support for Israel. After the flotilla incident, CAP's Middle East Director, Matt Duss wrote, "Like segregation in the American South, the siege of Gaza (and the entire Israeli occupation, for that matter) is a moral abomination that should be intolerable to anyone claiming progressive values."
Both organization's have played down the threat of Iranian program, and even questioned its existence at all. M.J. Rosenberg, a former AIPAC official, who now works at Media Matters and refers to American supporters of the Netanyahu government policies as "Israel-firsters," talks about America's "almost bizarre obsession with punishing Iran, its people along with its government."
And Eli Clifton, the national security reporter at ThinkProgress, CAP's blog, accuses AIPAC of "now using the same escalating measures against Iran that were used before the invasion of Iraq." That charge is a repetition of the Walt-Mearsheimer canard in The Israel Lobby that the Iraq War can only be understood as the result of machinations of a "Likud faction" in the U.S. Defense Department – a claim fully refuted by Mearsheimer's subsequent admission on National Public Radio that Israel warned the United States against invading Iraq.
Media Matters' Rosenberg, with the full support of the organization's executive vice-president Ari Rabin-Havt, describes his goal as shifting the discussion of the Democratic Party on Israel and influencing the Party's younger generation. That younger generation will, of course, have been fully exposed to the anti-Israel line on university campuses.
The split in the Democratic Party over Israel, it seems, not only pits Jews against other key constituencies, but pro-Israel Jews against other Jews, like Rosenberg, Rabin-Havt, and ThinkProgress's Eric Alterman.
Technorati Tag: Israel and Election 2012 and Obama.