Republican Party

Political and religious fallout from Rep. Omar's AIPAC remark won't fade, nor will social media let it

Political and religious fallout from Rep. Omar's AIPAC remark won't fade, nor will social media let it

Let’s start with the political bottom line — or at least how it stands as of this writing.

The furor kicked up in recent days by Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar will not — I repeat, will not — turn the Democratic Party into the American equivalent of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party, which has a clear and significant anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic problem.

At least not for the foreseeable future. Or to be more precise, at least not as I perceive the immediate future unfolding.

For this, the Democrats, the majority of American Jews and Israel can thank President Donald Trump. As long as the Republican Party remains in his firm control and that of his morally and culturally conservative congressional enablers, American Jewish voters are more than likely to stay firmly Democratic.

Too many of them are just too liberal in their social outlook to vote Republican as the party is currently configured. Period.

This, and because of the substantial Christian Zionist support for Israel and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s politically expedient bromance with this president.

Both Christian Zionism, which tends to back the most right-wing elements in Israeli political society, and the aforementioned bromance are, again, anathema to the majority of American Jews.

Christian Zionism, regardless of how well it is actually understood by the rank-and-file, is a complete turn off for the preponderance of American Jews because it sounds to them like Christians wanting to control Jews simply to foster their own theological beliefs and yearnings. And when has that ever turned out well for Jews?

As for the bromance, well, need I say anything more than if Trump’s for it most folks on the American center-left, Jewish or not, find it suspicious. Nor do they like Netanyahu, who is viewed as entirely unwilling to give Palestinians any of what they want for the sake of a peace agreement.

(This latter aspect is far too complex to get into here. Suffice it to say that a lot of Israeli Jews believe the Palestinian leadership cannot be trusted to upheld such an agreement, making it too risky to try.)

For those reasons and more — including the not inconsequential staunchly pro-Israel stance of the current Pelosi-Schumer Democratic leadership — large numbers of American Jewish Democratic voters and their representatives are not about to abide a party takeover by anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian activists and politicians, who they are also likely to paint as anti-Semitic.

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Anti-Semitism: Journalistically parsing its current upsurge both here and abroad

Anti-Semitism: Journalistically parsing its current upsurge both here and abroad

I recently spent time in Costa Rica where I was able to visit the nation’s central Jewish “compound” in San Jose, the capital city. My guide was a member of one of the country’s leading Jewish families.

I called it a compound — as opposed to a campus — because that’s how it felt. High concrete walls that seemed more appropriate for a military facility than what I actually encountered — a broad, grassy, central plaza surrounded by a small kosher restaurant, a community history and Holocaust museum, a private Jewish school, a large synagogue I was told is filled on important Jewish holidays and for rites of passage, a senior citizens center, and assorted other community offices.

Had I not been escorted by a member of a leading Costa Rican Jewish family, my wife and I would have had to submit, for security reasons, our identifying information eight days in advance of a visit. As it turned out, thanks to our friend, we just show up and were whisked past the armed guards waiting outside the compound’s thick metal doors.

All this in a nation with only about 3,000 Jews — most able to trace their ancestry to World War II-era Poland — and who our guide insisted face relatively little overt anti-Semitism or anti-Israel sentiment. And yet they're fearful. Why?

Because Jews across the world — particularly so in Europe but also in tiny Costa Rica and even the United States —  increasingly feel insecure because of a rising tide of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel actions — the two are often wrongly conflated, by both sides — being reported in the international press, as they should be.

The majority of GetReligion readers, I’m sure, are familiar with this turn of events. But let’s probe a  bit deeper. What’s causing this upsurge today?

Is it an ugly resurfacing of the historical anti-Semitism that Jews have faced since the earliest decades of Christianity's split from Judaism, the first of the big three Abrahamic faiths?

Or is it a product of the further globalization of Islam, sparked in part by Muslim immigrants fleeing poverty and violence in their native lands, and the impact this and their general attitudes toward Israel has had on the societies in which they've resettled?

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News test: Try to figure out what The New York Times thinks about abortion vote in Ireland

News test: Try to figure out what The New York Times thinks about abortion vote in Ireland

Innuendo, bias and half-truths make a mess of a report in the New York Times on next month’s abortion referendum in the Republic of Ireland. Though over 1200 words-long, the March 27, 2018 story entitled “As Irish Abortion Vote Nears, Fears of Foreign Influence Rise” is nearly incoherent. A great many words are used to say rather little rather badly.

What exactly is the Times trying to say in what is supposed to be a hard-news feature?

That it is wrong that money from foreign anti-abortion activists is being spent to influence the vote? That religious sentiment, thank goodness, is now a minor factor in the debate? That fell consultancy groups are manipulating the simple-minded to vote against relaxing the republic’s abortion laws? That there is a vast right-wing conspiracy™ at work seeking to deprive women of control over their bodies?

These assertions all appear, but are either unsubstantiated, or knocked down by facts cited elsewhere in the article. The way this reads indicates that there must have been an editor with an agenda at work.

Bits that would give a logical flow are missing, while buzzwords are pushed to the forefront of the story that plays to the Times’ core readership. The National Rifle Association, the Trump Administration, the Republican National Committee, Cambridge Analytica and the Vote Leave campaign in Britain (gasp!) appear as villains. An ur-reader of the New York Times will be expected to clutch their pearls and faint with shock at the goings on in Ireland, or explode with righteous indignation.

The lede opens magazine style -- offering a vignette that illustrates the arguments that will be raised further into the story.

DUBLIN -- As Ireland prepares to vote in May on a referendum on whether to repeal its ban on abortion, anti-abortion campaigners can be seen rallying most weekdays on the streets of Dublin, outside Parliament, and at universities, news media buildings and the offices of human rights groups.

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As Democratic support for Israel wanes, will American Jews abandon their political home?

As Democratic support for Israel wanes, will American Jews abandon their political home?

Buried in a new Pew Research Center poll on a broad-range of American political concerns is a finding that has the potential to radically scramble American Jewry's long association with the Democratic Party. Not surprisingly, the lightning-rod Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the root of this.

The finding? For the first time, it appears that Americans who are registered Democrats are as statistically likely to favor the Palestinians as they are Israel.

Ladies and gentleman, this is potentially big news -- assuming the polling is accurate.

Not because of the small number of Jewish voters who exist on a national scale relative to the overall number of registered American voters (Jews account for only about 2 percent of the entire American population).

But because of what this could mean for Jewish campaign contributions, Jewish political activism and Jewish voting in future presidential, congressional and other contests in New York, California, Florida and other states with large Jewish concentrations. (I'm referring here to non-Orthodox Jews; the 10 percent of so of American Jews who identify as Orthodox already largely support Republican politicians.) 

Political reporters at mainstream American news outlets, as far as I can tell, paid comparatively little initial attention to the survey finding. I suspect this is because of the avalanche of stories they've been producing on the outgoing Obama presidency and the incoming Trump administration.

Even Israeli and American Jewish outlets initially paid less attention to the Pew finding than I would have imagined, probably for the same reason cited just above.

Hey, religion reporters. Why not pick up the slack?

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Some matters religious Americans, and journalists, might ponder as Trump era begins

Some matters religious Americans, and journalists, might ponder as Trump era begins

Donald Trump’s narrow Electoral College victory came accompanied by a narrow popular vote loss and some worrisome exit polling.

Yes, 60 percent of voters had an “unfavorable” opinion of the President-elect, 63 percent did not deem him “honest and trustworthy,” 60 percent said he’s not “qualified” for the job and 63 percent felt he lacks the needed “temperament,” while 56 percent were either “concerned” or “scared” that he might win. (Hillary Clinton’s numbers were nearly that dismal.)

Religious believers and journalists concerned for their nation should  contemplate whether a President has ever entered office with anything like that poor reputation.

Campaign 2016 was the ugliest since -- when? 1824? 1800? It damaged the stature not only of Trump but loser Hillary and husband Bill, the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, even the Libertarians, the FBI and the Department of Justice, the American political system, and -- yes -- religious elements.

Amid the rubble, we also find all those caught-off-guard pundits, mistake-ridden pollsters, and news outlets whose prestige and influence are eroded by sensationalism and partisanship.

Some writers continue to proclaim the imminent demise of the Religious Right, that movement of evangelical Protestants, conservative Catholics, Mormons, some Orthodox Jews and other activists. As with frequent assurances that Trump could not possibly win the nomination or the presidency, that’s wishful thinking. Such efforts will persist as long as the issues do, for instance palpable alarm over religious freedoms.

On that, future  Supreme Court appointments were “the most important factor” for 21 percent of U.S. voters but fully 56 percent of Trump voters.

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Red counties and blue collars: As it turns out, folks in America's heartland still exist

Red counties and blue collars: As it turns out, folks in America's heartland still exist

Help me out here, readers.

I have been traveling so much in the past few weeks that lots of things I have read and heard have merged into a kind of fever dream in my 60-something brain. Somewhere out there I saw an advertisement for a last-moment fundraiser by liberal comedians who described their program as "like the Blue Collar Comedy tour," only for "smart, moral people" -- or words to that effect.

Did I just dream that? It's a perfect statement of half of what happened last night and this morning. In the end, Hillary Clinton did not get enough votes from blue-collar Democrats and lots of other people who used to be in the old Democratic Party coalition that included the Midwest and large parts of the Bible Belt.

When I wrote my Election Day post about the religion and culture angles hidden in Tennessee's rural vs. urban divide, I didn't realize that I was, in effect, writing about the whole United States. Click here for a final NPR verdict on the numbers, with rural areas going 62-34 percent for Donald Trump and cities voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton to the tune of 59-35 percent.

City people are happy with America, just like London people were happy with life trends in the European Union. The people in depressed towns and smaller cities? Not so much. The 2016 election map, broken down by counties, is going to be Jesusland: The Sequel.

As the exit poll numbers roll out, we are going to find out all kinds of religion-angle things that we already knew.

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Schlafly was hated by cultural left, which means her obits featured classic, 50-50 reporting

Schlafly was hated by cultural left, which means her obits featured classic, 50-50 reporting

If you want to learn how to write obituaries about controversial figures, all you need to do is pay close attention to articles written about leaders on the cultural and moral right. They are sure to include a 50-50 mix (or close to it) of warm quotes from the person's supporters and stinging attacks from critics.

This is not the approach that one sees when a controversial figure dies on the cultural left. If Gloria Steinem died today, one would see obituaries packed with tributes, stacked up against one or two (at most) quotes from her many critics. Most of all, the story would emphasize -- as it should -- her many victories in life, the times when she spoke out and was proven right.

We can leave all of that to another day, since, in this case, we are talking about the death of Phyllis Schlafly. That means we are looking at classic, 50-50 journalism about a figure who was truly and utterly loathed by the left and, thus, by most journalists and pundits. By the way, it's wise to avoid glancing at Twitter, where can find a wide and deep river of acidic speculations on the left about how Schlafly will fare in the afterlife.

But consider the top of The Washington Post obituary, which includes a highly ironic summary paragraph:

Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist, lawyer and author who is credited with almost single-handedly stopping the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s and who helped move the Republican Party toward the right on family and religious issues, died Monday at her home in St. Louis. She was 92.
Her daughter, Anne Cori, said Mrs. Schlafly had been ill with cancer for some time.
A champion of traditional, stay-at-home roles for women, Mrs. Schlafly opposed the ERA because she believed it would open the door to same-sex marriage, abortion, the military draft for women, co-ed bathrooms and the end of labor laws that barred women from dangerous workplaces.

The Post team offered that list without comment. It would have been easy to find scholars and pundits willing to note that most of Schlafly's wild predictions don't sound quite as crazy these days.

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How will religious leaders, and the GOP, handle immigration after Election Day?

How will religious leaders, and the GOP, handle immigration after Election Day?

Whatever pundits make of Donald Trump’s August 31 “what the hell are we doing?” speech on immigration policy, the Republication nominee -- win or lose -- has put the issue atop the U.S. national agenda where it will remain following Election Day.

On the religion aspect, for reasons that blend history, solidarity or moral conviction, U.S. Catholics, ethnic and minority Protestants, white “mainline” denominations, Judaism, Islam and other non-Christian religions generally favor liberal policies. But what about the conservative and evangelical Protestants, the sizable source of so many Republican votes?

Consider the huge Southern Baptist Convention, a bastion of conservatism in theology and many socio-political matters. A resolution from the SBC’s 2011 annual meeting expressed the complexity of this issue, favoring fairness and charity toward aliens alongside respect for the nation’s laws. The Baptists said that once the borders are secured, “a just and compassionate path to legal status” should be provided to “undocumented immigrants” who make “appropriate” restitution.

The 2016 SBC meeting urged churches to welcome and aid refugees, although it favored “the strictest security measures possible in the refugee screening and selection.”

The billionaire’s unusual candidacy has rocked and split the Republican Party. Particularly for churchgoers who are committed Republicans, it’s worth thinking about the far more desperate political party chaos before the Civil War.

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Yo, Washington Post editors (again): Some conservatives don't really care about the GOP

Yo, Washington Post editors (again): Some conservatives don't really care about the GOP

Challenge No. 1: Write a history of conservative political life in the post-Roe v. Wade era -- focusing on the Republican Party in particular -- without mentioning the role of cultural and religious conservatives.

Do you think historians could pull that off?

Challenge No. 2: Write a news feature about the GOP race for the White House in 2016 without mentioning the role of religious conservatives -- white evangelical Protestants and traditional Catholics, in particular -- in the primary battles between Citizen Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, etc. Do you think journalists could write such a story without including strong references to the prominent role of evangelical leaders in the #NeverTrump camp, as well as old-guard Religious Right folks in team Trump?

Actually, we sort of know that political-desk journalists at the Washington Post can meet that challenge, or one very similar to it. You see, they have already done that. See this earlier post: "Hey Washington Post czars: Evangelicals and Catholics are irrelevant in #NeverTrump camp?"

Now, here is Challenge No. 3: Go to Denver and cover the RedState Gathering for conservative leaders -- note that Trump was not invited -- and produce a report that includes zero information about the views of #NeverTrump religious and cultural conservatives.

Yes! The Washington Post political-desk pros are up to that challenge as well! See the recent feature that ran with this headline: "Once in control of their party, conservatives agonize over the election and beyond."

What does the word "conservative" mean in that equation? Honestly, after reading the story several times, I have no idea. Here is the overture:

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