Alan Dershowitz, the star Harvard Law Professor and de facto Jewish American leader, is endorsing apparently his first-ever Republican politician, backing former student Joel Pollak against Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) in this year’s House race. His cited reason is Schakowsky’s alleged refusal to “speak out” against the Obama administration’s (alleged) deaf ear to American Jewish concerns about Israel and Iran. (Both candidates are Jewish.)
The endorsement is an interesting sign of how the need for a tough line on Israel could trump other concerns for Jewish American liberals. After all, Pollak, who espouses the sort of rigidly strong support for Israel that you’d expect, is on other issues clearly to the right of center, and even more to the right of most Jewish voters, who in 2008 went for President Obama over Sen. McCain by a nearly four-to-one margin. According to his Website, Pollak supports the repeal of Obama’s health bill and a discretionary spending freeze, and opposes cap-and-trade laws aimed at greenhouse gases—all positions of staunch conservative orthodoxy.
And yet, and yet! Pollak thinks decisions about abortion and gay marriage should be left up to the states (which is a moderate position), and even opposes torture (unlike his endorser, Dershowitz).
So Pollak is no Tea Partier. He is also attractive and married, and has Chicago roots. For what it’s worth, he is not expected, according to Ben Smith, to give Schakowsky much of a fight (almost no challengers of House incumbents are). On the other hand, the Dershowitz endorsement was enough to provoke a retaliatory volley from J Street. I’m almost wondering if Pollak is a new sort of candidate, almost jerry-rigged to draw strongly pro-Israel Democrats over to the Republican fold.
Dershowitz Backs Schakowsky Challenger [Ben Smith]
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.