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The Times Breaks Another One

Shocking news of Sheldon Adelson’s support for Republicans

Adam Chandler
July 25, 2012

From the Times’ Breaking News(!) file, which features such 2012 hits as There’s sexism in the tech industry? and You’ll never guess, but food trucks at private parties?, comes another old-new trend: The Republican Jewish Coalition is running an initiative to siphon Jewish votes to the GOP with the financial backing of—wait for it—Sheldon Adelson.

The campaign, covered with the breathless surprise that only the Times can bring to thoroughly unsurprising news, is called “My Buyer’s Remorse” and will feature video testimonials from Jewish voters who chose Obama in 2008 but have now decided that Mitt Romney is their man. The ads will focus on a few themes, including the economy and the specter of the “real” Obama, who will reveal himself as an anti-Israel maniac in his second term.

There’s a lot of meat to pick at in this story. Isn’t calling a campaign aimed at Jews “My Buyer’s Remorse” a little like Irish Catholics for Romney having a campaign called “The Obama Hangover”? Better? Worse? Also, to split hairs I suppose, how can one have buyer’s remorse about who Obama is going to become in his second term?

But mostly, this is all old bones. It’s not a new story or a “latest foray” by Adelson. Every recent election cycle has featured this kind of ad campaign, aimed at defeating Democratic candidates by making Israel a wedge issue. One example would be another ad by the RJC (to whom Adelson gives and has given), which in 2010 attacked Joe Sestak, a Democrat candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania. In a widely played ad, Sestak was essentially called pro-Hamas. Sestak lost the election but had also suffered through a bruising Democratic primary without much help from fellow Democrats.

The article also cozies up to another moth-eaten narrative: that this is the year that Jewish voters will finally be dislodged from the Democratic Party, as if one-issue voters weren’t going to vote Republican already. As Michelle Goldberg wrote in Tablet last year:

The notion that Jews are on the verge of deserting the Democratic Party is one of the perennial canards of American political commentary. It comes up every few years, spurred by the wishful thinking and manipulative polling of Republican operatives and the depressing credulity of campaign reporters. And now, for the umpteenth time, it’s returned. “Obama’s policies in the Middle East are alienating Jewish voters,” Dick Morris, the right-wing operative behind a widely touted new survey of American Jews, told Fox News earlier this month. The Washington Times made the same point in a story citing a poll by the conservative group Secure America Now. Obama’s “ambivalence toward Israel leaves an opening for the GOP,” read the subhead.

A close look at these polls reveals how flawed they are, but pointing that out is unlikely to stop pundits from recycling the underlying narrative of an imminent Jewish realignment. It’s a story that won’t die, no matter how often it’s proven wrong. This latest iteration is part of a long history of nonsense, built on a constant, almost willful overestimation of the commonality of interest between American Jews and evangelical Christians. Both of these groups care a lot about Israel. Both see anti-Semitism as a profound evil and a worldwide threat. But American evangelicals and Jews have very different ideas about Israel’s future. Besides, lots of evidence suggests that when it comes to identity politics, American Jews are most concerned with the place of Jews in America. They don’t trust people who want to turn their country into a Christian nation, even if those people swear to protect the Jewish state.

Of course, anything can change in politics. Biden could mistakenly order a Greek salad with Fatah cheese or, God forbid, Iran could go nuclear. But it doesn’t look like enough has changed to make this year, THE year the Jews all flock away to the G.O.P. Even if the Times has finally reported on it.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.