Among the great anomalies of this political season have been the eerie campaign quiet in major American states, along with the refusal to admit that Mitt Romney and Barack Obama differ regarding Israel, as each candidate competes to appear more blue-and-white than the other. In the campaign’s waning days, let’s have some straight talk rather than partisan bluster.
For starters, the Electoral College makes the contest a vote for state votes not popular votes. American culture has become increasingly nationalized, and homogenized. Yet, every four years, first in primaries that give some states disproportionate importance because of their timing, and then in the general election that gives some states disproportionate importance because they happen to be divided, we go suddenly regional.
The blue-state red state phenomenon makes many people in the neglected states feel their votes do not count. But, in the age of the online petition, strategic voting can use the Electoral College insanity to send important messages.
Let’s be honest. There are serious differences in each nominee’s approach to the Jewish state. For all the talk about Obama being Israel’s “best friend, ever,” many pro-Israel leftists like Obama because he was tough on Israel, and probably will be tough on Israel again. There is a huge fissure in the pro-Israel Zionist camp about the ideal script the best American presidential friend of Israel should follow. Many on the left believe that the U.S. must push Israel to compromise, that without American bullying, Israel will never negotiate.
Although this theory ignores the history of the Oslo peace talks, which occurred with a calm, secure Israeli leadership hiding the negotiations from American bluster, and even though it underestimates Palestinian rejectionism, Barack Obama seems primed to follow that script. During his first two years in office, when re-election concerns were far away, Obama showed the influence of pro-Palestinian forces on his thinking. He equated the Israeli and Palestinian cases, and compared Palestinian suffering to African-American suffering. He targeted the settlements as the main obstacle to peace, giving the Palestinians a new excuse not to negotiate by demanding a settlement freeze. And he bristled with contempt around Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who reciprocated and shares responsibility for the tensions.
Barack Obama in his second term is likely to revert to that approach, which he tempered as he began raising money and repositioning for his re-election run. Moreover, when one speculates about what a second-term Obama might plan for his post-presidency, I believe he might want to enter into elder-statesman-land, hobnobbing with the self-righteous, self-appointed “Elders.” These people, especially Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Mary Robinson, have been particularly harsh on Israel. If Obama wants to woo them—or become UN Secretary General—forcing Israel to create a Palestinian state regardless of the security issues could help Obama erase the stains of drone warfare, Afghanistan, and keeping Guantanamo Bay open, among the politically correct set.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s strategy of being so indulgent of Israel and its prime minister, reassures some while unnerving others who do not want the U.S. simply greenlighting every Bibi move.
Blue-state, pro-Israel, anti-Romney Democrats can make their votes count and keep Obama in line—somewhat. If thousands of liberal pro-Israel Jews and non-Jews filled out their state ballots but left the presidential line blank, then signed an online petition explaining why—they could send an important message. I understand why most blue state voters could not vote for Romney, but that does not mean they must vote Obama. Unless the polls are completely wrong, even if thousands do not vote for Obama in Massachusetts, New York or California, he will win those states. But tens of thousands hurting the President’s popular vote totals and his pride, could send the message he needs to hear, saying, “Don’t just blame Israel, even if you don’t have to run for re-election.”
If there were a critical mass of pro-Israel voters from the left in red states to vote “no” on Romney, I would propose that, too—but that is not my read of what is going on in the Jewish communities or pro-Israel evangelical communities of Alabama or Tennessee.
If, at the same time, some blue-staters or red-staters learn how to make their votes count when their votes have been discounted for so long—that will turn this year’s anomaly into next election cycle’s inspiration.