Every Congressional election presents voters with a binary choice, and this year’s midterms will be no different. The choice will be whether to cast a vote for the candidate of the Impeach-Trump Party or the one from the Let’s-Keep-Trump-in-Office-for-His-Full-Four-Year-Term Party.
Voters who want President Donald Trump to be impeached must vote for the Democrat. If the Democrats gain control of the House, Mr. Trump will be impeached. If, in addition, they win a 67-seat majority in the Senate, he will be removed from office.
Pro-Israel voters have an equally clear choice, especially if they recognize that the president, with all his flaws, is owed Hakarat HaTov, gratitude, for actions such as recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and planning to move the U.S. Embassy to the Holy City. The only way Mr. Trump, who is undoubtedly one of, if not the, most pro-Israel presidents in history, will avoid impeachment is for Republicans to retain control of the House and Senate.
Party, Not the Individual
It was not always this way. In years gone by, voters decided which individual candidate most deserved to win. It was the individual candidate who mattered, not the party.
According to Sharon Beck, managing editor of TheJewishVoiceAndOpinion.com and head of “Zionists 4 Trump,” that is no longer the case, especially for the pro-Israel community. Ms. Beck, a longtime Republican activist whose dictums construe what we at The Jewish Voice, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, refer to as the “Sharon Beck School of Political Thought,” suggests that, no matter what Democratic candidates say during the campaign, once in office, they have no choice but to vote the way their party’s leaders insist.
It could be argued that this is a principle not only of the Democratic National Committee’s playbook, but the Republicans’ as well. However, no one doubts that the Democrats are much more disciplined and their leaders much more willing to punish those who deviate.
For Democrats in Congress, especially those in their first few terms, not following DNC rules means loss of perks that come with seniority, loss of committee positions, and loss of influence.
Badgering for a Changed Vote
Those who argue that this is not true should recall what happened to Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) in December 2017, during the tax-bill vote.
According to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who was on the Senate floor, the Republicans were able to get only 50 of their members to approve the bill, which meant there would be a tie in the 100-seat body. To break the standoff, Vice President Mike Pence was called. He was on his way to the Capitol when Sen. Manchin suddenly cast his vote in favor of the bill, the only Democrat to do so.
“The Vice-President was called and told that his vote was not needed after all. He and his motorcade turned around and went home,” said Mr. Cruz.
No one, he said, was prepared for what happened when Mr. Manchin went back to his desk. “He was surrounded by Democrats, descending on him like a horde of locusts, yelling at him. Five minutes later, he sheepishly walks in and changes his vote to ‘no,’” said Mr. Cruz.
For the third time that night, the Republican floor staff immediately called Mr. Pence, and, again, this time past midnight, the vice president and his motorcade made their way to the Capitol. On the Senate floor, Mr. Pence broke the tie, and the legislation passed.
Case of Chuck Schumer
Another example a little closer to home concerns Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who, in 2015, voted with the Republicans against approving President Barack Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal.
According to Ms. Beck, Mr. Schumer was allowed to vote his conscience only because the Democrats did not need his vote.
“Had his vote been needed to approve Obama’s Iran Nuclear Deal, Schumer would have been pressured to change his vote, and he would have caved. Had he refused to obey the party’s leaders, he would not today be Senate Minority Leader,” said Ms. Beck.
NJ’s Fifth District
Recognizing this Beck School of Political Thought principle will be important for all pro-Israel voters this November, and none more so than those in NJ’s L-shaped 5th Congressional District, which, in Bergen County, comprises Orthodox communities in Bergenfield, Fair Lawn, New Milford, Paramus, Woodcliff Lake, and half of Teaneck. The district also includes other towns in Bergen, Passaic, Sussex, and Warren Counties.
From 2003-2017, it was represented by Scott Garrett, a conservative Republican who was reliably pro-Israel, but whose leadership was reserved for hostility towards gay and lesbian candidates for office rather than on any issue of concern to the Jewish state.
In 2016, while a majority in the district voted for Mr. Trump, Mr. Garrett was bested by Josh Gottheimer, a former speech writer for President Bill Clinton and an advisor to Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Gottheimer posits himself as a “moderate, blue-dog” Democrat and, Jewish himself, has proclaimed that he is pro-Israel.
Ms. Beck is unimpressed. “Make no mistake, if the Democrats win the House and Gottheimer’s vote is deemed necessary to pass Articles of Impeachment — or any other bill, for that matter — he will vote with his party. He will have no choice,” said Ms. Beck.
Of Concern to Israel
Many observers believe the Democrats’ push to impeach Mr. Trump may well revolve around issues of importance to Israel. Given Mr. Trump’s popularity in the Jewish state, many Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, are watching the issue of Mr. Trump’s potential impeachment with concern.
And with good reason. According to a recent Pew Research poll, a full 80 percent of Republicans, but only 27 percent of Democrats, say they sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians. Just six percent of Republicans, but a full 25 percent of Democrats, say they sympathize more with the Palestinians.
Seventy-three percent of Republicans say Mr. Trump is “striking the right balance” when it comes to Middle East policy; just 21 percent of Democrats agree with them. Nearly half of Democrats say Mr. Trump favors Israel too much.
“If the Democrats win the House, even if they can’t remove Trump from office, they can oppose every pro-Israel measure he takes. Once again, if Gottheimer’s anti-Israel vote is needed, he will be pressured to join his party, and he will. He may find some way to explain his vote, hoping his pro-Israel constituents will either buy his spin or forget about it in time for the next election, but, rest assured, he will do what his party demands,” said Ms. Beck.
Vying to oppose Mr. Gottheimer are two Republicans who will face off against each other in the GOP Primary scheduled for June 5, 2018. John McCann is a former Cresskill Borough Councilman who was the right-hand man to Bergen County Sheriff Michael Saudino, a Democrat who ran as a Republican and changed parties while in office. The other Republican candidate is Steve Lonegan, who served as Mayor of Bogota from 1995 to 2007, director of Monetary Policy for the American Principles Project, and state director of the NJ chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
As opposed to Mr. McCann, Mr. Lonegan has a long history of support for the Jewish community and issues close to them. Although he had comparatively few Jews among his constituents in Bogota, located directly south of Teaneck, he made clear on several occasions that Jewish issues were his concern.
In 2003, as mayor of Bogota, he was invited to a community brunch in Teaneck sponsored by the American Muslim Union. Before accepting, he did some research and discovered that the group had sponsored rallies calling for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and for the indictment of the “war criminal Ariel Sharon.”
Declining the invitation, Mr. Lonegan said publicly, “I would not validate a group that says Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state.”
Hero of the Teaneck Eruv
In 2004, right in the middle of the battle over the Tenafly eruv, a symbolic boundary marking where Sabbath-observant Jews can carry on Friday nights and Saturdays, Mr. Lonegan approached the Teaneck Eruv Committee. Knowing that they had a hit a snag enclosing the entire town of Teaneck within the symbolic boundary, he promptly offered them the option of solving the problem by extending the eruv into Bogota.
His offer, which was gratefully accepted by the committee and a contingent of Teaneck Orthodox rabbis, signaled the completion of the Teaneck eruv. It is an agreement that is still in effect.
With Mr. Lonegan’s support behind the project, there were no complaints from the Bogota community.
Support for Judea, and Samaria
Shortly after helping complete the Teaneck eruv, Mr. Lonegan joined a Hebron Mission to Israel. Before leaving NJ, the Bogota mayor led his town’s government to forge a sister-city pact with the Samarian community of Beit El.
“In recognition of the plight of Beit El and the challenges here, we felt that declaring a sister city relationship with the community was our best way of showing our support for you,” Mr. Lonegan told the residents of Beit El during the trip.
He pointed out that it was “inconceivable” that Jews should be deported from their own land, noting that every state in the U.S., “from Maine to Alaska,” has a town, county, street, or school named “Bethel.”
“If anyone were to suggest that Jews could not live in Bethel, CT, PA, or Oregon, there would be condemnations all around. Why then should there even be a discussion about whether Jews should live in the original Beit El,” he said.
His continuing support for Israel mirrors that of Sen. Cruz, for whose presidential campaign Mr. Lonegan served as NJ State Chairman. Once Mr. Trump was declared the GOP candidate for president, Mr. Lonegan became his staunch supporter.
Switching Party Registration
The problem for the pro-Israel community in NJ’s 5th District, many of whom are registered Democrats, is to recognize that unless Mr. Lonegan wins the Republican primary on June 5, no one in the district will be able to vote for him against Mr. Gottheimer in the general election in November.
To register as a Republican, print out the form found at http://www.co.bergen.nj.us/DocumentCenter/View/1223. Fill it out and mail to the proper Superintendent of Elections, whose addresses and phone numbers can be found at http://www.njelections.org/voting-information-local-officials.html.
To vote in the primary, changes in affiliation must be completed in writing by April 11.
“Responsible pro-Israel voters who are registered Democrats should switch party affiliation now,” said Ms. Beck. “Right after the primary, they can switch back to being Democrats if they want, but in the 5th District, if they’re not registered Republicans, they won’t be able to vote for Lonegan, which is the best thing they can do for the State of Israel.”
Susan L. Rosenbluth is the editor of the Englewood, NJ-based TheJewishVoiceAndOpinion.com, an online news magazine targeting the observant-Jewish community (from Modern Orthodox to more traditional) and its supporters. As a politically conservative Jewish publication, the website takes as its mission to present news and feature articles not generally available elsewhere in the Jewish or secular media.
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