That's the question raised by neoconservative Norman Podhoretz in his new book and in his Commentary magazine, which solicited, according to the Times, "six notable American Jewish thinkers" to answer it.
What popped out at me in The Opinionator's roundup of these ruminations was Michael Medved's response -- and one reaction to it. Medved, who is Jewish, hosts a radio show syndicated by the Christian (and arch-conservative) Salem Radio Network. Salem, along with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a conservative, "free enterprise" group, has just launched a drive to deliver an anti-health care reform petition to Republican members of Congress. Salem also owns Townhall.com, which is currently featuring scare stories about ACORN. Last September, the print magazine ran a cover story titled "Obamageddon: Could We Survive a Barack Presidency?" Why would this turn anyone off from conservatism? Gosh, I don't know.
But Medved blames Jews' alleged distaste for Christianity for their liberalism. "Jewish voters don’t embrace candidates based on their support for the state of Israel as much as they passionately oppose candidates based on their identification with Christianity—especially the fervent evangelicalism of the dreaded 'Christian Right.'"
That's the old red herring, of course, that liberals dislike religion, rather than the conservative exploitation of it for political ends. The Opinionator points to a Medved cheerleader, Robert Stacy McCain, who in noting that Medved "nails it" writes that liberal "demonization" of the religious right "is both amazingly effective and fundamentally false. The Republican Party is chiefly devoted to political policies having nothing specifically to do with evangelical Christianity. Yet there is an entire industry of liberal propagandists who specialize in seeking out various outre pronouncements of 'Religious Right' leaders and presenting these views as if they would become firm policy in the next Republican administration." (emphasis mine)
Guilty as charged, I suppose. What would you call abstinence-only funding, the faith-based initiative, funding restrictions for stem cell research, or gay-marriage bans, and the like?
It's really quite obvious that the Republican Party cares not a whit about evangelical politics. That must be why religious right heavyweights had a direct line to Bush and Cheney; why congressional leadership is willing to take ownership of the aforementioned anti-health care reform petition; why 2012 presidential hopefuls are going to cozy up with the "values voters" next week; and why congressional leadership is participating in tonight's "townhall" hosted by the Family Research Council. I could go on.
Of course Medved and McCain protest so much because they want conservatism to seem reasonable and mainstream. In fact, McCain proposes encouraging "Jewish families to move to small towns in the Heartland, where their kids can grow up hunting, fishing and hot-rodding the backroads. A guy with a gun rack in the back window of his four-wheel drive truck may occasionally vote Democrat, but he’s extremely unlikely to be an out-and-out liberal." Because, you know, Jews -- and liberals -- aren't real Americans.