New York Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Queens) is a friend of mine, despite our differing political parties and philosophies. He and I have spent considerable time together at Orthodox Jewish political events, and I have often attended Shabbat services at David’s synagogue, Young Israel of Jamaica Estates, in Queens. We are both Orthodox Jews.
A few months ago, David was selected by Democratic Party leaders to run as the party candidate in the special election in New York Congressional District 9 to replace the departed disgraced former Representative Anthony Weiner. Soon after that, I said to David in shul, “Congratulations, Congressman Weprin.” The district is so heavily Democratic that I thought that even Larry Flynt could win as the Democratic nominee. I had never even heard of the Republican candidate, Bob Turner, and I saw no chance whatsoever of a GOP upset.
Yet, on Election Day, Tuesday, September 13, 2011, Turner defeated Weprin. This special election is the 2011 version of the 1991 special election for United States Senate in Pennsylvania in which Democrat Harris Wofford defeated Republican Dick Thornburgh, former U.S. Attorney General and Governor of Pennsylvania. Just as Wofford’s 1991 victory presaged the defeat of former President George H. W. Bush in 1992, the 2011 Weprin loss is an unmistakeable portent of Obama’s forthcoming defeat in 2012.
The various pundits will provide explanations for this upset, but overwhelmingly, the key issue in the campaign was the perception, accurate in my view, that Barack Hussein Obama is more adversarial towards the State of Israel than any other president since the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948, even more hostile than Jimmy Carter. This district has one of the largest and most significant Jewish populations in the country. Had the issue simply been Obama’s economic failures, Weprin would have had few Jewish defections, and he would be travelling to Washington today for his swearing-in.
The issue, however, was Israel, and the only way Weprin could have removed the Obama albatross from around his neck would have been to totally repudiate the President. He would have had to say that he would not support the reelection of Barack Hussein Obama under any circumstances. This was something Weprin was unwilling to do, despite his strong criticisms of Obama’s record on Israel.
Israel first became a significant issue in the campaign when former New York City Mayor Ed Koch endorsed Turner, stating that Turner’s victory was necessary to send a message of outrage to President Obama over his anti-Israel policies. I am an admirer of Ed Koch, and I do not in anyway question the pro-Israel motivation of his Turner endorsement. Yet it must also be said that his advocacy of Weprin’s defeat was classic Ed Koch political payback, as explained hereinafter.
The most bitter intra-Democratic Party feud in New York I have seen in modern times was the political war between Koch and former New York State Governor Mario Cuomo. This war was fought in two electoral contests between these two men: 1) the 1977 New York City Democratic mayoral primary, won by Koch; and 2) the 1982 New York State Democratic gubernatorial primary, won by Cuomo.
In both these races, Cuomo was endorsed by David Weprin’s father, the late Saul Weprin, the former Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Ed Koch is a person who doesn’t get angry – he gets even, and he more than got even yesterday.
There was another highly significant Democratic endorsement of Bob Turner against Weprin, that of my very good friend, Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn, the de facto political leader of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community. Obama’s adversarial position towards Israel was one of two key motivating factors in Dov’s endorsement of Turner. The second factor was Weprin’s vote in the New York State Assembly to legalize same sex marriage.
Under Halacha (Jewish law), homosexuality is considered to be a capital offense and an abomination – it is clearly defined as such in the Torah. While a majority of Conservative and Reform Jews support the legalization of same sex marriage, it is opposed overwhelmingly by virtually all Orthodox Jews, both modern and fundamentalist.
Dov Hikind is a person who is only nominally Democratic – his overwhelming priorities in political life are 1) the safety and security of Jewish communities both within and outside Brooklyn, and 2) the preservation of Jewish values. For Hikind, the vote by David Weprin, a fellow Orthodox Jew, to legalize same sex marriage was an affront. David’s vote on this issue also resulted in defections of many leading Orthodox Jewish rabbis to Turner.
Yet disgust with Obama’s anti-Israel policies, rather than Weprin’s support of the legalization of same sex marriage was the paramount reason for Turner’s triumph in the Jewish community. The Weprin defeat presages massive defections of Jewish voters from Obama to the GOP 2012 Presidential nominee, probably Mitt Romney.
The loss of these Jewish voters to his GOP opponent will make it impossible for Obama to win either Florida or Pennsylvania in 2012. Obama’s failure to win either of these two states will accordingly seal his reelection defeat.
Jewish Democrats who still slavishly support Obama in spite of his anti-Israel record, including New Jersey Congressman Steve Rothman, have embarked on a campaign to sanitize Obama’s adversarial record towards Israel and actually attempt to depict him as a pro-Israel president. As shown by David Weprin’s defeat, Jewish voters are reacting to this effort with total disbelief. Their attitude towards this Jewish Democratic outreach may most accurately be described by the old Yiddish saying: Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
The Weprin defeat is devastating to both Obama and his Jewish supporters. Obama’s reelection campaign, already endangered due to his failures on the economy, is now on life support, due to the defection of a key Democratic constituency, the Jewish community, as demonstrated by David Weprin’s defeat last night. Get ready to say President Mitt Romney.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations. Under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He currently serves on the political science faculty of Monmouth University.