Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Why Does Jennifer Rubin Hate American Jews?

When DougJ asked "why do so many right-wing Jewish Americans hate other Jewish Americans so much" in response to reading this Jennifer Rubin piece asking "Why Jews Hate Palin", I thought he might have been being a bit harsh. Then I read the Rubin article, and, geez, I'm eating my words. Rubin's piece simply drips with contempt towards the American Jewish community. They are just outraged that Jews are Jews. We saw the same thing when Norman Podhoertz published Why are Jews Liberal (Leon Wieseltier's evisceration of this was classic).

There are two things going on here. First is Rubin's befuddlement that Jews don't run like teen rock fans into the arms of anyone who is "vocally" pro-Israel. We're savvy enough to interrogate what that means, and not everyone who says (or even believes) they are pro-Israel actually qualifies in a manner consistent with how Jews understand the term. Palin's creepily maximalist positions on the conflict are way out of the Jewish mainstream -- her position here is a bug, not a feature! And no, it's not a manifestation of "stereotypes" against Christian evangelicals to say so. We're entitled to choose what constitutes being our friend.

Second, while Rubin at least doesn't succumb to the common misconception that Jews are single-issue Israel voters, she does brush all the other issues we care about aside with careless ease (how many brownie points is she supposed to earn because she didn't commit to pursuing an actively "creationist" agenda as Governor?). Sarah Palin inspires special animosity amongst Jews because Sarah Palin is currently the highest profile member of the purely anti-intellect, theocratic wing of the Republican Party that is an anathema to virtually all of the broadly held positions of the average American Jew. I doubt, say, Jim Inhofe would fare much better if he had been nominated for Vice President (I was trying to think of another politician who is not just as identified with the far right as Palin is, but at least approaches her positive vibration of hostility towards intellectual attainment).

And our other (supposed) attributes are met with nothing short of seething hatred. Jews are snobby elitists, Jews don't have respect for the working class, Jews look down on anyone who isn't sipping a latte at a Harvard bookstore, Jews would never stoop so low as to join the military or play hockey. It's amazing to me that it's a Jewish writer we're dealing with here -- this simply a litany of anti-Jewish stereotypes. Moreover, she even throws into the pile a bunch of supposed "problems" with Palin that had no linkage to the Jewish community whatsoever except through her amateur psychoanalysis. Jews don't like the "sexual" Palin because they like their female politicians frumpy. Jews don't like Palin having five kids because we're post-sexual revolution liberals who hold mothers in contempt (or something -- maybe it's because Jewish women are frigid? It was a bit more incoherent than usual here).

It is certainly true that Jews value education, intellect, and policy knowledge greatly. And we're perfectly willing to admire these traits when they manifest in persons of whatever background (Bill Clinton grew up dirt poor, and Joe Biden comes from decidedly working-class Scranton with degrees from not-exactly-elite Delaware and Syracuse). Governor Palin isn't just missing these qualities, she holds active contempt for them. She doesn't just govern on "instinct", she thinks wonks are worthy of scorn. She doesn't just come from a rural area, she thinks that city-dwellers aren't real Americans (I have continued concern about how the distinctive GOP trope rallying against "urban intellectual elites" is an anti-Semitic dogwhistle). She doesn't just lack basic awareness of important political issues, she actively seeds misinformation.

Of course we're going to dislike her. She is the culmination of every trend in the modern Republican Party that's led to its virtual abandonment by the Jewish community.

That's why Jews hate Sarah Palin. The question is, why does Jennifer Rubin hate us so much for it?

UPDATE: See also Ned Resnikoff, Capital J, and especially David Frum.


joe said...

It's an article of faith on the right that conservative government/values make everyone better off (through trickle-down economics, morality, etc.). So they'll say the same thing about college students, minorities (except when railing against "welfare queens"), union members, really anyone except those terrible biased college professors that don't teach Intelligent Design. And if you buy into that strongly enough basically anyone who doesn't agree with Sarah Palin must be either malicious or some kind of dupe.

Now that's certainly not an unusual tendency for anyone subscribing to an ideology. Liberals have "What's the Matter with Kansas," for example, but at least seem to concede (though not broadcast) that it's not really in the self-interest of the top income brackets to tax be taxed more.

PG said...

it's not really in the self-interest of the top income brackets to tax be taxed more.

Yeah, during the last election I wanted to write a response to Frank titled, "What's the Matter with Goldman?"

joe said...

Having just read Rubin's piece, I can say it's certifiably ridiculous. First, Rubin doesn't even empirically back her premise. All she cites, besides anecdotes, is a disapproval rating that tells us nothing on its own. in fact, just by the numbers provided, if 34% of American Jews approved of McCain's selection of Palin she may even be quite popular for a Republican seeing as McCain only got about 1-in-5 Jewish voters. Of course,that's a lot of conjecture. If Rubin really wanted to show that Palin is somehow uniquely hated by Jews she'd compare that approval/disapproval rating with other Republicans, particularly VP nominees. The absence of such a comparison suggests an author is probably not too bright or hiding the ball, or at best very lazy.

Or has about the same respect for the intellectual faculties of her rightist readership as she attributes to her targets.

Then there's her claim that stuff like hockey mom-ishness and "sexy librarian" were something cooked up by Democrats to scare Jews. Funny, I remember those being the big selling points that were hyped to the conservative "base." Not to mention the barf-inducing bullshit "Sarah Barracuda" trivia Karl Rove and his ilk kept bringing up time and time again.

I can't understand how anyone would want to blog about politics. Read that crap all day long? No thanks.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled on this post, but think that you are totally wrong. Jennifer Rubin's initial article was not dripping with contempt for American Jews. She was trying to explain why the animosity felt towards Sarah Palin among the Jewish community as a whole is so extreme. Rubin identifies a number of ways in which Palin is so culturally at odds with most American Jews. Now, Rubin may be wrong. Maybe any politician with conservative views would face the same contempt that Palin receives, but personally I doubt it. My impression is that Palin receives an extra helping of contempt. I think Rubin is right on when she explains that American Jews are especially contemptuous of Palin because she is so culturally different, with Jews viewing her as intellectually unfit, and as emphasizing rural and athletic themes and values that are unfamiliar and strange to urban, conventionally educated Jews. I also agree with Rubin that Palin's decision not to have an abortion is a factor as well. Now, Rubin (and I) might be wrong. Maybe there is no extra contempt towards Palin, and that (most) Jews feel the same way towards all conservatives. It is obviously also difficult and dangerous to generalize about why "the Jews" feel a certain way about something. So, while Rubin may be wrong, she is not dripping with contempt.