$100,000,000 is a lot of cash to blow on defeating President Obama in November, but not for Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino magnate whose wealth is estimated at $25,000,000,000. Is this too the future face of American Judaism, of the American Jewish community? I think all the talk about the Israel Lobby and Jewish power out and about in the world today is a lot of yak. That said, I can’t see how this kind of money in these kinds of amounts can be good for American politics or “good for the Jews.”
Setting aside for the moment that narrow parochial-Jewish or poltical-partisan interest, what interests me about this story has to do with the public profile of a community, the types of subjectivities that can appear in a political “space of appearance,” defined by Hannah Arendt as the space “where I appear to others as others appear to me, where men exist not merely like other living or inanimate things, but to make their appearance explicitly” (Arendt, The Human Condition, 198). I think this is what happens when the space of appearance is opened to huge infusions of private cash.
I guess it’s a free country, which means that you won’t always like what you see in the mirror.The face of Jewish politics in this country was always more public-minded, and this is true if we are talking about liberal, leftwing, or neoconservative politics. Things change, and it’s not always pretty. Watch what happens. As the election cycle rolls along, there’s going to be more and more critical attention paid to Sheldon Adelson.
It’s stomach churning, the new intersection between politics and conservative money, and the way a Jewish face is part of it and is likely going to be a part of the discussion. I know that this is going to cough up a lot of anti-Semitism, and that the Jewish cultural-political right is going to schrei gevalt at the very mention of “Sheldon.” But I think it’s incumbent upon those of us who care about the future of American Judaism and liberal Judaism to be honest and forthright about the impact of money in and upon the American and the American-Jewish public spheres.