Conservative/Liberal Keywords (U.S. Politics-Jewish Politics)

chaotic pend large

Fascinating article in the New York Times Sunday magazine about young, tech savvy Republicans attempting to overhaul their party. Much of the story comes together in this account of a focus group of conservative would-be GOP voters, many of whom voted for Obama in 2012. The choice of words chosen to describe conservatives versus liberals says a lot about politics and culture at this current moment in the American zeitgeist.

About an hour into the session, Anderson walked up to a whiteboard and took out a magic marker. “I’m going to write down a word, and you guys free-associate with whatever comes to mind,” she said. The first word she wrote was “Democrat.”

“Young people,” one woman called out.

“Liberal,” another said. Followed by: “Diverse.” “Bill Clinton.”“Change.”“Open-minded.”“Spending.”“Handouts.”“Green.”“More science-based.”

When Anderson then wrote “Republican,” the outburst was immediate and vehement: “Corporate greed.”“Old.”“Middle-aged white men.” “Rich.” “Religious.” “Conservative.” “Hypocritical.” “Military retirees.” “Narrow-minded.” “Rigid.” “Not progressive.” “Polarizing.” “Stuck in their ways.” “Farmers.”

As a self-identifying liberal, it’s nice to see one’s own ideological leanings represented on the right sight of the pendulum. But it causes me a great deal of worry about things that come closer to home, here at JPP, such as religion, Judaism, Israel, Zionism, and support for Israel. What would be the findings of a  similar focus group  organized around those more local points of interest?  I’m pretty sure I know where the chips would fall.

It’s a hunch that suggests to me the pressing need to undo what I would identify as the damage done by extreme conservative tilts, supported in part by big neoconservative money, on the Jewish cultural scene. As conservative intellectuals begin to take stock, Jewish intellectual and institutional leadership might want to consider doing the same in terms of figuring out the lay of the land, especially as it relates to Israel and Zionism. The Jewish world to me seems like it too is in a bad need for some self-recreatation.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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