Not long after the Tories were defeated in last year’s federal election, some pundits started to speculate that Canada would experience a long-term political shift.
What would this entail? The pundits didn’t know for sure. Yet their magical crystal balls of (ahem) wisdom suggested a significant realignment of policies, ideas, individuals and groups.
Jews could certainly be included in the mix.
The two Jewish Tory MPs, Joe Oliver and Mark Adler, both lost their seats. All seven Jewish MPs in the current Parliament are Liberals. Former prime minister Stephen Harper, a strong supporter of Israel, stepped down as Tory leader. And while an informal Canadian Jewish News poll held Sept. 25 to Oct. 7, 2015, showed Jewish support at 44 per cent Tory, 40 per cent Liberal and 14 per cent NDP, exit polls – when they’re released – could show different results.
This is the scenario some Canadian Jews desperately want to see. They can keep on dreaming in technicolour, because it ain’t going to happen.
Jewish political and economic views have changed, improved and, quite frankly, grown up in recent years. This community’s historical infatuation with the political left is over. While support will obviously shift from election to election, no political party can claim that it has a monopoly on Jewish voters.
Interestingly, a similar discussion about Jews occurred a few years ago, not in Canada, but in the United States.
It happened just after former Republican house leader Eric Cantor’s stunning loss in his Virginia primary battle against David Brat in June 2014. Some publications played up the fact that the only Jewish Republican in both houses of Congress had been sent packing.
The New York Times reported David Wasserman’s inference that Cantor was “culturally out of step with a redrawn district that was more rural, more gun-oriented and more conservative.” Wasserman, who works for the Cook Political Report, directly said, “Part of this plays into his religion. You can’t ignore the elephant in the room.”
The Huffington Post went even further. It noted Cantor’s defeat left “congressional Republicans without a non-Christian member,” since he was “the second-ranking House Republican and highest-ranking Jewish member.”
It wasn’t not too hard to figure out the underlying message. Moderate-thinking Jews may not have a home in the GOP any longer if someone like Cantor couldn’t survive the wrath of conservative Republicans and Tea Party activists.
The whole argument was ridiculous.
Cantor had a 23-year political career in a state with a population that’s about one per cent Jewish. Virginia’s 7th District, which has always been primarily rural and Christian, clearly didn’t have a problem with a religious Jew as its representative, either.
Cantor was also, for the most part, a centre-right Republican. He’s pro-free trade and a strong supporter of capitalism. He’s opposed to gun control and had an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. He’s pro-life (100 per cent rating by the National Right to Life Committee) and opposed to gay marriage.
As well, Cantor didn’t lose his Republican primary because he was Jewish. He lost because he ran a poor campaign.
The Washington Post reported on June 6, 2014, that he was leading 62 per cent to 28 per cent against Brat, based on an “internal survey of 400 likely Republican primary voters.” By most accounts, Cantor took his big lead for granted and assumed he would win. As CNN Politics executive director Mark Preston mentioned, “this is a perfect example of somebody here in Washington who has gotten a little bit lazy and they didn’t act quick enough to win their primary.”
Fortunately, there were other Jewish Republicans in U.S. politics. One of them, New York’s Lee Zeldin, was elected to the House of Representatives that very year.
American Jewish Republicans are, therefore, on the road to recovery. Their Canadian Tory cousins will soon join them. A small political setback doesn’t lead to a massive political earthquake, folks.