DALLAS (Aug. 26)
President Reagan and Vice President George Bush left here to begin a campaign for their re-election in which they hope to turn the Republican Party into the majority party in the United States. This includes a strong effort to increase the Republican vote in the Jewish community which gave 40 percent of its vote to Reagan in 1980.
But while support for Israel will be stressed as part of this effort it may not be the main focus as both Reagan and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Walter Mondale, will not be contesting whether the U.S. should support Israel, but which of the two is the greater friend of the Jewish State.
However, while Mondale did not mention Israel in his acceptance speech in San Francisco in July, leaving it to his running mate, Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York, both Reagan and Bush did, in brief mentions of the Mideast in their acceptance speeches to the Republican national convention last night.
PLEDGE NOT TO SELL OUT ISRAEL
“In the Middle East, it remains difficult to bring an end to historic conflicts — but we are not discouraged, “Reagan said. “And we shall always maintain our pledge never to sell out one of our closest friends — the State of Israel.”
Bush,outlining the Reagan Administration’s accomplishments abroad, said, “We are reaching out to more countries in the Middle East, and our relations with Israel have never been stronger.”
The Republicans are also pointing out that their platform supports a free trade area between Israel and the U.S. while the Democrats do not mention this in their platform. But the Democratic Party platform supports moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and rejects providing sophisticated arms to Arab countries, two issues which the GOP platform ignores.
FOCUS ON DOMESTIC ISSUES
However, it is in the domestic area that the Republicans apparently feel they can make gains in the Jewish community, particularly because of the anti-Semitic remarks that came out of the unsuccessful campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, especially of Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan.
Republicans at the convention here made much of that. Their platform denounces anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry while the Democrats failed to do so.
Both Reagan and Bush alluded to this in their acceptance speeches. “We don’t lump people by groups or special interests, “Reagan asserted.” And, let me add, in the party of Lincoln, there is no room for intolerance, and, not even a small corner for anti-Semitism or bigotry or any kind. Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots.”
Bush was even more blunt. “Let this be heard loud and clear: Ronald Reagan has protected and will continue to protect the rights of all Americans,” he said. “Discrimination based on race, religion, sex or age will never be tolerated by this President or this Vice President. And furthermore, we condemn the vicious anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan and the ugly bigotry of the Ku Klux Klan.”
However, the Republicans may have their own problems in the Jewish community on platform planks that many feel threaten the Constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state. The most important of these issues is the call for prayer in the public schools. But there are other points, such as tuition tax credits for parents of parochial school students, a Constitutional amendment opposing abortions, and the call for a Constitutional Convention if Congress does not adopt a Constitutional Amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. While there are differences of opinion on these issues among Jews, Jewish organizations have been in the lead in opposing them.
Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., Republican national chairman, told a press conference during the convention that Presidential candidates from both parties have, historically, not felt bound by the platform nor have candidates for the House and Senate. Moderate Republicans running for election or re-election this year have already said they will not support the platform on these issues.
ISSUE OF RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE
But Reagan has always been in favor of these issues. At an ecumenical prayer breakfast here Thursday morning, Reagan accused opponents of school prayer of being “intolerant” of religion. He attacked the Democrats on the school prayer issue in his acceptance speech.
“If our opponents were as vigorous in supporting our voluntary prayer amendment as they are in raising taxes, maybe we could get the Lord back in our school rooms and drugs and violence out,” Reagan said. Bush also put in a plug for school prayer in his speech. “We believe kids in school should not be prohibited from prayer, ” he said. (Jewish organizations denounced Reagan’s remarks. See Separate Story.)
Reagan also pressed the tuition tax saying: “There is no longer any good reason to hold back passage of tuition tax credits legislation. Millions of average parents pay their full share of taxes to support public schools while choosing to send their children to parochial or other independent schools. Doesn’t fairness dictate that they should have some help in carrying this double burden?”
THE ROLE OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT
The social issues adopted in the Republican platform are part of the agenda of the religious right, and Christian Evangelists have had a major influence in the convention. Such television preachers as M.G. (Pat) Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Rev. Jerry Falwell were active here in the week before and during the convention and Falwell gave the benediction Wednesday night.
While many Jews have expressed concern about this in fluence, the members of the National Jewish Coalition for Reagan-Bush have denied that this will affect the campaign. The Jewish Republican group was visibly active during the convention and expects to play a major role in the campaign, especially in seven key states with large Jewish populations — California, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Illinois. They believe Reagan will do better in the Jewish community this year than in 1980. Jack Abramoff, a 25-year-old student at the George town Law Center in Washington, D.C., who is chairman of the College Republican National Committee and a leader of the Jewish Youth for Reagan Bush, believes that the strongest support for Reagan among Jews will be in those ages 18 to 27. Thirty percent of this group is registered as Republicans.
Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, said while many young Jews started as Democrates “they find them-selves leaving the Democratic Party because of its increasingly radical stands which threaten our economic security and international strength.” He said that young Jews “know that a strong Israel needs a strong America, and it is the Republican Party which best promotes this ideal …”
Abramoff, who addressed the opening session of the Republican convention, said this was a sign that the party wants to reach out to American Jews.
ISSUES OF CONCERN TO JEWS
Hyman Bookbinder, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, described the issues of particular concern to the Jewish community in a speech to the AJCommittee’s Dallas chapter last Tuesday.
But he stressed, “Jews do not make their political judgements only on the basis of Jewish issues. The Jewish community is not monolithic on the broad economic, social and international issues. Surveys show they are no longer as liberal as they used to be, but not as conservative as the general American electorate.”
Bookbinder warned that “candidates seeking support of Jewish voters, therefore, should address themselves to the broad range of public issues and not risk offending them by a narrow parochial single issue agenda.”
However, Jews do not want the issues of special concern to them ignored by the candidates. The first sign of how the fall compaign will be conducted in the Jewish community will come after Labor Day when both Reagan and Mondale address the biennial convention of B’nai B’rith International in Washington, D.C.