Last week I attended a four-day Jewish conference. Having attended it several times over the past several years, I am fully aware of the prominently left-liberal leanings of the crowd (which has comprised anywhere from 500-1200 people).
That has meant righties like myself have had to tread lightly when political discussions come up. I pick my battles carefully and stick in my two shekels only when I’m pretty sure my audience is somewhat open to debate without confrontation or ad hominem attacks. In fact, my usual contingent of friends at this conference—all left-of-center—know where I stand and we’ve actually engaged in lively debates around the meal tables.
Anyone else of my ideological ilk at this conference I’ve been able to count on one hand. And I didn’t expect that to change this year ‘round. But what follows is something I did not expect:
Someone at this year’s conference thought it would be a good idea to hold lunchtime discussions on various topics regarding Judaism, but the one that caught my eye immediately was, “Barack or Mitt: Who’s better for the Jews.” Assuming I was going to be the token Romney supporter, I eventually mustered up enough courage to sign up for that one.
When I walked into the classroom there were only three other people. None of us had met before and after introductions I immediately assumed I was going to be the lone Romney supporter: There was a woman in her late 40’s/early 50’s from Washington State, a young woman around 30 who was from Boston and a graduate of the very left-feminist Bryn Mawr College, and a young man in his early 20’s from Washington, D.C.
Well, you can imagine my surprise when both young people explained how their constantly being surrounded by nonstop liberal ism had turned them into hard core Republicans! Granted, their social predilections were more on the liberal side but still, these two young people knew well enough to vote Republican in 2008 and they were definitely going to it again in November. Only the older woman was a Democrat, and even she said she was coming to this discussion with an open mind about the other side!
About 45 minutes into our discussion, during which we three Republicans were as respectful and tolerant toward the lone Democrat as possible, a fifth person came in. He was around 70 and I’ve known him through this conference for many years. He’s your staunch liberal Democrat, and during those Bush years, he and I had gone back and forth quite passionately, so his entrance into the debate really riled things up. Still, at this Jewish conference, Republicans still outnumbered Democrats.
Then another woman (mid 50’s?) came in to the classroom, but not to join the convsersation. She was delivering the workshop that was scheduled in that room following lunch and came early to set up. Well, not even five minutes after our conversation continued, that woman piped in from the opposite corner of the room, and proceeded to deliver the most delicious anti-Obama rant I’d heard all week!
So, to tally up, at a conference of around 500 predominantly liberal Jews, I was sitting in a classroom where people were invited to discuss the upcoming presidential election and Romney supporters outnumbered Obamabots 2-1!
Where were the other Obama supporters, I thought? Were they busy participating at a lunch conversation in another classroom? Why were they not here making a case for their Golden Calf?
Whatever the reason, you can imagine I left that lunch discussion a little more optimistic about Obama and the Jewish vote. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware he’ll get the majority of us. But it seems it won’t be as much as last time around.