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Thank you West Virginia for being Joe Manchin’s conscience

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Thank you West Virginia for being Joe Manchins conscience

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted today to push cloture on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. The White House is confident the Senator will also vote for Kavanaugh during tomorrow’s final confirmation vote. Assuming this is the case, we can thank the good people of West Virginia for making Senator Manchin aware of their feelings.

The state in which President Trump won every county in 2016 really likes Manchin. Though he’s a Democrat, he’s known for voting in the best interests of his constituents instead of staying along party lines 100% of the time as so many Senators do. Rarely, though, has Manchin been the deciding vote. That may be the case if either Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) or Susan Collins (R-ME) switch their votes to go against Kavanaugh tomorrow.

Manchin doesn’t want to be in that position.

Even if he’s put into that situation, I’m very hopeful that he will continue to listen to the people in his state and represent their will. They want Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court Justice. Manchin’s party does not. Who will win over the Senator? We the People.

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Democrats

Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez really Jewish?

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Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez really Jewish

The congresswoman’s Jewish possible ancestors shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. But the idea that her leftist stands are somehow authentically Jewish is troubling.

 At a time when DNA tests are a national craze, as well as source of political controversy, we shouldn’t be surprised about claims of Jewish identity from anyone. But when they come from someone as controversial as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the expressions of joy and dismay about her possible connection to the tribe were predictably partisan and downright foolish.

The incoming member of Congress from Queens, N.Y., made headlines when she told those in attendance at a synagogue Hanukkah party in her district over the weekend that “a very, very long time ago, generations and generations ago, my family consisted of Sephardic Jews.”

As she explained, the people of her native Puerto Rico are descendants of many different strains of immigrants, including those Jews who fled Spain in the 15th century. Within her family’s collective memory is some sense of having been descended at least partly from such Jews.

Those who already liked the young Democratic Socialist, who has become the rock star of her party, were thrilled that she could be claimed as part of the family. On the other hand, Jews who dislike her leftist politics were disgusted. It was a rerun of what happened when House Speaker Paul Ryan found out that his DNA was 3 percent Ashkenazi Jewish during historian Henry Louis Gates’s “Finding Your Roots” PBS TV program. Liberal Jews responded to that item with nasty partisan abuse, as well as declarations that he wasn’t wanted. Ocasio-Cortez’s detractors were quick to use the same sort of invective.

But those who accused her of attempting to steal Jewish identity weren’t being fair. This is unlike the antics of fellow Democrat Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who attempted to back up her claims of Native American identity with a DNA test that showed that, at best, she was 1/64th descended from either the Cherokee or Delaware tribes. Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t pretending to be Jewish or trying to show that DNA was identity, let alone to justify using it for personal advancement as the senator allegedly did when she claimed to be the first “woman of color” to be named a professor at Harvard Law School.

Attacks on her for mentioning her Catholic family’s memories of their partial Jewish past were inappropriate. We know that 20 centuries of post-exile persecution has resulted in many branches falling away from the Jewish ancestral tree, so her story is hardly uncommon. It is also a heartening sign of the times that prominent non-Jews are proud about their Jewish roots, rather than—as would have been the case in the not-so-distant past—feel shame about it.

The tenuous connections between her family, or that of Ryan and any long-lost Jewish ancestors, are merely intellectual curiosities. Still, two aspects of the issue are worth some comment.

One is the danger that someone with some claims to Jewish identity will use it selectively in order to justify taking a stand against Israel. Over the decades, we’ve seen that happen with a number of writers or politicians who have few ties to their Jewish heritage, yet trot it out as a credential that enables them to express anger, embarrassment or outrage about the conflict in the Middle East. The “not in my name” meme in which Jews who know next to nothing about Israel and its geopolitical dilemmas seek to disassociate themselves from Israelis fighting for their lives is despicable. If Ocasio-Cortez were ever to use such a rhetorical device to justify siding with her close allies—incoming House Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib—who are supporters of the anti-Semitic BDS movement that seeks Israel’s destruction, that would be outrageous.

Yet there’s another more serious argument to be addressed. It’s the theme sounded in the Forward after the latest Ocasio-Cortez story broke—that the Socialist politician is actually more authentically Jewish because of her politics than conservative or Zionist Jews.

Part of this mindset is the notion that modern American political liberalism and Judaism are interchangeable. It’s more than just an old joke to say that many American Jews conceive of their faith as more or less the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in. While it’s an insult to Judaism to conceive of it as nothing more than an elaborate theological justification for partisan politics, it’s also true that many American Jews see their faith as determining their votes. In that sense, there are Jews who see American Jewish conservatives or supporters of the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as representing a point of view that is alien to their conception of what it means to be Jewish.

More troubling is the idea that a loose sense of identity in which a multicultural frame of reference about the world—as opposed to a strictly Jewish one—is more representative of the way young Jews think today. Given the demographic implosion of non-Orthodox Jews in the United States, it is hardly surprising that some Jews think this way, but the consequences in terms of a decline in a sense of Jewish peoplehood are obvious and serious. If we begin to worship inclusion and diversity to the point where Jewish parochialism and nationalism, even in its most benign forms, are rejected as illiberal, then we will be part of a community that stands for nothing and is incapable of sustaining itself.

The real tragedy is that too many young Jews see Jewish observance or Zionism as antithetical to their progressive political views. If we get to the point where Ocasio-Cortez’s sensibilities about Israel or those of others on the left who might falsely regard Zionism as a form of racism because it contradicts their intersectional beliefs are accepted as legitimate Jewish perspectives, that will be a disaster. If such views are seen as more authentically Jewish than that of a typical Israeli or an affiliated Jew, then we will have arrived at a point where Jewish identity in this country for all too many of us will be nothing more than a meaningless percentage on a DNA test.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS — Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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Democrats

Schumer, Pelosi demonstrate why Democrats are right to want new blood in leadership

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Schumer Pelosi demonstrate why Democrats are right to want new blood in leadership

Today’s episode of Kabuki theater in DC featured Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi playing partisan politics as usual. It was embarrassing for both of them, and while President Trump wasn’t flawless in his counterattacks, his arguments were sound and he left with the upper hand going forward.

Let’s set aside the border wall or government funding debate for a moment and focus on the tired tactics employed by the two leaders of the Democratic Party on Capitol Hill. One would think that by now, they’d know how to handle their White House nemesis, but they don’t. They even handed the President a victory by letting him “take the mantle” of the impending government shutdown. By accepting responsibility for shutting down the government for the sake of border security, the President demonstrated a rare case of rational and unexpected turning of the tables on the Democrats.

Schumer and Pelosi likely see it as a victory, but when it’s spun and respun in the minds of the people, they’ll realize he did what Schumer and his cronies have always failed to do. He took responsibility for his actions. He is taking a stand and noted that during the previous shutdown, which was initiated by Schumer, everybody pointed fingers. Nobody took responsibility. This is going to count for something.

But let’s get back to the need for new blood in Democratic leadership. I am neither a Republican nor Democrat; currently I’m a conservative Independent who believed in the Federalist Party when I co-founded it but have grown disenchanted with the current direction of that party, so I essentially have no horse in this race. I am by no means rooting for Democrats or offering them advice, but as an impartial observer I can say their recent victories in the midterm election will be meaningless if they retain current leadership.

The only thing funnier than watching Schumer fumble about with his attempt at righteous indignation was watching Pelosi handle her own inspired moment with the elegance of an orangutan. Her attempts to chastise the President were forced and fumbled. She seemed completely outwitted and outmatched.

Democrats can do better. I don’t want them to do better; having Chuck and Nancy leading the charge will only embarrass the Democrats more. But it’s still noteworthy after listening to some of the more eloquent members of their caucus that these two are no longer in touch with the people they purportedly represent.

As the party continues to drift further to the left, Schumer and Pelosi are remnants of days past when bipartisanship and brinkmanship could coexist. That’s not the case today and it may never be the case again. They’re part of the same elite their party despises.

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Democrats

Trump to meet with Democrats about border wall, shutdown

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Trump to meet with Democrats about border wall shutdown

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders are seeking to avert a partial government shutdown amid a sharp dispute over Trump’s border wall and a lengthy to-do list that includes a major farm bill and a formal rebuke of Saudi Arabia for the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Trump is set to confer Tuesday at the White House with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer ahead of a Dec. 21 deadline to shut down a range of government agencies.

“Republicans still control the House, the Senate and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement Monday.

“Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown,” the Democrats said, adding that Trump “knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”

Republican congressional leaders have repeatedly said it’s up to Trump to cut a deal with Democrats, an acknowledgement of their own inability to produce spending bills with Republican votes alone.

That gives Democrats some momentum heading into the closed-door talks, which also could veer into Trump’s request for emergency funding for deadly wildfires in California and a Republican-sponsored bill to extend expiring tax breaks and delay some health care taxes.

Before lawmakers adjourn for the year they also may consider a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill, a bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller and a plan to overhaul the system for handling sexual harassment complaints on Capitol Hill.

By far the biggest unresolved issue is the border wall. Trump wants the next funding package to include at least $5 billion for it, an idea Democrats have flatly rejected.

Pelosi and Schumer have urged Trump to support a bill that includes a half-dozen government funding bills largely agreed upon by lawmakers, along with a separate measure that funds the Department of Homeland Security at current levels through Sept. 30. The homeland bill includes about $1.3 billion for fencing and other security measures at the border.

If Trump does not agree to that, Democrats will likely urge a continuing resolution that funds all the remaining appropriations bills at current levels through Sept. 30, an aide said. The aide was not authorized to discuss strategy by name and requested anonymity.

Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for the wall and called illegal immigration a “threat to the well-being of every American community.”

At an appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game and said it was one he ultimately would win.

“I actually think the politics of what they’re doing is very bad for them,” Trump said of Democrats. “We’re going to very soon find out. Maybe I’m not right. But usually I’m right.”

Pelosi, who is seeking to become House speaker in January, said she and many other Democrats consider the wall “immoral, ineffective and expensive” and noted that Trump promised during the 2016 campaign that Mexico would pay for the wall, an idea Mexico has repeatedly rejected.

Protecting borders “is a responsibility we honor, but we do so by honoring our values as well,” Pelosi said last week.

Schumer said Democrats want to work with Trump to avert a shutdown, but said money for border security should not include the concrete wall Trump has envisioned. Instead, the money should be used for fencing and technology that experts say is appropriate, Schumer said.

“We do not want to let a Trump temper tantrum govern our policies or cause the shutdown of a government, which everyone on both sides of the aisle knows is the wrong idea,” Schumer said. If Trump “wants to shut down the government over Christmas over the wall, that’s his decision,” he said.

Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Trump was all that stands between fully funding the government and a shutdown.

“Time and again, President Trump has used the government of the American people as a bargaining chip for his fabricated solution to his manufactured crisis,” Leahy said Monday in a Senate speech.

Trump “wants to score a made-for-reality-TV moment and he doesn’t care how many hardworking Americans will suffer for it,” Leahy said. “This is not about border security. This is about politics, pure and simple.”

But House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said Democrats were the ones playing politics.

Trump “wants to secure the border. He got elected president on that platform,” Scalise told Fox News Channel.

If there’s a better way to secure the border than the $5 billion plan Trump has laid out, Democrats “need to come with an alternative,” Scalise said Monday. “They can’t come and say they want to shut the government down for no reason because they don’t want border security. They’ll lose that argument with the American people.”

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said Monday he does not believe Trump or Democrats want to shut the government down.

“When I was with him the indication was he didn’t want to shut the government down, but he did want his wall,” Shelby said.

___

AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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