Dispute over deal with Iran aids effort by Dold
by RUSS STEWART
Hell hath no fury like aged, ancient self-righteous politicians scorned. When former Democratic 10th U.S. House District congressman Brad Schneider, who was noted more for his timidity than his toughness during one unremarkable term in Washington, had the temerity to criticize and oppose the Obama Administration’s Iran nuclear deal, a firestorm erupted on the North Shore. How dare he?
"He’s abandoned the president," groused former Democratic U.S. senator Adlai Stevenson, who last ran for office in 1974 and who doesn’t live in the district. Stevenson said that Schneider has jeopardized "global security" and "American authority." Nary a word about Israel’s security or the fact that Iran, despite the deal and inspections, will still be able to have nuclear weapons by 2030.
Stevenson endorsed Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering, as did another wheezing warhorse, former U.S. representative Abner Mikva, who was last on the ballot in 1978. America "needs more statesmen and fewer politicians," Stevenson said. What he really meant is that America needs more accomodationist Jewish officials who disrespect Israel, ignore the Muslim world’s jihad, support Palestine’s claims to nationhood and Israeli territory, and don’t want to militarily eradicate Islam.
Among the media and university elite — and among a lot of U.S. Jews — Israel is disdained as militaristic and nationalistic. Muslims are lamented as a "dispossessed" people, victimized by the "warmongering" Israelis, who have "colonized" the Middle East and are an "occupying power."
People forget that Israel is a tiny country, about the size of New Jersey, with a population of 6 million surrounded by more than 100 million Arabs. Liberals and the president subscribe to the "one state" theory — that Palestine and Israel should be merged as one nation, with a Muslim voting majority, and eventually a Muslim government with access to all of Israel’s weapons, nuclear included.
Against this backdrop, the 2016 10th District race is unfolding. The incumbent is Bob Dold, a moderate Republican who has worked hard to appeal to the district’s Jewish voters, who make up 20 to 25 percent of the population and who have demonstrated some propensity to support a specific kind of Republicans: socially liberal (pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control), fiscally conservative, a military hawk, and a Friend of Israel. That brand, which excluded pro-Reagan, pro-Bush and religious-oriented Republicans, was typified by longtime congressmen John Porter (1980 to 2000) and Mark Kirk (2000 to 2010), now a senator. Each compiled an identifiably "independent" record, and each ran 10 to 15 percent ahead of the Republican presidential candidate.
In 1984 Ronald Reagan got 153,880 votes (68 percent of the total) and Porter got 153,330 (73 percent). In 1988 Porter got 158,519 votes (73 percent), to 143,022 for George Bush. By 1996 Porter had 145,626 votes (69 percent), to 97,434 for Bob Dole. In 2000, when Porter aide Kirk ran, he had 121,582 votes (51 percent of the total), edging a Jewish woman, Lauren Beth Gash, while George W. Bush got 110,427 votes (45 percent). By 2008, despite the Obama tide, Kirk got 153,082 votes (53 percent), to 114,035 (38 percent) for John McCain.
Even as the district was becoming more liberal and more Democratic, voters seemed to want to prove their independence by voting for every Democrat except their congressman, and Kirk was careful to regularly break with his party and to raise lots of money.
The applecart was upset in 2011 by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, who crafted a remap to eliminate Dold, who won Kirk’s seat 109,941-105,290 in 2010, a margin of 4,651 votes over shopworn Democrat Daniel Seals, who lost in 2006 and 2008. The old 10th District was split between Cook and Lake counties, stretching from Lake Michigan west to Palatine and Arlington Heights, roughly north of Golf Road, and running north of Lake Forest, east of Interstate 94. The Madigan map chopped out the Republican west suburbs and added North Chicago, Waukegan and Zion. The Hispanic population rose from 15.6 percent to 21.6 percent, and the black population increased from 4.7 percent to 7 percent. That was just enough.
In a 2012 turnout of 262,952, Barack Obama beat Mitt Romney 157,400-112,252 (with 58 percent of the vote), while Schneider topped Dold 133,890-130,564 (with 51 percent), a margin of 3,326 votes. Schneider ran 23,510 votes behind Obama and still won. Schneider won the 144 Cook County precincts 30,395-29,175 and the 309 Lake County precincts 103,495-101,389.
In the 2014 rematch, Dold rebounded to win 98,984-88,010 (with 51.6 percent of the vote), a margin of 5,974 votes in a turnout of 181,984. Turnout was down by 67,000 from 2012 to 2014. The common thread: If turnout is less than 200,000, it means a lower minority vote, and a Republican can win. The 2016 election does not loom as a low-turnout year. Other variables:
Money: According to the June 30 federal disclosures, Dold had $1,049,058 in campaign funds on hand, to $482,834 for Schneider and $660,655 for Rotering, including a $200,000 loan from herself. In the pricey Chicago media market, saturation television ads will be required. In 2014 Schneider spent $4.3 million and Dold spent $3.1 million. The 2016 election will cost $8 million, and the Democratic primary will cost $2 million.
Selective votes: Back in 2012 Dold voted against banning abortion after 20 months. In 2015 he opposed repealing "Obamacare." Dold recently voted against defunding Planned Parenthood. Dold is pro-choice on abortion, and he supports gay marriage and backs gun control. He’s not a Newt Gingrich-type congressman. Schneider’s 2014 barrage of ads tying him to U.S. House Republican "extremists" fell flat. "He will be tough to beat," one Lake County Democratic activist said. Dold also has been a consistent backer of selling advanced weaponry to Israel, and he is opposed to the Iran nuclear deal.
Base: Dold, of Kenilworth, is entrenched in Cook County, which includes 30 precincts in Maine Township, eight in New Trier Township, 42 in Northfield Township and 30 in Wheeling Township. Even so, he barely carried that area (21,556-21,315) in 2014. Schneider’s base is Deerfield, but Dold carried Lake County 74,436-69,821 in 2014. Rotering, who like Schneider is Jewish, has a base along the Lakefront, in Highland Park, Highwood and Glencoe. While Schneider has higher name recognition, he suffers from the Dan Seals syndrome. Seals ran credible races in 2006 and 2008, but he collapsed when he got his big chance against Dold in 2010. Rotering is running as a "fresh face" who does not have a pro-Obama voting record to defend.
In the 2012 Democratic primary, when turnout was 33,116, Schneider won with 47 percent of the vote in a four-man field. If there is a roaring Clinton-Sanders-Biden presidential primary race on March 15, turnout will be high and Rotering will benefit from gender voting.
Divisive primary: "There are absolutely no (issue) differences between them except the Iran nuclear deal," the activist said of the Schneider and Rotering contest. So why is Schneider, who has the blessing of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Washington insiders, bucking the president? The consensus: Schneider needs some separation from Obama. Will that do it, or will Jewish voters in the 10th District, very few of whom are Orthodox, deem support for Obama more important than support for Israel?
There is a misconception that the "Jewish vote" — and remember, Jews are only 1.8 percent of the U.S. population — is monolithic, liberal and habitually Democratic, almost like the black vote. That’s incorrect. There are numerous fissures and antagonisms.
Just as there are denominations among Christians and numerous sects among Protestants and Evangelicals, there is a huge divide in the Jewish community between "reform," who are culturally Jewish, and Modern Orthodox, who are religiously Jewish. The latter has sub-sects which include Hasidic, Haredi and Messianic Jews. The differences are profound, not only in lifestyle, but also on the meaning of Israel.
"Reform" Jews, which constitute about 90 percent of the Jewish vote in the 10th District, are well educated, prosperous, culturally liberal, Democratic and most emphatically not Zionist. "Support for Israel is a low priority," the activist said. Their population share is dwindling because of low fertility (1.9 children per couple) and inter-marriage (71 percent marry non-Jews). Judaism is cultural.
Conversely, for Orthodox Jews, who number 13 percent of all Jews and who have huge concentrations in Brooklyn and Westchester County in New York and in Baltimore, plus a sizable population in West Rogers Park in Chicago, Judaism is religious. Their fertility rate is 4.1, and inter-marriage is only 20 percent. Their lifestyle has dietary restrictions, observation of the Sabbath, gender segregation, and the study of traditional religious texts, with Zionism being a major focal point. Modern Orthodox Jews are very conservative politically, fervent about Israel, and surprisingly pro-Republican, but the Hasidic and Haredi Jews are very pacifistic, and they view Israel’s alleged militarism as "destructive of the Judaic way of life." Hasidic Jews speak Yiddish, and Haredi Jews seek segregation from the secular world. Neither is Zionist.
So how does this play out?
First, it’s "divide and conquer." Like Kirk, Dold is undermining the Obama Democratic base. He is, at a minimum, not giving independents a reason to vote against him, giving some Democrats a reason to vote for him, and solidifying his base among Republicans.
Second, Schneider needs Hillary Clinton to get more than 55 percent of the vote in the district. It won’t happen.
Send e-mail to russ@russstewart. com or visit his Web site at www. russstewart.com.