There was a time that it would have been unthinkable for a mayoral candidate in New York City to appease an antisemite such as Linda Sarsour. Those days are long gone. Now it elevates you in the party of Jew-hatred. Yang caving to Sarsour is not surprising. Why should Andrew Yang take a strong stand against the BDS Movement when the vast majority of New York City’s Jewish voters will vote for him anyway? If Jewish voters are not bothered by anti-Semitic hatred, then why should Yang alienate influential BDS supporters such as Linda Sarsour?
By JNS, March 1, 2021
Most Americans don’t pay much attention to New York City politics. As one of the deepest blue political bastions in the country, the struggle for political ascendancy in the Big Apple can seem to be merely a choice between left and lefter. But while New York has become a one-party city in which Democrats don’t so much predominate as the Republicans have disappeared, that doesn’t mean debates there are insignificant. To the contrary, the city is in some ways a laboratory experiment in which it appears the future of the Democratic Party is up for grabs.
That’s especially true with respect to the question of whether it will be, as it always used to be, a pro-Israel political party. And the struggles of Andrew Yang—the entrepreneur/philanthropist and one-time presidential candidate who has now shifted his ambitions to taking possession of the city’s Gracie Mansion—illustrate this dilemma.
New York is still the world’s largest Jewish city (that is, in terms of those living within its city limits; if we were talking about metropolitan areas, Tel Aviv would now be No. 1), which means that mayoral candidates are bound to wish to appeal to the sensibilities of Jewish voters. But given how diverse the New York community is, that’s easier said than done. After all, a much larger percentage of New York Jewry is not merely Orthodox but denizens of ultra-Orthodox enclaves. At the other end of the political spectrum, Jewish voters who live in more upscale neighborhoods like the Upper East and Upper West Sides tend to be extremely left-wing rather than merely liberal.
In an earlier era when white ethnic voters held the balance of power in the five boroughs, appealing to them meant mayoral candidates would take international tours of the three “i’s”: Ireland, Italy and Israel. Irish and Italian voters don’t seem to be cohesive voting groups anymore, but a million Jews still reside in the city. Yet figuring out what they want is not so easy. That’s especially true if, like Yang, you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to the Middle East or Jewish issues.
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