Word is that the Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is waving the white flag in the presidential race, will spend no more money on it, and will not endorse a candidate. DMFI had been running ads against Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Democratic Majority for Israel does not intend to run any more televised ads against Sen. Bernie Sanders . . . beyond the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, DMFI CEO Mark Mellman confirmed to Jewish Insider. “We don’t have plans to be further involved in the presidential race—against Sanders or anyone else, for that matter,” Mellman told a gathering in New York City earlier this week.
Instead, the group will focus on down-ticket races, supporting pro-Israel Democrats in the primaries and general election.
It’s hard to overstate how bad this news is for those who want a strong U.S.-Israel relationship. And given that anti-Zionist is usually only a thin disguise for broader Jew-hatred, it’s hard to overstate how bad this news is for American Jewry.
Founded amid some fanfare a little over a year ago, DMFI’s purpose was to combat the growing anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party. Longtime Democratic pollster and consultant Mark Mellman, who launched the group, downplayed the overall strength of that threat, but nevertheless felt that it was important to nip it in the bud. Some of us at the time felt that he was underestimating the threat publicly, and that he wouldn’t have needed to start the group if the problem were as marginal as he claimed.
I knew Mellman slightly from my time in D.C. when we both attended the same synagogue. It’s possible he wouldn’t remember me, but I always remembered him as a happy warrior for his side, combative but never personal or demeaning. When I saw the announcement last year, I was glad to know he was the one in charge.
Some think this move looks like Munich, but Mellman is no appeaser. Instead, it looks to me like Dunkirk. DMFI is admitting that it doesn’t have the horses to further affect the presidential race, and that it doesn’t have the allies within the party to turn the tide. It is further evidence of the futility of the strategy of intersectional outreach that Jewish communities across the country have employed, as though any further proof were needed.
It’s also evidence that the DMFI probably can’t command the allegiance of a sufficient number of Jewish Democrats.
The leadership at the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, for instance, have thus far been unwilling to confront Sanders directly on his anti-Zionism. Finally, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the ADL, tweeted a response to Sanders’s attack on AIPAC. But there has as yet been no official statement, and it remains to be seen if Greenblatt is willing to confront the Sanders campaign, as opposed to individual comments.
So instead of continuing to fight alone on the continent, with less and less hope of stopping Sanders from getting the nomination, DMFI has pulled up stakes and will focus on the down-ticket races.
Don’t get me wrong, down-ticket races are important, too. That’s where the bench is built, where talent is often drawn in for higher-level appointments. It’s where party consensus can be built and maintained.
But it’s not the main fight, and ultimately, nominating Sanders ratifies many of his positions within the party. If, God forbid, he were elected president, he’d have the power to reshape the Democratic Party to his liking over the course of his term in office. And it’s a direction that the party is moving, anyway. Fighting against that at the House or Senate level is fighting on the landing fields and the beaches.
Calling Bernie Sanders the American Corbyn isn’t a particularly original observation at this point. But let’s remember what led to Corbyn’s defeat. Yes, it was Brexit, but it was also that Corbyn was so distasteful even to Labour voters that they were willing to stomach a Tory MP rather than vote for him.
What made that possible, in large part, was a number of prominent Jewish Labour MPs who openly complained about him, and then later broke from the party. DMFI was supposed to be the Democratic equivalent of those Jewish Labourites, calling out Sanders, working against him, and giving social permission for others to do so.
Since Sanders is not yet the nominee—and may not be—the time hasn’t come for them to break altogether. Mellman’s observation that Sanders “presents a unique threat to the U.S.–Israel relationship,” and that he’s not the strongest candidate to take on Trump, falls short of suggesting that the DMFI might openly oppose him if he becomes the nominee.
To be fair, in the case of the UK, the Liberal Democrats represented a safe haven of sorts, and at least before the election they were a large enough party for support to be credible. Labour defectors could go there and hope to continue a coalition government with the Tories, without having to outright campaign for Boris Johnson. No such safe haven currently exists in the United States for Jewish Democrats, however, and we may be waiting a long time for a #NeverBernie movement to create one.
Jewish Democrats have allowed their distaste for Donald Trump to warp American Jewish organizations’ responses to his overwhelmingly pro-Israel presidency. They have acted in the interests of partisanship over the Jewish people whose interests they are supposed to represent.
It has led to Dunkirk.
There’s still time to prevent the worst.