Adelson: I Didn't Leave the Democratic Party; Party Left Me
“When members of the Democratic Party booed the inclusion of G-d and Jerusalem in their party platform this year, I thought of my parents,” writes Jewish philanthropist Sheldon Adelson in the Sunday edition of The Wall Street Journal. “They would have been astounded.”
Adelson, who has emerged as one of the largest patrons of Republican causes, explains that he grew up in an immigrant family, which aligned itself with the Democratic party, platform and ideals—as did most Jews of Boston in the 1930s and '40s.
He writes that “only liberal politicians campaigned in our underprivileged neighborhood” as the majority of Boston's Republicans were “remote, wealthy elites… some of whose fancy country clubs didn't accept Jews.”
“It therefore went without saying that we were Democrats,” states Adelson. “Like most Jews around the country, being Democrat was part of our identity, as much a feature of our collective personality as our religion.”
“So why did I leave the party?”, he asks, attempting to explain to his readers the rationale behind his break.
“My critics nowadays like to claim it's because I got wealthy or because I didn't want to pay taxes or because of some other conservative caricature. No, the truth is the Democratic Party has changed in ways that no longer fit with someone of my upbringing.
“One obvious example is the party's new attitude toward Israel. A sobering Gallup poll from last March asked: 'Are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?' Barely 53% of Democrats chose Israel, the sole liberal democracy in the region. By contrast, an overwhelming 78% of Republicans sympathized with Israel.
“Nowhere was this change in Democratic sympathies more evident than in the chilling reaction on the floor of the Democratic convention in September when the question of Israel's capital came up for a vote. Anyone who witnessed the delegates' angry screaming and fist-shaking could see that far more is going on in the Democratic Party than mere opposition to citing Jerusalem in their platform. There is now a visceral anti-Israel movement among rank-and-file Democrats, a disturbing development that my parents' generation would not have ignored,” asserts Adelson.
He goes on to reference other troubling changes within the party, including its break from the immigrant values of his community—“in particular, individual charity and neighborliness,” claiming that states that vote “Republican are now far more generous to charities than those voting Democratic.”
“Democrats would reply that taxation and government services are better vehicles for helping the underprivileged,” he writes, refuting the argument. “And, yes, government certainly has its role. But when you look at states where Democrats have enjoyed years of one-party dominance—California, Illinois, New York—you find that their liberal policies simply don't deliver on their promises of social justice.”
“As a person who has been able to rise from poverty to affluence, and who has created jobs and work benefits for tens of thousands of families, I feel obligated to speak up and support the American ideals I grew up with—charity, self-reliance, accountability.
“These are the age-old virtues that help make our communities prosperous. Yet, sadly, the Democratic Party no longer seems to value them as it once did. That's why I switched parties, and why I'm now giving amply to Republicans,” maintains Adelson.
“Although I don't agree with every Republican position,” he says, echoing the feelings of many Jews who are attempting to come to terms with the troubling direction of the Democratic party . “I'm liberal on several social issues—there is enough common cause with the party for me to know I've made the right choice.”
“It's the choice that, I believe, my old immigrant Jewish neighbors would have made. They would not have let a few disagreements with Republicans void the importance of siding with the political party that better supports liberal democracies like Israel, the party that better exemplifies the spirit of charity, and the party with economic policies that would certainly be better for those Americans now looking for work.
“The Democratic Party just isn't what it used to be,” Adelson concludes.