Fishing expeditions are funny things — sometimes you end up reeling in a catch you regret, no matter how much right-wing pundits like Dick Morris try to spin things. That seems to be the case with a recent poll conducted by the conservative Christian group, the Traditional Values Coalition, surveying American Jews aligned with the Democratic Party.
Why would TVC even bother with this poll? Almost certainly because they were fishing for dissatisfaction among those polled about the way President Obama is handling the Middle East in general, and Israel in particular. What they found must have disturbed and confused them though.
The poll showed that there is significant disagreement between American Jewish Democrats and the administration, on specific issues regarding the possibility of peace in the region and the best approach to settlements. For instance, 44 percent said “Obama is naïve in thinking he can make peace with the Arabs”. Just 20 percent agreed with the statement that “if Israel could settle its dispute with the Palestinian refugees and give them a nation of their own, that the Arabs would live in peace with Israel” while 52 percent chose “the Arabs will never live in peace with Israel and that giving them a nation of their own will just make them stronger.”
So far, TVC got what they were looking for. But the results of the poll also indicate that despite these real differences, the same audience remains strongly supportive of the actions which the Obama administration is taking to bring peace to the Middle East.
Jewish Democrats gave Obama a 92 percent approval rating; and responded by a 58-16 margin that they believe “Obama is doing a good job of promoting peace in the Middle East.”
This poll, whether one agrees with the President or not, reminds us that real values-driven support is about something larger than agreement about a specific policy position or its implementation. The respondents to this survey were capable of something which its sponsors, and most American politicos, often fail to miss – that deeply held values and principles can be pursued through many avenues and practices, and that even when groups disagree about the latter, they can sustain real relationships that are animated by the former.
American Jewish Democrats, so committed to Israel that they remain deeply suspicious of its Arab neighbors, share the President’s desire for peace. This poll demonstrates that they are willing to work out their differences about how to achieve peace together, rather than walk away from that shared commitment. That’s commitment to a deeply-held value, peace, not simply using the language of values to fire up the faithful about a particular policy.
Even more powerful, is the evidence from this survey, of how deeply held those values are among Jewish Democrats. Even though they do not necessarily believe that the moves being made by the administration are likely to bear fruit, they support the President’s efforts. Talk about faith!
Those responding to this survey are the embodiment of a genuine faith which takes them beyond the politically likely into the realm of the seemingly impossible but ethically and morally desirable. If that isn’t a reasonable definition of faith, I don’t know what is. Perhaps most interestingly, it’s evidenced by a group that is increasingly disinterested in classical religion, more likely than ever to describe itself as ‘secular’, and pretty much the polar opposite on almost every issue from those who conducted the survey.
I guess we are all more alike that we often first recognize, and in ways that often surprise us. And I guess that sometimes a fishing expedition which nets an unexpected and undesirable catch from the fisherman’s perspective may still bring in a good haul from the perspective of both the fish and those watching from the shore.