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Sanders First Jewish Politician To Win A Primary

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Reprinted from Wallwritings

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders
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Two weeks before the Iowa caucus, New York magazine's Frank Rich delivered a campaign analysis for New York magazine under the headline, "Getting serious about Bernie".

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Rich admits, "I have never believed -- and still don't -- that [Bernie Sanders] can be elected president even though I prefer almost everything about his views and record to Clinton's."

Rich pointed to three problems Sanders would face in a national election:

"He's 74; he can be stigmatized as a nominal 'socialist' (though that nomenclature may not carry much weight, negative or otherwise, to 21st-century American voters, beyond the claque who think every Democrat is a socialist); and he's Jewish, a fact that few want to discuss as a possible hindrance to a national general-election candidacy."

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Breaking through those three barriers in his first two campaign contests with Hillary Clinton, Sanders exceeded all expectations, narrowly losing in Iowa, and handily winning the New Hampshire primary (to use one of his favorite adjectives) by a "huge" 60%-38% margin over Clinton.

Beaming with home team pride, the Jewish News Agency eagerly reported:

"In New Hampshire on Tuesday night, he handily won the Democratic Party contest, becoming the first Jew to win a presidential primary. In Iowa, he became the first Jewish presidential candidate -- the first non-Christian, even -- to win delegates in a major party's caucus or primary. . .

"What's more significant is that he's the first Jew to mount a credible campaign for the White House.

"It's not that credible Jewish politicians haven't run for president before. There was Republican Sen. Arlen Specter in 1996 and Democratic Sen. Joseph Lieberman in 2004. But they were out of step with their parties and their candidacies went nowhere. (Both later quit their parties.)"

By winning his first primary in New Hampshire, Sanders is poised to go somewhere, not nowhere. Could he prove Frank Rich and other uneasy progressives wrong, and become the first Jewish president?

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And if the White House does await Sanders, what are the implications for future U.S.-Israel relations?

There is a good case to be made that Sanders' Jewishness would be a positive force toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

New Hampshire, which is next to Sanders' home state of Vermont, did not need to "discuss" Sanders' ethnicity. His huge margin suggests that Democratic voters who already knew Sanders were not deterred from supporting him because he is Jewish.

This could be a sign that voters want to judge Sanders on his political record, not on his ethnicity. Divorce and membership in the Catholic or Mormon religious groups no longer are barriers to the White House. Jewishness, religious and secular, might now be added to that list.

If Sanders fails to defeat Clinton in future party primaries and caucuses, his presence in the race could still nudge Clinton away from her long allegiance with the state of Israel.

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James Wall served as a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois, from 1999 through 2017. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced (more...)

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