A Conversation with Jewish Conservative Leaders from Michigan

Many questioned the reason why most Jewish voters tended to support Democratic candidates. David Littmann talked about the tradition of progressive radicalism originating from the French revolution and the immigration history of German Ashkenazi Jews and Eastern European Jews since the 19th Century. “They fled from Tsars and they wanted security.”

1918848_1223796434315296_5762268593531585242_nOn March 16 at Hutchins Hall, Young Americans for Freedom at the University of Michigan and Washtenaw County Republicans co-hosted the event Why we are [politically] conservative: A conversation with leaders from the Jewish community.  The panelists were:

  • Andrea Fischer Newman, University of Michigan reagent
  • Jeff Sakwa, Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair & Defeat The Label President
  • David Littmann, Senior Economist of The Mackinac Center for Public Policy
  • Ezra Drissman, Editor at the The New Paine

The panelists came to campus to share their ideas and experiences, as well as to talk about their understandings of conservatism from a Jewish perspective.

Do conservatives hate the poor?

The panelists began by speaking about why conservative policies worked better than liberal ones in helping the poor and minorities. David Littmann pointed out that the term “liberalism” itself is a concept stolen by modern liberals because classical liberalism embraces competition, but now left-wing liberals spare no efforts to demonize it. In his understanding, this “competition” also included the competition of systems. Charter schools and home schools added diversity (the real diversity!) to our education system through their competition with traditional public schools. And as a result, the quality of our education was improved and everyone could get better education.

“Milton Friedman once said minimum wage is the greatest anti-black and anti-minority policy,” said David. The dependency of poor people on the government had never been higher and was still strengthening because of liberal policies under the name of “caring the poor.” He also spoke about the Old Whigs, the concept Pareto improvement and the “4D” nature of property rights. Andrea Newman said the “access” to all kinds of opportunities is a national property. Jeff Sakwa used the fact that America now lacked qualified workers to emphasize the importance of trade and free market.

They fled from the Tsars and wanted security.

Another important discussion centered around the left-leaning political stand of Jewish individuals. Many questioned the reason why most Jewish voters tended to support Democratic candidates. David Littmann talked about the tradition of progressive radicalism originating from the French revolution and the immigration history of German Ashkenazi Jews and Eastern European Jews since the 19th Century. “They fled from Tsars and they wanted security.”

Maybe Jews voted Left because they liked charity and they thought liberal programs were like charities, Andrea said. But she believes that Jewish communities were not doomed to be liberal loyalists.

“Conservatism is about to pursue to be who you are. And for us, this 8:35PM discussion at the University of Michigan is a beautiful beautiful thing that comes from our constitution.” – Jeff Sakwa

U.S.-Israel relations were, of course, a focus in a panel about the Jewish community, especially in a time when maintaining the U.S.-Israel special relationship has diminished in bipartisan support. One question was asked about whether Democrats would be anti-Israel in the future. “They are now,” David answered without hesitation, inviting a knowing laugh from the audience. Jeff argued that Israel is not just a Jewish function, but also the only democracy in the region of craziness. All panelists were worried that the liberal anti-Israel actions like BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) would do great harm to Israel, U.S.-Israel relations, our war on terror and the security and stability in the Middle East.

The audience was an enthusiastic albeit small group, consisting of both students and Ann Arborites. Terry, a former computer engineer, heard about this event through emails from Washtenaw County Republicans. “A centralized system always fails, from machinery to economy,” said Terry. He has been a conservative all his life and voted for John Kasich in the Michigan primary on March 8th. Catherine, a writer, thought we had come to an important crossroads because the traditional ways to handle challenges had failed. She said we needed more events like this to put our messages together and to make our own voice heard.

I spoke with David Littmann about what he thought about the leftist Jewish intellectuals, which to some extent shaped modern liberalism. He said their left-leaning position had more to do with their atomized individualism than their connections with Jewish community. From Lawrence Klein to Paul Samuelson, many liberal Jewish intellectuals were allured by money and egoism. They acted like a special interest groups instead of seeking the truth, and were always unwilling to admit their faults because of their pride even after they were proven to be wrong. Samuelson’s prediction on Soviet Union’s economy was a good example.

Jeff Sakwa ended the note on a high, saying, “Conservatism is about to pursue to be who you are. And for us, this 8:35PM discussion at the University of Michigan is a beautiful beautiful thing that comes from our Constitution.”

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About Roy Rivers

Roy Rivers (Shan He), Columnist. UMich '16, economic major, foreign affairs & history enthusiast, value investor. Trying to draw my picture of the world we know. Twitter: https://twitter.com/royrivers9206