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October 24, 2012

Debates Emphasize Differences for Jews Between Obama and Romney

Listed in: Women's Issues, Israel, Other Domestic Policy, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally Published in Washington Jewish Week

By NJDC President and CEO David A. Harris 

If the presidential and vice presidential debates have shown anything, it’s that there is a major difference between the Obama/Biden and Romney/Ryan tickets when it comes to the issues of concern to the sweeping majority of American Jews. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have made it abundantly clear that they stand with most Jews on a variety of policies, while former Governor Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) have done just about everything they can to widen the chasm between themselves and most Jews.

President Obama and Vice President Biden have rightfully touted their Administration’s domestic policy record that has overwhelming support in the Jewish community. Romney and Ryan have made it clear that they intend to reverse the Administration’s accomplishments.

President Obama passed a landmark health care reform bill—Obamacare—that has expanded access to health insurance for millions of Americans and protected benefits for the insured. Romney and Ryan have pledged to repeal the bill, which would strand millions of Americans by leaving them at the mercy of health insurance companies, if not uninsured altogether.

With the health care expansions covered by Obamacare and protected by the “Contraception Compromise,” President Obama has established himself as a true leader when it comes to protecting women’s health and rights. Romney and Ryan, however, opposed the compromise and have made attacks on pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood a staple of their campaign rhetoric to shore up their anti-choice credentials. “Severely conservative” Romney has pledged to be a “pro-life president,” and when he’s tried to give some semblance of moderation, his staunchest anti-choice supporters jump in to knock down any notion that he is anything but solidly in their camp. If you need any further proof of the contrast between the Obama Administration and the Romney/Ryan ticket on a woman’s right to choose, watch the exchange between Vice President Biden and Ryan from the vice presidential debate—Biden justified the Administration’s policies by indirectly referencing the First Amendment’s religious protections.

The first bill President Obama signed after taking office in 2009 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which seeks to end paycheck discrimination against women. Until recently, the Romney camp was silent on the subject of fair pay, to the point where Lilly Ledbetter herself said that Romney was “scaring me to death” with his silence on a similar bill. When asked about fair pay legislation during a nationally televised debate, Romney punted on the question, and then dropped his infamous “binders full of women” line. After his bungled response, a campaign spokesman admitted that Romney opposed the 2009 bill.

American Jews overwhelmingly support the Buffett Rule—which adjusts taxes on the wealthiest Americans to shift some of the tax burden away from the middle class. Romney and Ryan continue to push tax cuts for the wealthy that would ultimately damage the middle class.

And even though this topic was not addressed in previous debates, both President Obama and Vice President Biden vocally support marriage equality, whereas Romney and Ryan oppose it. Romney even boasted in February that he prevented Massachusetts from becoming “the Las Vegas of gay marriage.” Also unmentioned are the differences between the two camps on climate change and the environment. The Obama Administration is working to address climate change and protect the environment, whereas Romney and Ryan have both thrown themselves in with climate change deniers and taken shots at environmental protection.

When it comes to the foreign policy issues impacting the Jewish community, the differences also could not be starker. President Obama has established an excellent record of support for Israel that includes record-breaking amounts of military assistance and vocal diplomatic support before the entire world. The President has also spearheaded the international movement to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program through sanctions, which has put Iran’s economy on the brink of collapse. Romney and Ryan, as they have shown during the debates, have demonstrated that they can offer nothing more than rhetoric while seeking to politicize American and Israeli security. They routinely smear the President’s Israel and Iran records in the hopes of appealing to Jewish and other pro-Israel voters. Yet all they offer are diffuse words, without specifying any substantive differences—a pattern noted by leading journalists and experts alike.

Every election, we’re told that we’re about to participate in the most important election of our lifetime—yet that saying could not be more true for this year’s. This election is critical for determining the direction of our country and it appears that the sweeping majority of Jewish voters will—like 2008—be supporting President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden because of their shared political values with the Obama/Biden ticket and the Democratic Party.