Fringe Is Fringe // Not all progressives are alike

Even as fretting continued apace over the influence that the “Squad” and other Israel-unfriendly progressives in Congress might bring to bear on the Democratic Party, the House Democratic Caucus elected as its new leader one of Congress’ strongest supporters of Israel and a fighter against anti-Semitism. The vote was unanimous.

Representative Hakeem Jeffries will be replacing Nancy Pelosi, another stalwart supporter of Israel and Jews, and is the first black leader of a major political party in Congress. 

His Brooklyn and Queens district includes a sizable Jewish community, and he has touted the importance of good relations between the Black and Jewish communities.

You can sometimes—actually, most of the time—know someone by those who dislike him.

Mr. Jeffries belongs to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but he is less than beloved to some on the party’s left flank.

And it’s mutual. “The extreme left,” he told The New York Times in August 2021, after several progressive challengers lost to moderate candidates, “is obsessed with talking trash about mainstream Democrats on Twitter,” even though “the majority of the electorate constitute mainstream Democrats at the polls.”

And in a 2021 interview in The Atlantic, he said: “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.”

Back in 2018, according to reports, Mr. Jeffries was the “highest priority” target of Notorious AOC, who tried to recruit a challenger to his position.

Asked before last week’s caucus vote how she would regard Mr. Jeffries winning the party’s top spot, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez would only say that there is “healing that needs to be done in our caucus.” (Note to Congressperson: Heal thyself.)

Mr. Jeffries also gets sneers from some Congressional would-be revolutionaries for having created the “Team Blue” political action committee, which was dedicated to defending incumbents in Democratic districts and thwarting progressive challengers in primaries.

Some also are upset with the new Democratic leader for not supporting the “Green New Deal.” John Paul Mejia, a spokesperson for the climate activist group Sunrise Movement, is openly critical of Representative Jeffries, who, he says, “has not proven himself to seriously address the crises that our generation faces.”

What he has proven himself to be, though, is an enthusiastic supporter of Israel. 

Former Representative Robert Wexler of Florida told Jewish Insider: “I would say, if the pro-Israel community wanted to create a Democratic leader for the future, we would create Hakeem Jeffries.” 

“Hakeem is not just interested in these issues,” Mr. Wexler continued, “he’s devoted to them. He’s respectful of the American Jewish community. He identifies with it. And he’s just a really nice guy on top of it.”

Former New York Representative Steve Israel said that Mr. Jeffries “came to Congress as a voice of pro-Israel activism. And he served with the same voice.”

Another progressive Democrat who explodes the notion that “progressive” is synonymous with tepidity on Israel or snootiness toward Jews is New York Congressman Ritchie Torres.

So supportive has Mr. Torres been on Israel that, at the recent Somos Conference in Puerto Rico, David Greenfield, the Met Council’s CEO, jokingly introduced the Afro-Latino Congressman to a large gathering at the local Chabad Jewish Center as “the second highest-ranking Jewish elected official, after Comptroller Brad Lander.”

And, during a recent visit to Israel, Mr. Torres slammed entertainer Kanye West for squawking an anti-Semitic threat on Twitter, by himself tweeting:

“Kanye: The problem is that you’re not thinking. You’re hating. I just came from Yad Vashem, a place that you should visit. You need to understand that anti-Semitism is one of the most dangerous and deadliest forms of hate the human heart has ever conceived.”

None of the above is meant as an endorsement of the Democratic Party or “progressivism,” which embraces social stances many of us oppose. Lifelong Republicans (like me) are free to consider that party’s legislators, at least most of them, as more worthy of our support.

It is meant, simply and starkly, as evidence that the mainstream Democratic Party isn’t in thrall to the handful of radicals within it. That, in fact, that fringe is, well, a fringe. That, despite what some alarmists on the other end of the partisan spectrum like to shout from the rooftops, the blue sky isn’t falling.


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