Over the last few months, anti-Israel Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has been making a serious impact within the Republican Party. During the debate season, he was the crowd favorite and used his televised platform to spout his radical positions—including his anti-Israel views. As the race dragged into the spring and the also-rans started dropping out, Paul stayed in while continuing to increase his stock among GOP activists. And now, after winning multiple state party conventions outright and amassing enough delegates to be a force within the GOP when it convenes in Tampa, one of his former spokesmen has been named to a senior position within the Republican National Committee.
Quite simply, national Republicans—including Jewish and other pro-Israel GOPers—have collectively and utterly failed to stop Paul and his radical views from entering the GOP’s mainstream. Republicans have made little more than symbolic gestures and empty threats against him—like keeping him out of conferences that he likely would never attend in the first place—and tried to minimize the significance of his victories at state party conventions.
As The Huffington Post noted recently, Paul now holds enough delegates to throw the vice presidential nominating process into chaos. He also can use that leverage to influence the Republican Party’s platform on any issue, including the GOP’s orientation towards Israel, Iran, and foreign aid. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times noted that Paul’s supporters would like to exert their influence over the Republican Party’s platform. Over what issues? That’s yet to be determined. But is that unknown factor a risk that the Republican Party can afford to take—not to mention when the bipartisan consensus of the U.S.-Israel relationship is at stake?
We think not.
If a Democratic candidate ever attempted to empathize with Iran’s nuclear weapons program, bashed Israel on Iranian television, pushed to end U.S. diplomatic support for Israel, or put forth an amendment to cut American aid to Israel—among other serious anti-Israel actions—we and the mainstream of our Party would stand up and forcefully oppose that candidate. NJDC has stood up consistently to fringe candidates—and twice so far this cycle against candidates who, as it turns out, had no real chance of winning or growing a grassroots movement in our Party.
But for some unfathomable reason, Republicans from the top down are silent. Worse, Mitt Romney—the Party’s standard bearer—formed a “strategic alliance” with Paul during the primary season because he apparently recognized that Paul’s supporters would be crucial to unifying the Party. What kind of message does it send to Israel when the Party that consistently and wrongfully uses Israel as a partisan wedge issue actively courts and kowtows to one of Israel’s biggest opponents on Capitol Hill?
The GOP is going to pay a price for their failure—whether it’s a nationally televised Paul-related embarrassment at the convention or yet another blowout in the race for Jewish votes. And before Republicans and their allies continue inventing reasons to attack pro-Israel Democrats on Israel, they should turn their energy—and money—inward on the guy who holds the cards to their vice presidential nominating process and whose former spokesman is now in charge of the Party’s messaging. It is fully within the Republican Party’s power to put a stop to Paul’s ever-expanding influence—whether or not they do is entirely up to them.
David A. Harris is the President and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council