From some of the same group that couldn't vote straight in 2000, comes folks who can't think straight in 2008. Many in the Jewish community in the southeast counties of Broward, Dade and Palm Beach, who nearly always vote Democratic, are planning to vote for John McCain this November. Not because of McCain, although Zell Lieberman's support is a factor. But rather because of Barack Obama. And though they cite his perceived failure to toe the Zionist line as a factor, dig a little deeper and you'll find the real reason. Plain and simple bigotry. His race, his ancestors' religion, his name. Whatever. Those are the real reasons.
"The people here, liberal people, will not vote for Obama because of his attitude towards Israel," Ms. Weitz, 83, said, lingering over brunch.
"They’re going to vote for McCain," she said.
Ms. Grossman, 80, agreed with her friend’s conclusion, but not her reasoning.
"They’ll pick on the minister thing, they’ll pick on the wife, but the major issue is color," she said, quietly fingering a coffee cup.
. . . .
Mr. Obama is Arab, Jack Stern’s friends told him in Aventura. (He’s not.)
He is a part of Chicago’s large Palestinian community, suspects Mindy Chotiner of Delray. (Wrong again.)
Mr. Wright is the godfather of Mr. Obama’s children, asserted Violet Darling in Boca Raton. (No, he’s not.)
Al Qaeda is backing him, said Helena Lefkowicz of Fort Lauderdale (Incorrect.)
Michelle Obama has proven so hostile and argumentative that the campaign is keeping her silent, said Joyce Rozen of Pompano Beach. (Mrs. Obama campaigns frequently, drawing crowds in her own right.)
Mr. Obama might fill his administration with followers of Louis Farrakhan, worried Sherry Ziegler. (Extremely unlikely, given his denunciation of Mr. Farrakhan.)
South Florida is "the most concentrated area in the country in terms of misinformation" about Mr. Obama, said Representative Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida, the co-chairman of the Obama campaign in the state.
. . . .
"His father was a Muslim and you can’t take that out of him," said Ms. Chotiner, 51, who said she would still vote for Mr. Obama, out of Democratic loyalty. "Do I have very strong reservations? Yes, I do," she said.
. . . .
"The fundamentals of meeting with Iran are the same as the fundamentals of meeting with Rev. Wright," said Joe Limansky, 69, of Boca Raton.
Other voters called Mr. Obama’s endorsement by the Rev. Jesse Jackson problematic, because Mr. Jackson once called New York "Hymietown" (even though he later apologized) and has made other comments offensive to Jews.
Some of the resistance to Mr. Obama’s candidacy seems just as rooted in anxiety about race as in anxiety about Israel. At brunch in Boynton Beach, Bob Welstein, who said he was in his 80s, said so bluntly. "Am I semi-racist? Yes," he said.
Decades earlier, on the west side of Chicago, his mother was mugged and beaten by a black assailant, he said. It was "a beautiful Jewish neighborhood" — until black residents moved in, he said.
. . . .
Jack Stern, 85, sitting alone at an outdoor café in Aventura on Sunday, said he was no racist. When he was liberated from a concentration camp in 1945, black American soldiers were kinder than white ones, handing out food to the emaciated Jews, he said.
Years later, after he opened a bakery in Brooklyn, "I got disgusted, because they killed Jews," he said, citing neighborhood crimes committed by African-Americans. "I shouldn’t say it, but it is what it is," said Mr. Stern, who vowed not to vote for Mr. Obama.
So there you have it. Every excuse in the book. Wright is little more than a convenient whipping boy. And Jesse Jackson? That old chestnut? They didn't seem bothered when Jackson supported the likes of Mondale, Clinton and Gore.
In a back and forth on a thread yesterday I noted how the composition of Florida's electorate was not advantageous to Obama. This merely confirms it. Although I'm sure he'll get a majority of the Jewish vote, for example, without 80% or more support, he won't have a chance in the state, given the presence of other groups, such as Cuban-Americans, who will vote Republican. Better for him to focus his efforts on other states and other regions such as the southwest.
Finally, as a Jew, I find the views expressed by the people I quoted shameful. But it just goes to show that there are bigots in every racial, religious and ethnic group.