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Public Opinion Analysis: Being a Committed Leftist is Linked to Disdain for Israel

Wide gap between Clinton & Sanders supporters in their views of Israel chart

Over the past couple of years, I have been quietly building on a theory that what really causes the American Left, and perhaps their foreign ideological brethren, to favor the Palestinians over Israel is actually rather simple to understand.  The Left thrives on, and is obsessed with creating new categories of underdogs[1] (the poor, minorities, or anyone whose reduced power position is assumed to render them ‘oppressed’).  This usually requires a narrative fallacy, such as unarmed black males are unjustifiably killed by armed white police officers (“Black Lives Matter”), or that the Palestinians are the perpetual victims of the State of Israel (the BDS crowd).  The thing about narrative fallacies is that they can be rather attractive, particularly for people with a penchant for intellectual laziness.  Populist rhetoric seems to pay dividends for politicians, but there seems to be some limit to its policy effects.

A recent Pew Research Center poll confirms my (and others’) suspicion that the further Left one tends to be, the more they tend to dislike Israel and the more they tend to favor the Palestinians.  My hypothesis regarding this interesting correlation, which I will delve into at a later time, is that being a Leftist requires disdain for the powerful, who are purported to be villainous overdogs.  Concomitantly, an automatic attraction to whomever might be portrayed as a victim seems to occur.  That is, a villain/victim symbiosis, based on perceived power distribution, describes the worldview of the Leftist.  This sentiment leads one to eschew the use of power, even when the enemy is Naziesque, such as ISIS.  Just ask Canada’s Leftist Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

So, what does this pro-victim approach mean for the Democrats this election cycle?  For Bernie Sanders, this may be his campaign’s biggest asset with regard to domestic policy, but as one can see from the data, it may not be so useful for his foreign policy stature when compared to that of Hillary Clinton.


When it comes to the Democratic Party’s self-described Socialist, Bernie Sanders has done a marvelous job in terms of portraying “millionaires and billionaires” as villains.  This approach has worked when applied to domestic policy because his base is far Left and the enticement to vote for one who seeks to even the odds between “haves” and “have-nots” has always been a powerful ploy.  With regard to foreign policy, to some degree, he has kept his base somewhat happy by vilifying Israel’s use of defensive force and calling for American aid to be reduced.  All of this is expected, as it is in keeping with Leftist sentiment: the possession of superior weapons are troubling and using force is unthinkable; large sums of money are bad because they bolster one’s power profile.  In essence, power is an adverse commodity and its perceived accumulation, or use (even in self-defense), is evil because it violates the Leftist notion that all must be fair and even.  The existence of power disparities violates this condition.  Despite his campaign’s efforts to portray him as neutral, Bernie Sanders has recently made campaign decisions that are harmful to Israel’s interests.  Perhaps this is his subtle way of pleasing his base, without being openly anti-Israel.


In terms of her domestic policy, Mrs. Clinton’s stance has been underdog-centric all the way.  She has not only played the (female) underdog card for herself, but has offered some insight into what she stands for when she declared during the Iowa primary, “I’ve been fighting for families and underdogs my entire life, and I’m not going to stop now.” Being on the side of the disadvantaged underdog is a central task of the Democrat politician, but the key question is whether Clinton will begin to accept the Leftist concept that Palestinians are worth being included in such a category.  The likely answer is that she will not make a serious move Leftward unless foreign policy, and the Israeli/Palestinian issue in particular, becomes a focal point in the remaining primary battle.  Then she might feel compelled to capture some of Sanders’s loyal support base in order to face Mr. Trump with the full complement of the Left wing at her side.  For now, it appears that she can afford to remain pro-Israel on the whole, as her (and especially Trump’s) base are generally pro-Israel.  A few pro-Palestinian quips might be expected, but one could fathom that these would merely be rhetorical devices aimed at quelling the far Left crowd.

Clinton is believed by many voters to be strong on foreign policy.  After all, some may be inclined to deduce from her previous position as the Secretary of State, with an extensive travel log, that she has consequently accomplished a great deal.  With regard to America’s only democratic ally in the Middle East, she most recently stated in her foreign policy/Trump-bashing address that the U.S. “…has a moral obligation to defend [Israel].”  Despite such kind pronouncements, however, there is reason to believe that Hillary Clinton is capable of placing politics above policy.  Despite all of the controversy regarding Clinton’s email server (and other matters of dishonesty), there is at least some anecdotal evidence that her political aspirations have led her to place American lives in danger, so it is not far-fetched to imagine that Israel’s interests could be sacrificed as well.  The words of former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who is known to folks of every political stripe as honest and neutral, are revealing.  In his book, Duty, he recalls a meeting with then-Secretary of State Clinton and President Obama on page 376:

“The exchange that followed was remarkable.  In strongly supporting a surge in Afghanistan, Hillary told the president that her opposition to the surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary.  She went on to say, ‘The Iraq surge worked.’  The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political.  To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”

Rigid advocacy for the underdog may be seen by the Leftist as a morally superior position, but when the so-called underdog is manufactured and the narrative is false, moral value withers.  As Bernard Goldberg reminds us “…sometimes even the underdog can be evil.”[2]  If Clinton makes a Left turn on foreign policy, Israel would likely pay a price.  Let us hope that she doesn’t feel so inclined.

[1] This condition has a name, which was first uttered in Prell, Michael (2011).  Underdogma: How America’s Enemies Use Our Love for the Underdog to Trash American Power.  BenBella Books Inc.

[2] Goldberg, B. (2014). Bias: A CBS insider exposes how the media distort the news. Regnery Publishing; p. 206.


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