Obama’s actions put Democratic Party in peril
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History tends to repeat itself.

Back in 2009, the Obama Administration pushed hard to pass climate legislation in the House. Through lots of arm-twisting and wrangling, they got it to the floor and won a major victory. That bill was clearly dead on arrival in the Senate and the cap-and-trade legislation never became law. But by pushing so hard in the House, the Obama White House helped deliver sweeping defeat to moderate Democrats in 2010.

Now, on his way out the door, President Obama is doing it again.

From both sides of the aisle, the reaction to last week’s UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel was as swift as it was contemptuous.

Leaders from the Republican Party saw perhaps their last opportunity to take a swipe at an outgoing President they’ve worked so hard to obstruct. For Democrats, though, the Obama Administration’s decision to abstain, allowing this vote to move forward, is even more problematic.

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerLawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Trump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants MORE (D-NY) called the decision, “frustrating, disappointing and confounding.” House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) expressed, “very significant disagreement with the Administration's decision to abstain.” Even liberal elected Democrats like Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Hillicon Valley: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency plan | Trump vows to 'take a look' at Google's ties to China | Google denies working with China's military | Tech execs on defensive at antitrust hearing | Bill would bar business with Huawei MORE and Sen. Richard Blumenthal condemned the abstention.

It’s not often that Congressional leadership so publicly condemns the actions of the leader of their party. But this is different. In Obama’s decision to abstain and allow the UN to condemn our closest ally in the Middle East, he’s harming the Democratic Party, and turning a nonpartisan issue into a club that Republicans can use against us.

Overall, support for Israel remains strong in both parties. As recently as April 2016, a Pew study found that Americans support the Israelis over the Palestinians by nearly a three-to-one margin. This is overwhelming popular support, and our policymakers support Israel because their constituents do. There aren’t many issues that offer such widespread agreement.

Republicans have been trying for years to make support for Israel a partisan issue. If they succeed, it’ll be great politics for them, giving the GOP a real shot at picking off many of the more moderate members of the Democratic party.

The 2015 Iran deal was the first big win for those seeking to transform support for Israel into a partisan issue. And now, by taking this type of parting shot at Israel, President Obama is helping Republicans make the case for partisanship.

This division was foreshadowed during the Democratic primary this year. Though Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE lost the race, he won the chance to influence the Democratic Party’s platform. Sanders gave two of the 15 seats on the DNC’s platform committee to virulent anti-Israel campaigners, Cornel West and James Zogby. That means for all his talk and bluster about trade and wages and bankers, Sanders dedicated 13 percent his influence to driving a wedge between the United States and the only true democracy in the Middle East, despite it being a nation that a majority of Americans strongly support.

When the Obama Administration in 2015 relied on Senate Democrats to jam through a wildly unpopular deal with Iran, it put a lot of them in very difficult positions. Many gave long, impassioned speeches against the deal which closed with commitments to support it.

The Administration’s move also forced pro-Israel organizations to make one of the toughest decisions in decades: do we support a deal that makes the United States less safe and allows Israel’s most significant belligerent to build nuclear weapons, or do we break with our decades-long and mission-critical bipartisan commitments?

At the time, those of us in the pro-Israel community argued that President Obama was so focused on building his legacy that he was willing to sell out our closest ally in the Middle East.

Now, as he leaves the White House, President Obama says he intends to play a leading role in rebuilding the party that’s been so badly decimated during his time in office.  The Democratic Party cannot afford to lose voters – even in small numbers– in states with disproportionately high levels of Jewish voters like Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Tommy Vietor, a former national security spokesman for the Obama Administration took to Twitter to call this resolution an “obscure UN vote” and ridicule those who say it hurts Democratic chances moving forward. But he missed the point.

Of course this vote won’t be at the top of people’s minds in 2018 or 2020. But it signals Obama’s attempt to allow the far left to hijack the Democratic Party. Looking at the 2018 Senate map, or at what happened after the climate vote in 2010, it’s not hard to imagine the potential consequences.

Jarad Geldner is principal and Washington Office director for Red Banyan Group and a Senior Advisor to the Democratic Coalition SuperPAC.


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.