The presidential election may have taken place more than three months ago, but for members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, the wound of the defeat is still fresh.
During the RJCs first local post-election event, Scott Feigelstein, director of the Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey chapter, acknowledged that he “had been very depressed at the results of the presidential election, as I’m sure many of you had been as well. But we have to look ahead.”
On an upbeat note, Feigelstein said his organization had managed to help move the needle on the Jewish vote and cut into Obama's support. He said the group was now focused on opposing former Sen. Chuck Hagel's confirmation as secretary of defense.
"We offer an alternative voice in the Jewish community because, for too long, the Jewish community has put its political eggs in one basket, and believe me it's the wrong basket," he said.
At a Feb. 20 breakfast at the Crowne Plaza on City Avenue featuring U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, Feigelstein told about 30 RJC members that they shouldn’t be thinking about 2016, but instead should be focused on supporting candidates nationally who can help the GOP capture the Senate in 2014.
Gerlach, a GOP lawmaker starting his sixth term representing parts of Berks, Chester and Montgomery counties, didn’t talk much about whether and how the GOP would reinvent itself after a bitterly disappointing election.
Instead, he spent his hour with the group focusing on efforts to prevent sequestration — cuts made mandatory by the failure to reach a debt-ceiling agreement in 2011 — as well as efforts to overhaul the tax code and enact entitlement reform.
Gerlach said he didn’t see any way to prevent sequestration from happening and he saw little hope that major reform on Social Security or Medicare would be enacted with Barack Obama as president.
“I don’t think anything will materialize in either the White House or the Senate,” he said.
He suggested that the majority of the House GOP caucus has shifted its thinking somewhat, and there is little appetite for using a potential government shutdown as a bargaining chip.
“We also have a responsibility to our constituents to fund the federal government, too,” said the congressman. “We could go down there and say, ‘You guys are not playing fair, so we are not going to pass anything; we’ll have a federal government shut down, we won’t pay our military men and women, we won’t send out Social Security checks, we’ll do all that because we are really mad at you.’ That’s not the most mature way to go about things.”
Gerlach reserved some criticism for Speaker of the House John Boehner, arguing that the Ohio lawmaker should also think of himself as the leader of the Republican Party nationally and try harder to counter the narrative put forth by the White House.
While most of the session focused on domestic politics, one audience member asked Gerlach if he would support an American strike on Iran.
Gerlach paused before saying he would — “at the right time and under the right circumstances.”