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Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson: I Didn't Leave the Democrats, They Left Me

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson (Credit: AP)

FILE - Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson (Credit: AP)

In a thoughtful opinion piece on how the Democratic Party has changed over the years, casino mogul and philanthropist Sheldon Adelson tried to explain why the party to which he and his family had once so loyally adhered "left" him, not the other way around.

Adelson, who serves as chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which owns the famed Venetian Resorts in both Macao and Las Vegas, recalled his humble beginnings as part of an immigrant family in a not-so-affluent neighborhood of Boston. Adelson and his parents along with other relatives believed in charity, self-reliance and accountability -- all hallmarks, the mogul maintains were once part of the Democratic Party in the 1930s and 1940s.

He noted that at the time, Republicans were considered wealthy elitists who did not care much for issues concerning the Jewish people, and that many times, their country clubs even banned Jews from entering. Adelson explains his upbringing in his Wall Street Journal article this way:

When members of the Democratic Party booed the inclusion of God and Jerusalem in their party platform this year, I thought of my parents.

They would have been astounded.

The immigrant family in which I grew up was, in the matter of politics, typical of the Jews of Boston in the 1930s and '40s. Of the two major parties, the Democrats were in those days the more supportive of Jewish causes.

Indeed, only liberal politicians campaigned in our underprivileged neighborhood. Boston's Republicans, insofar as we knew them, were remote, wealthy elites ("Boston Brahmins"), some of whose fancy country clubs didn't accept Jews.

It therefore went without saying that we were Democrats. Like most Jews around the country, being Democrat was part of our identity, as much a feature of our collective personality as our religion.

Adelson then goes on to explain why he left the party, and, unlike his critics claim, it isn't because he "got wealthy" or because he "didn't want to pay taxes or because of some other conservative caricature."

"No, the truth is the Democratic Party has changed in ways that no longer fit with someone of my upbringing."

Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson (Credit: AP)

One example Adelson points to is the Democratic Party's "new attitude toward Israel."

"Nowhere was this change in Democratic sympathies more evident than in the chilling reaction on the floor of the Democratic convention in September when the question of Israel's capital came up for a vote," the entrepreneur writes.

"Anyone who witnessed the delegates' angry screaming and fist-shaking could see that far more is going on in the Democratic Party than mere opposition to citing Jerusalem in their platform." He also observed that there is, today, "a visceral anti-Israel movement among rank-and-file Democrats," something that his parents' generation "would not have ignored." He adds:

Another troubling change is that Democrats seem to have moved away from the immigrant values of my old neighborhood—in particular, individual charity and neighborliness. After studying tax data from the IRS, the nonpartisan Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported that states that vote Republican are now far more generous to charities than those voting Democratic. In 2008, the seven least-generous states all voted for President Obama. My father, who kept a charity box for the poor in our house, would have frowned on this fact about modern Democrats.

Democrats would reply that taxation and government services are better vehicles for helping the underprivileged. And, yes, government certainly has its role. But when you look at states where Democrats have enjoyed years of one-party dominance—California, Illinois, New York—you find that their liberal policies simply don't deliver on their promises of social justice.

Adelson, who has truly achieved the American dream and elevated himself from poverty and in turn, "created jobs and work benefits for tens of thousands of families," said he feels obligated to speak out in support "of the American ideals I grew up with—charity, self-reliance, accountability."

"These are the age-old virtues that help make our communities prosperous. Yet, sadly, the Democratic Party no longer seems to value them as it once did. That's why I switched parties, and why I'm now giving amply to Republicans."

The staunch Republican ceded that while he doesn't always agree with his adopted party on every position, as he is "liberal on several social issues," he believes "there is enough common cause with the party for me to know I've made the right choice."

"It's the choice that, I believe, my old immigrant Jewish neighbors would have made."

Adelson's article can be read in its entirety here.

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