Symposium: Why do so many Jews still vote Democrat?

Several AT writers share their thoughts on election eve.


More and more often, I am getting asked by Jews (conservative) and non-Jews alike:  Why are American Jews still aligned with the Democratic Party, why are they backing Obama so fervently, and why are they so incredibly hostile to American Christians, who have never harmed them?  I've run out of ideas for answers.  I can easily trace the history of the Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party and I can explain the traditional, pre-20th Century Jewish wariness of Christians, but I cannot explain how, in the 21st Century, these views still hold. 

The 20th Century (especially the late 20th Century) showed us that American Christians are mostly our friends; the 20th Century showed us that the socialist state is hostile to Jews, often genocidally so; this campaign is showing us that Obama's default friends and advisors, the ones to whom he automatically gravitates, are anti-Israel and anti-Jewish; and this political season has shown us the Left increasingly casting off the illusion that it isn't wildly antisemitic.

Are either of you interested in taking a stab at answering this question?  By now, all I've come up with are two Biblical answers (that the Jews are a "stubborn" people and that the Jews have a historical knack of making stupid political decisions) and one nasty answer (that American Jews are just stupid).

I also wonder whether it's an intellectual snobbery thing.  An ongoing sense of pride for Jews has been that they're smart -- but too often they confuse smart with "intellectual" or "possessing a degree."  They'll sneer at the incredibly intuitive, competent, successful plumber (or governor), but fall all over themselves lauding someone who has a degree from an Ivy League University, regardless of that person's actual merits.  I was certainly raised that way, but I managed to figure out that there's often a huge chasm between being smart (and, one hopes, moral) and being educated (and, sadly, so often immoral or amoral).

Sign me frustrated.

Richard Baehr:

I think the biggest problem is that liberalism is a core part of the identity of most secular Jews, more than Judaism. and in fact, Judaism is believed to be supportive of liberalism-hence the effort to find some biblical passages to support tikkun olam and fixing the environment, and helping the poor. Jews would sooner give up their Judaism (which happens all the time), than their liberalism. Asking Jews to give up their liberalism is to ask them to become new people.

Clarice Feldman:

You ask why do (so many) Jews vote for the Democrats? It's a good question because in so many respects the party no longer-if it ever did-reflects their views or advances their interests.

I think you can't answer this without acknowledging that these voters are not a single bloc.

Orthodox Jews are less likely to vote for the Democrats. This is largely a reflection of their place on the cultural divide and their recognition that the Democrats are less likely to support the strong foreign policy and defense initiatives necessary to really protect Israel.

Older people, still enamored of Roosevelt and stung so badly by the anti-Semitic attitudes and actions of the upper class when they were young, cannot see or acknowledge the shift in the  two parties since at least the moment Buckley kicked Buchanan and his ilk to the curb and the Democrats were seduced by the pro-Palestinian European left. It is hard to see that there is much anyone can do to change this.

As for the rest, so many live in urban areas. And our large urban areas are quite solidly a leftish coalition of the very rich and very poor who have left behind-if not denigrated-the middle class views and lifestyles of the present day Republicans. It takes a determined effort and independent thinking for an urbanite to think outside this ideological box. It takes a great deal of time because most of the major press in those areas is utterly in the tank for the left.

I think the best we can do to change this pattern is this: We at American Thinker must continue to  boil down the facts these people need to make independent decisions into a form that busy but smart people can grasp.  I must say that with few other rare exceptions-Commentary, for example-too many bloggers and online publications on the right spend far too much time on silliness (responding to the clearly demented Andrew Sullivan, for example) and insider ephemera instead of providing in pithy format news urban Jewish voters need to know to make better political choices.

Marc Sheppard:

Jewish loyalty to the Democratic Party is legendary, and often attributed to FDR, whose New Deal social reform package fit snuggly with the principles of social justice Jews had acquired through centuries of both religious teachings and oppression.  Indeed, Jews supported Roosevelt by an overwhelming 9-to-1 in both 1940 and 1944, and have been voting largely Liberal ever since.  But similar progressive political concerns notwithstanding and with one unique exception -- LBJ -- Democratic presidents have proven anything but simpatico with the broader interests of the Jewish people.

In fact, they got it wrong right from the get go. As President during history's once greatest threat to the survival of the Jewish people, FDR was by no measure an ally. To the contrary - In 1939, while his anti-Semitic secretary of state, Breckinridge Long, worked overtime to stop Jewish immigration, it was FDR himself that denied the SS St. Louis -- a German ocean liner carrying over 950 Jewish refugees fleeing Hitler -- entry to our shores.   

It turned out that the dearly beloved Democrat actually refused virtually every opportunity presented him to stop the Holocaust.  Just one example: Beginning in August of 1944, American bombers regularly targeted industrial complexes within five miles of Auschwitz's gas chambers. Yet, not a single bomb ever fell on it or any other southern Poland death camp or on the railroad tracks leading to them, even though their precise locations were well-known. We're left to wonder how many might have been spared the ovens had the abattoir where 1.6 million Jews took their final anguished breathes been decommissioned a full 10 months before V-E Day.

Now, 64 years later and facing the threat of a new madman bent on exterminating them in greater numbers than the last, a preponderance of Jews appear poised once-again to overlook what's best for their very survival to affirm their Liberal mettle.  As Ahmadinejad swiftly spreads his nuclear wings, the candidate Jews favor 2-to-1 proposes to engage him with "tough-minded diplomacy."  And if that doesn't scare the deranged little tyrant - who threatened to "wipe Israel off the map" after calling it a "stinking corpse" - into submission, President Obama promises to really let him have it by imposing "stronger sanctions."

Bad enough Obama's weak-kneed policies will do less than zero to impede Iran's nuclear-weapons aspirations.  But by refusing -- and refuse he will -- to covertly green-light any preemptive operations, he'll also represent a major obstacle to Israel's only self-defense against prospective annihilation. 

You'd think that even if the indictment against Jewish support for an Obama presidency ended there -- he'd never be the choice of the greater part of the chosen

And yet, it doesn't end there -- not by a longshot.

Fortunately, as a voting block, Jews appear to be gradually wiggling free of the Democrats' half-nelson.  While both Clinton over Dole and Gore over Bush went 5-to-1; Kerry dropped to 3-to-1, and Obama will lose more ground still.  That said, he'll likely receive almost 3 of every 5 Jewish votes in an election that may decide the fate of Iran's bomb and with it, that of the Jewish people.

What ever happened to the oath of "never again?"

C. Edmund Wright:

The overwhelming political support the Jewish community gives liberal Democrats is one of the many political astigmatisms plaguing our electoral process. As one who has been personally involved in uncompromising, Bible believing and somewhat charismatic church bodies for a couple decades, it is clear to me that there is no group on the planet as "pro-Israel" as the American Religious Right. It is palpable in thousands of churches every week. And while the religious right includes a good number of "Messianic Jews," their support for the state of Israel is by no means dependent on Jewish conversion to Christianity.

The "threat" of conversion and some Catholic history in Europe, however, seem to be at the root of the knee jerk reaction for Jews to shun the party of the religious right. Ironic that this throws them into the party of the Islamic right.

This particular issue is so pervasive and frustrating that it is the founding tenet behind the ministry of Rabbi Daniel Lapin and two different organizations he operates out of ultra-liberal Mercer Island, Washington. In his words:

Jews and Christians need each other if Biblical civilization is to survive, which is why I started the American Alliance of Jews and Christians.

Because it is so unusual these days for a rabbi to say nice things about Christians, I consider it necessary to explain that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Christian.

I do not believe a devoutly religious Jew can also be a born-again Christian. One faith has produced Judaism, the longest-lasting, continuous culture in the history of the world, while the other has been responsible for the founding of America, the greatest civilization the world has ever known.

In making the case for Christianity in America, I am not suggesting that Jews ought to embrace the Christian faith. I believe that Jews should actively embrace traditional Judaism; I have spent many years of my life helping to bring that about.

But I am suggesting, at the very least, that Jews should stop speaking and acting as if Christian America is their enemy. I feel that all Americans who love freedom, whether or not they are religious, should welcome the reawakening of earnest Christianity throughout the land. I shall try to establish that Jews as well as other minorities have the most to fear from a post-Christian America.

Lapin is often a guest on Christian radio, and there appears to be a genuine friendship between him and Dr. James Dobson. The Rabbi understands that while he and Dobson will never agree on the tenets of their respective faiths, the future of both America and Israel depend on these two faiths working together for common goals in the secular culture. For both of these men, and frankly anyone who studies the issue in a sober and intellectual manner -- it is obvious that while Orthodox Jews and Born again Christians differ on the eternal - these two groups have the same vision for the temporal and the same enemies as well.

As he states, to not realize this is destructive:

Quite frankly, if it is appropriate to blame today's American Christians for the sins of past Europeans, why isn't it okay to blame today's Jews for things that our ancestors may have done?

Clearly both are wrong and doing so harms our relationships with one of the few groups still friendly toward us today. Jewish groups that fracture friendship between Christians and Jews are performing no valuable service to American Jews.

Ed Lasky:

The demographics of the Jewish community have always elicited discussion in the community. Normally this involves declining birth rates and increasing intermarriage rates: a dynamic that will lead to a smaller Jewish community in the years ahead. This has been less of a factor in past years when immigration from the Soviet Union replenished the community. However, that source has been “tapped out” for all intents and purposes and the looming demographic deficit is again rearing its head.

However, a different dynamic is at work within this larger dynamic. The proportion of the Jewish population that hails from its Conservative and Orthodox sup-populations is climbing and will continue to climb in the years ahead. Simply put, Conservative and Orthodox Jews have children at younger ages and have more children on average than their brethren in the Reform community.

The consequences will be manifest and game-changing in the years ahead.

Orthodox Jews lean to the right politically. They share a conservative morality that is sympathetic to those within the Republican Party that have the same adherence to a common Judeo-Christian culture. They are more receptive to working with Evangelicals (who favor Republicans) than those in the Reform community have been. They tend to be more sensitive to national security concerns than reform Jews. A study was just released that indicates they tend to take a more hawkish approach towards Israel and the threat she faces than do those in the reform community. The “peacenicks” within the Jewish community (the crowd around J Street, the Israel Policy Forum) may lose influence as the numbers of Conservative and Orthodox Jews grow.

Politically, we already have seen glimmers of a political alignment in its early stages: Orthodox Jews support John McCain over Barack Obama. As their population increases relative to the Reform community (which tends to be Democratic) they will begin to exercise more influence at the political level. Furthermore, these communities tend to be tightly knit. Political parties will come to realize the electoral influence of a  well-organized community whose numbers are growing.

We have seen a slew of rabbis come to the aid of Barack Obama; in the years ahead, we may see a more visible and audible manifestation of this support coming to politicians from leaders among Conservative and Orthodox Jews.

How will established Jewish organizations adapt? Will they recognize that the community has changed? Will they be more receptive to the contributions of  Orthodox Jews? The media and political parties give a lot of coverage to the pronouncements (some of them controversial) of the leader of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffe, who have become de facto “leaders of the Jewish community” when journalists look for a supposedly “representative” quote about how the Jewish community feels about a wide variety of issues?

Will sheer numbers alone compel the media to listen to Orthodox leaders in order to get a read on the community’s views.

One hopes that will occur and that their megaphone will be effective in conveying an essential truth: the Jewish community is far more varied (and multi-colored, red and blue) than is commonly perceived.  

This is important.

For far too long, people have stereotyped Jews as being lock-step liberal Democrats. Like all stereotypes this  is not only false but is potentially harmful. A broader chorus of voices makes the music resound more richly.

Otis A. Glazebrook IV:

Once one accepts that Liberalism is a Religion this becomes a simpler question.

Jewish merely describes a Liberal Jew’s Race, it has nothing to do with his/her moral compass.

Liberalism and all its tenants will come first.

How else does one explain the Kapo mentality of some Jews in the concentration camps.

Some Kapos were Rabbis ..
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