One little-noticed trend that speaks volumes: the decline in Democratic Party identification and support for Barack Obama from American Jews, once among their most reliable and enthusiastic backers.
There has been a steady drip-drip-drip of Jews leaving the Democratic Party, most recently noted by the Pew Research Center. This has caused consternation among the usual suspects -- among them, the National Jewish Democratic Council and New York Times columnist and uber-liberal Charles Blow, who commented just a few days ago: In a Pew Research Center report issued on Thursday and entitled "Growing Number of Americans Say Obama Is a Muslim" (tragic in its own right), there was another bit of bad news for Obama: the number of Jews who identify as Republican or as independents who lean Republican has increased by more than half since the year he was elected. At 33 percent it now stands at the highest level since the data have been kept. In 2008, the ratio of Democratic Jews to Republican Jews was far more than three to one. Now it's less than two to one. This is no doubt a reaction, at least in part, to the Obama administration having taken a hard rhetorical stance with Israel, while taking "special time and care on our relationship with the Muslim world," as Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, put it in June. If that sounds like courtship, it is.
With all due respect to Mr. Blow, this shifting dynamic is a bit more complicated than blaming it all on Barack Obama's harsh treatment of Israel.
Blow's simplistic approach suggests the ugly issue of dual loyalty. Most Jews are not single-issue voters, and Israel is not the top concern of most Jews. This fact has not escaped the notice of pro-Israel groups in America, which are often at wit's end to generate pro-Israel feelings among American Jews. Yet Blow and others seem to want to focus on Israel. Hispanics aren't accused of putting their home countries above America when they march for immigration "reform"; Poles aren't criticized when they express pride in their homeland, and they were among the fiercest domestic foes of the Soviet Union (these include Zbigniew Brzezinski, who routinely all but charges Jews with dual loyalty but omits his own role in bringing the Taliban to power in Afghanistan as a way to weaken the Soviet Union to the point where it had to eventually stop occupying his homeland). The political correctness that is the guiding principle at the New York Times apparently does not extend to American Jews. Be that as it may, Jews are as American as everyone else and focus on domestic concerns when they vote. What they see happening under Democrat rule, they don't like.
Indeed, it can be argued that among all the groups that America can be divided into (and Obama's reign seems to be splintering America at its seams into various tribes), Jews are the ones paying the steepest price for the Democrats' policies. Many of the changes undertaken by Obama have had a disparate negative impact on American Jews.
The legacy of anti-Semitism has been a major force that has driven many Jews to become small business owners. They are in for a load of trouble in the days ahead. More onerous regulations, such as having to file many more 1099s so the IRS can make sure they get every nickel possible from Americans and a pro-union agenda that rewards unionized firms, are just the tip of the iceberg. Many small businesses are incorporated as S-corporations; these will now face onerous new taxes. Small business owners are the unsung heroes in America; they generate most of the private-sector jobs. They also lead generally very stressful lives -- trying to deal with the challenges of competition, labor relations, customer service, risks of bankruptcy. Barack Obama and the Democrats have just loaded onto their shoulders many more problems.
Jews in America are also among the highest per-capita earners. Why? Again, anti-Semitism may be a factor. This has led American Jews toward entrepreneurship and professional careers that allow them to develop talents that shield them from bosses who don't like Jews. There is also a cultural reason: Jews revere education. Many become doctors and lawyers. But this dynamic has had a toxic side-effect: it has generated anti-Semitism and slurs in the past. In any case, Jews are being surpassed by Asian-Americans, including Indian-Americans, so maybe that will recede as a problem (it already has, because Americans, despite the bleating of liberals, are among the least prejudiced people in the world).
But what won't recede is the wave of higher tax rates targeting higher-income Americans. David Drucker writes in the New York Post:
High-income people will lose many of their tax cuts under the Democrats' plan: they'll lose a large fraction of their itemized deductions including charitable gifts and mortgage interest. Their tax rate on qualified dividends and long-term capital gains will go from 15% to 20%, and the top two wage tax rates will return to 36% and 39.6% from their current levels of 33% and 35%.
Jews will get hit with multiple whammies on New Year's Day.
Higher taxes on income will be just one of them (and since many still live in New York, they will face an even worse hangover, since New York taxes are confiscatory). But higher taxes on capital gains will bring its own pain to many Jews because of a demographic fact: Jews are the oldest ethnic group in America. Older people have often relied on the health of the stock market to cushion their retirement years. That cushion has deflated this year under the multiple blows administered by Barack Obama and the Democrats. (Much of last year's growth was due to the Federal Reserve running its printing presses overtime -- the only government branch that worked overtime last year; also, the market was just vastly oversold in the panic of 2008.) As Democrat policies took hold (the failed stimulus, ObamaCare, financial "reform"), the market started to tank because investors saw a bleak future for free enterprise in the Age of Obama. Obama's penchant for railing against Wall Street -- historically, an anti-Semitic rallying cry -- may strike the wrong chord with American Jews. Didn't the self-declared student of history who absurdly claimed that "nobody has spoken out more fiercely on that issue of anti-Semitism than I have" attend any of his history classes (or did he play hooky, as he claimed to during all those days that Jeremiah Wright broadcast his jeremiads against whites, America, and Israel?).
Also, American Jews have far fewer children on average than most groups in America. Children are expensive, but they also have historically been seen as a form of insurance by people: the kids will be there to help seniors. But if people have fewer kids, they not only have the ability to save more money (again, kids are expensive), but also must save more money to help themselves during their sunset years.
The stock market stall, combined with vastly increased taxes on capital gains and dividend income, bode ill for America's oldest "tribe": Jews.
Since I mentioned ObamaCare, one can ask, how will that impact American Jews? Not well. As noted above, many Jews are doctors. The healing arts are revered among Jews ("my son, the doctor"). ObamaCare will suppress the freedom of doctors, load them up with additional paperwork and patients, and will eventually hit their bottom line.
Furthermore, seniors are very concerned about the future of health care in America, as they should be. How welcome will be the gutting of Medicare and Medicare Advantage to fund health care for legions of younger people who can opt in and out of government-funded medical care whenever it suits them (for example, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital)? Not very -- and that includes the oldest demographic sliver in America: Jews.
These are just a few reasons why American Jews might be open to moving to the other side of the aisle. Others include a massive change in the Jewish population from the influx of Russian Jews, who abhor statist control of the economy and of their daily lives, and who revere liberty as only those who never had it before would. There has also been a surge in the Orthodox community -- and they have far more children than Reform Jews, so the Jewish population as a whole is moving inexorably more towards conservatism. They also tend -- as is true of religious Christians -- toward the redder end of the political spectrum. Simplistically and myopically blaming Obama's approach toward Israel for the "defection" of American Jews from the Democratic Party short-changes Jews and is wrong. The single-minded obsession that Jews focus only on Israel runs the risk of encouraging charges of dual loyalty, and that has led to a great deal of suffering for Jews throughout history.
A digression on the charge of dual loyalty:
Living in Chicago, I have seen the efflorescence of ethnic pride and identity politics. St. Patrick's Day brings us the greening of the Chicago River and the sprightly appearance of leprechauns. Latino Congressmen such as Luis Gutierrez make immigration reform a top priority -- even if it leads to his arrest. Chicago has a potent African-American business and political block that both propelled Barack Obama's career and gave America Oprah Winfrey. What other city in America allows kids a day off school to honor Casimir Pulaski? When the World Cup happens, I learn a great deal from the giant flags whipping from car windows. There is nothing wrong with people caring for their relatives and friends in foreign lands. But for Blow and others to point their finger at Israel as the reason Jews are leaving the Democratic Party is wrong. They should stop promoting that canard.
Jews are as American as everyone else. When they see their lives being harmed, their interests being ignored, and their dreams being dashed to death by Democrats, they respond just as other Americans do. They express their concerns and seek to protect their future in that most American of places: the voting booth.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker.