Where are the Jewish Republicans?
American Jews, probably to no one’s surprise, tend to be overwhelmingly liberal. According to a Pew study conducted in 2021, “seven-in-ten Jewish adults identify with or lean toward the Democratic party, and half describe their political views as liberal.”
Being from Brooklyn, where I have befriended and become acquainted with plenty of Jews (both practicing and secular), I am actually surprised by this seven-in-ten statistic from Pew; I thought it would have been much higher!
My mother, who is a secular Jew, came from a family that voted solidly for Democrats. Most of the Jews that ran for congressional office in New York, where she was raised, just so happened to be from the Democratic party. A Jewish Republican was about as rare as a sasquatch or a vegan lion.
What’s more, most secular Jews, like those on my mother’s side of the family, think of Republicans as being reactionary evangelicals, whom they have nothing in common with. To them, Republicans are illiberal, gun-toting, bible-thumping, pro-life Christians who espouse bigotry and racism. This depiction of Republicans, though obviously myopic and distorted, is about in line with what most secular American Jews believe.
Of course, none of this is true. Republicans are not a monolithic group; they are, as I have learned in my 25 years of life experience, actually quite ideologically diverse. Being active in Republican circles, I have encountered Republicans of many stripes: libertarians, neocons, paleocons, those who were socially liberal and fiscally conservative, socially conservative and fiscally liberal, etc. In fact, the eclectic nature of conservative thought has, in many cases, proved to be an obstacle to passing legislation in Congress, even with clear Republican majorities. Just look at what happened with the Speaker of the House vote. Freedom Caucus types are very different from those on the center-right. So no, Republicans are not monolithic by any stretch. In fact, they could afford to be a little more ideologically cohesive.
Be that as it may, American Jews have not changed their minds about Republicans over the decades. As stated in the aforementioned Pew study, “...Jews are the most consistently liberal and Democratic groups in the U.S. population.”
The religious composition of the 118th Congress affirms this point. Out of 222 Republicans in the House of Representatives, two are Jewish: David Kustoff, (R-TN), and Max Miller, (R-OH). This pathetically short list, of course, does not include George Santos, (R-NY), who has been rather deceptive about his Jewish heritage. In Santos’s defense, he did say that he wasn’t Jewish, but rather, “Jew-ish,” whatever that means.
I also have to give a lot of credit to former House Representative and New York gubernatorial candidate, Lee Zeldin, the Jew who effectively led the charge in winning the House for Republicans.
In any case, Jewish Republicans in the House are few and far between. In the Senate, there are exactly zero Jewish Republicans, with the last one being Norm Coleman, (R-MN), who lost his re-election bid in 2008 to comedian Al Franken, (D-MN), who is also Jewish. Oddly enough, Minnesota is also the home of another former Jewish-Republican senator: Rudy Boschwitz, (R-MN). What is it, I wonder, about Minnesota?
A recent Pew report shows that, all in all, Jewish representation in the 118th Congress stands at about 6%, three times their demographic representation in the U.S. Of these 33 Jewish House members, 31 are Democrats.
To diagnose why Jews vote so heavily Democratic would require a study of unusual breadth. It could be a cultural inclination towards more liberal values or a myriad of other variables that drive Jews to the Democratic Party. I am not in the business of getting to the bottom of why American Jews are liberal. Rather, I am simply observing a demographic block that seems to be unmovable in their political convictions. A friend recently told me about a book Why Are Jews Liberals written by neo-conservative luminary Norman Podhoretz, widely known for his provocations in Commentary Magazine, which may offer some answers.
As a Republican with maternal Jewish ancestry, I haven’t been totally pessimistic about the prospect of other Jews converting to the Republican Party. Orthodox Jews and other more religious sects seem to be more inclined to vote Republican. In fact, the Pew study which I cited at the beginning of this article states that “60% of Orthodox Jews describe their political views as conservative, 75% identify as Republican or lean toward the GOP, and 81% approved of Trump’s job performance…” These statistics are nothing to scoff at. While I was well aware of the fact that Orthodox Jews were more conservative than secular Jews, I had no idea the contrast would be this stark.
As for secular Jews, it doesn’t appear that they will be bubbling in Donald Trump’s name on their ballot anytime soon.
Image: Ted Eytan