Amid his rapidly-falling poll numbers and the crashing economy, there are reports every day that President Obama is losing support from this or that formerly-solid voting bloc. One of those supposedly-weakening support groups is American Jews. Jews have traditionally voted liberal-Democratic in the past; is there any reason for Obama to fear a lessening of their support now? Certainly, his personal rift with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Obama’s recent call for Israel to return to its 1967 borders haven’t helped his standing in the American Jewish community.

But will a majority of American Jews actually not support President Obama in 2012?

As way of background, books could be written on the subject of why most American Jews are liberal.

In fact books have been written, the best of which is probably Norman Podhoretz’ “Why Are Jews Liberals?”

The answer is more emotional- and “feel”-based than factual- or logic-based. Certainly, Republican policies of the last 30-40 years towards Israel and Republican foreign policy in general are more favorable to Israel than the Democrats’ policies.

But as summarized in a Publisher’s Weekly review, “Immigrant American Jews were attracted to the Democratic Party, says Podhoretz, because it was the closest counterpart to the European leftists who had favored Jewish emancipation.”

Expanding on that thought, in their home countries in Europe and Russia, Jews were so persecuted and discriminated against, that once in their new American homeland, they wanted to distance themselves from that treatment as far as possible. The tolerance, softness and “acceptance” of the American liberal philosophy appealed to them, since it represented the social freedom that had eluded them for generations in the ‘old country.’

It’s important to bear in mind that the Democratic/liberal philosophy of FDR or JFK was a great distance removed from the über-soft/politically-correct/non-offensive-at-all-costs liberal philosophy and policies of today. But the basic tenet of “hard work and you’ll be rewarded” coupled with the essential American societal promise of non-discrimination (certainly not perfect in actuality, but orders of magnitude better than what it had been in Europe and Russia) were well-accepted by Jewish immigrants to the U.S in the first half of the 20th century. Those are the generations that spawned today’s liberal Jewish majority.

That thought has now gained a self-sustaining momentum all its own, such that it is now tradition and expected behavior for American Jews to be liberal. There is a definite “that’s the way it’s always been in my family” component to this, not unlike the liberal/Democratic allegiance that most African-Americans have for the Democratic Party as well (although for somewhat different reasons). To reiterate: Most of today’s American Jewish liberal voters grew up in households that were already liberal/Democratic. In other words, today’s Jewish liberal voter was not a blank sheet of paper, left to their own devices to make a philosophical determination on their own. Their family was likely liberal, their emotional environment was liberal, and their cultural/societal/religious enclave was liberal. Many Jewish people grew up in areas of high Jewish density, so their communities were largely one-dimensional (Jewish-liberal) as well.

This is not to say that other voting blocs aren’t mostly pre-determined by environment, inertia and tradition also. Many are. But the American Jewish liberal voting tradition is particularly interesting because many of their social precepts and foreign-policy vested interests would augur a more conservative bearing.

To wit: Many, if not most, of the guiding social principles that Jewish families espoused and impressed upon their children in the second half of the 20th century—hard work, self-sufficiency, a good education (“You’ll go to college, you’ll get a good job, you’ll make us proud!”) would be considered “conservative” by today’s permissive, less-accountable standards.

Additionally, many American Jews have a deep loyalty and affinity with Israel, to the point that many of them consider Israel to be a “second home country,” even if they’ve never been there. American Jews’ recognition of the necessity of Israel to take harsh, non-apologetic security and military measures to provide for its own national security (while either conveniently ignoring or disagreeing with America’s need to do the same) would also be considered a more conservative position than liberal.

Yet the vast majority of American Jews remain wedded to the liberal/Democratic mindset.

When faced with hard evidence to the contrary—like President Obama’s recent declaration that Israel should return to its 1967 borders—most American Jews frantically genuflect and rationalize to justify their original liberal position. “Well, Israel is Israel, and I’m an American first. My views on domestic politics are shaped by what I believe is best for me here in America, not on America’s actions towards Israel.”

So much for the “Israel as my second country” mindset.

Another example: Given the very high cultural importance that most Jews place on education, hard work, and professional success, high-achieving Jews are often the victims of set-asides and demographic quotas when it comes to college admissions and other restrictive/promotional situations. But with inexplicable—almost laughable— incongruence, most Jews are in favor of affirmative action–type social programs, unless, of course, it happens to negatively affect them personally. This is the emotional component of their liberal attachment, when logic goes out the window.

We previously touched on the fact that conservative Republican foreign policies are usually more favorable to Israel than the softer, more all-inclusive approach favored by today’s Democrats. The Southern US is currently a Republican stronghold. Yet there is an unspoken (but undeniably real) prejudice that many coastal/North Eastern elite Jewish people feel towards the Southern-drawled Christian Bible belt. “Those people” are simply too foreign for Ivy-league-educated Jews to identify with, regardless of the many common positions that the two groups may share vis-à-vis Israel, terrorism, and the Middle East. “Israel as a second country” works for today’s Jews when vacationing in Haifa or when making a feel-good donation at the Men’s Club at Shul; it very rarely translates into a consistent, logical, actionable political stance.

As previously stated, modern American Jewish liberalism is unquestionably more emotional/cultural-based than it is logic-based. But it is real, and you can see it in every Presidential election, as the vast majority of the Jewish vote goes to the Democrat. Every time, and likely in 2012 too.

Comments

  • Red State Eddie

    Now that we had our obligatory RoPaul back and forth, now back to the main point of the post.
    |
    I was wondering if part of the issue, in a small way, was related to the religious/spiritual aspect of Judaism that has metamorphed over the last 100 years. Meaning, many Jews today in the US associate themselves as Jewish on a cultural basis much more than a religious practice. I have relatives who are Jewish – one family is fairly observant, fairly conservative; the other, hardly at all. I would probably say they’re not practicing any of it. Unless you directly asked them if they considered themselves Jewish, you’d never be able to observe it or detect it. I’ve seen this trend growing rather than reversing.
    |
    The reason I ask about this factor is because when someone slips away from their religious/spiritual moorings, they tend to cling (sometimes even moreso) to the other social/cultural elements in their life that were present at the time that still gives them continuity in the face of those transitions. It can be a frightening thing to walk away (or just drift) from your traditions, esp. something as core as your religious faith; you want to maintain at least some semblance of the life you lived versus the one you’re moving towards. So the practice of Judaism as a faith may not happen, yet the expressions of Judaism as a cultural group still remain. Politics would be one expression of it.
    |
    I can make the same arguments about the Protestant mainline denominations, some of whom have tried (with little or middling success) to breakout of the trappings of their traditions also. Its hard to do.
    |
    To the point: the temporal elements around earlier in the last century, as Steven highlighted, may still be actively influencing them because these ‘traditions’ have become part and parcel of what it means to be Jewish. These cultural expressions or traditions have become core to them, while they’ve also neglected the greater religious or theological aspects of their faith that could inspire a very different outlook.
    |
    So if it was essential to vote Democrate 50-75 years ago based on what was happening to the Jews at that time, then that is what gets locked into the DNA of their cultural expressions for today.

    • Gary Russell

      Interesting points, RSE.

  • Brian H

    Punk Rocker anthem to Ron Paul. Seriously. No joke.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/is-there-an-anti-fed-punk-rock-athem-for-ron-pauls-campaign-yes-there-is/

    The most telling point is to read the blog statements by Paul’s groupies under the article. Typical anti-Israel garbage that has always been too typical of too many in Paul’s flock.

    The irony of Ron Paul is that he holds positions on so amny issues that almost anyone who is a one issue voter can attach themselves to. He is hodgepodge, as are his supporters.

    Paul’s Flock
    1. Anit-War lefties
    2. Small government conservatives.
    3. No govt. anarchists
    4. 9/11 Truthers
    5. Anti-Israel nut jobs
    6. Anti Feds
    7. Conspiracy theorists

    …just to name a few

    That is Paul’s strength and weakness. His strength is he is able to appeal to many single issue fringe voters on many various issues in which they are willing to ignore his opposition to them on other issues as long as he touts their main single issue.

    His weakness is that he is maxed out this voting block. They are already in his corner. It also explains their fervor. We have all met some of these radicalized single issue fringers. We have all seen how committed and obsessed they are with their issue. What Paul has been able to do is successfully tap into the small (per issue) but large (with issues) fringers. The Paul Punker song is a great example of this.

    • Brian H

      Here is an example of the kinda rhetoric one has learned to expect because it is ALL to typical from Paul’s groupies.

      “Ron Paul is our best chance at restoring democracy.

      A Coup d’etat began during the 2008 presidential election.

      Obama is not the president, he’s the acting president. He disappeared for 2 weeks after his election win only to reappear looking exhausted sitting next to John McCain, with a bad poker face, for a press photo shoot. Obama is now a Pentagon puppet.

      Here’s what Osama, Obama, Biden, Bin Laden, the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists, and Sarah Palin had to do with the last presidential election and the military’s overthrow of our government.”

      Another….
      “BTW, the artist that drew the cover pic for this article is David Dees……I doubt many of you Bow-to-I$rael folks will see the humor though……..(ps, Dees is 100% correct)…scroll through a few of his pics”
      http://www.sl-webs.com/deesillustration/home.asp

      What is too sad is there are inteLLigent people in this forum who are associating themselves with this kind of rhetoric by not denouncing these LOONS, but, are willing to accept them into the Flock of Numbskulls (not Seagulls) as long as they blog, donate their weed money, show up to rallies, and interfere with the legitimate political process.

      These people are not being rhetorical when they say they are in a “REVOLUTION”. These people believe it. And, as such, are proud of the fact they are interfering with the legitimate political process. Make no mistake about it. EXPECT Ron Paul to run as an independent when he eventually loses the GOP nomination. He uses the GOP primaries to rally his flock and then will run as a third party and demand equal airtime.

  • Promise Kept

    I wasn’t accusing anyone specific, but if you confess to it, and others acknowledge it; whether or not they post it, well, I guess you get to own it. Laugh on…

    • Brian H

      Sure. I’ll admit to it. Even though you were not accusing anyone specifically…wink wink.

      Yes folks. I admit it. I am 100% closed minded to ever supporting a 9/11 Truther who would be willing to have a nuclear Iran because “we have them”. I am completely closed minded to a semantics and games with people because they choose to believe that Ron Paul has any shot at ever being President.

      Consider me “outed”, Promise. It feels wonderful to lift the burden of having to pretend that Paul’s groupies are anything other than an unserious fringe of the political electorate.

      • Promise Kept

        Brian, as I stated before, I try to stay on point with the thread, and try to honor both the owner and the posters here on the PD as much as I can. That which defines conservatives; religious and/or political, is very important to the good folks here. Dennis Prager described his experience in the article you posted, about how his being invited to speak at the Orthodox Union convention on the subject, “Why I am not Orthodox”, was an honor he knew he would NEVER have at a Reformed movement’s convention on, “Why I am not a Liberal”.

        I come here daily, respectfully interacting with many good folks here, and offering my perspective on, “Why I am not a Neo-Con”, in the hopes of helping build a good faith dialog with all who would consider themselves my peers here; and hopefully persuading like-minded folks to communicate better with others of different political views.
        My observation is that true conservatives primarily use the warmth of reasonable persuasion in the hopes of winning the trust of others they may differ with.
        Liberals, on the other hand, primarily use the cold, blustering winds of condescending ridicule, and even false accusation, to try and justify the alienation they feebly defend their need to maintain.

        Ron Paul’s candidacy for the POTUS exists, not because he aspired to this rank for himself, but because all of us who witnessed his Constitutional “Orthodoxy” for over three decades, the accuracy of his economic policies and predictions, and his practical, common-sense, less-government remedies, caused enough of us who love Liberty to urgently constrain him to run; pledging our financial and grassroots support to sustain his campaign without becoming beholden to any corporate interests, or insiders-only, privileged government financial advantages.
        Whether or not you believe that Dr. Paul is worthy of a path to the presidency, or not, is not really as important to me as you seem to think; not because I don’t care about you as a person, but because of your forced disconnect between my frequent, good faith appeals and your habitually fitful rant replies.
        In honor of this thread, and our discussion, I respectfully offer this article with my reply.
        http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/15451.htm

        • Promise Kept

          Oops, I didn’t catch the last letter on my copy and paste. Here’s a working link to the article I posted above: http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/15451.html

          • Promise Kept

            The article I posted is from 2007, just to show how some things have improved since then, and how some things never change. Here is a current link to the organization mentioned: http://www.facebook.com/JewsForRonPaul

        • Rochelle

          Well thought out and well articulated point. And I agree about how the two groups usually try to win people over to their respective sides.

          • Promise Kept

            Rochelle, thank for the thumbs-up, but if I may try to interpret your second sentence, I hope to offer some help with your articulation there.
            The subject you wrote there is, “how the two groups usually try to win people over to their respective side.”
            Actually, the two groups were framed by contrasting the friendly persuasion of true conservatism, verses the scornful disparagement that more liberal folks usually resort to when their weak attempts at mutually-respectful reasoning breaks down on too many levels.

            • Rochelle

              ha ha. . . this is true.

  • Steve Feinstein

    David,
    Gefilte fish is not even ON the list. It’s only redeeming feature is to see the look on the face of the person trying it for the first time.

  • Steve Feinstein

    PS–Whodat: The worldwide Jewish community has many things of which to be proud.

    Mogen David wine and matzoh are not high on that list.

    • David Kaiser, Editor

      Having a Jewish best friend for 30 years, I have to add Gefilte Fish to the low end of that list as well.

      • http://www.politicalderby.com/ Jason Wright, Editor

        Well, well, well, this is awkward. I’ve only known you a few years. And I’m not Jewish.

        • Gary Russell

          Sorry, Jason.
          I think Kaiser might have been referring to Joe?
          (Joseph?)

  • Steve Feinstein

    Scott,

    No belittling taken. I realize that they’re a small voting bloc and probably don’t make the electoral difference in any area. Maybe their vote matters in Florida, if it’s close. Maybe not.

    As a Conservative Jewish person, I’m just fascinated by their mindset and the possible reasons behind it. The illogical group-think of voting against one’s putative interests or beliefs translates to a worthy analysis of other, larger monolithic voting blocs.

    It’s merely an interesting intellectual exercise, and getting well-considered opinions from the PD community makes for good reading and thoughtful introspection.

    • David Kaiser, Editor

      “well-considered opinions from the PD community”

      Do you read the same website I do?

      JUST KIDDING!

  • http://scottslant.blogspot.com/ Scott A. Robinson

    Not to belittle your point, but Jews only make up 1.7% of the entire population. I don’t think the Jewish vote can have much of an impact at all.

    • Whodat

      Not sure of the numbers today, but when I lived in NYC, there were more Jews there than in Israel. Not many in relation to USA, but certainly enough to snag a bunch of NY electoral votes. They sure outnumber the gentiles upstate!

  • Alaina

    Well… if they’re ever going to flip, it’s going to be in 2012… At some point, they have to to get fed up with it all so hopefully, even though they don’t want to outwardly admit they’re wrong, they’ll secretly admit it in the voting booth.

  • Rochelle

    This baffles me. It baffles me the same way that the african american allegiance to the left baffles me. I don’t understand why they get credit for being the “open” party, when history has shown them as very much the opposite. I guess there is truth in the saying that “perception is everything.”

    • Troy La Mana

      I don’t get it either. The KKK, started by Democrats. Segregation, clung to by Democrats. Civil Rights, Blocked and fought by Democrats. Jim Crow Laws, Democrats. It just doesn’t make any sense why they support the current Democrat by 81%.. and that is an all time low.

      • Rochelle

        That is exactly my point. It’s crazy to me.

    • Promise Kept

      One word too often defines the ruts we all find ourselves in, “Tradition!”
      Traditions are sometimes beneficial, sometimes benign, but far too often are followed by too many otherwise good folks only because someone else ahead of them seemed to think that they knew where they were going; and their followers said, “Well, that’s good enough for me!”
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRdfX7ut8gw

  • Whodat

    It could happen that Jews, the majority of which live in New York, might to a small degree peel off for a Republican. It has happended… One would think that given the way Obomb has treated Netanyahu, there would be an EXODUS from Obomb. But, as explained to me by a Jewish friend and business associate, “We are very stubborn and hate to admit we are or were wrong.” He goes on to voice shock and dismay at the way Obomb has sucked up to Arabs and many of the Holder ideas of trials in NYC, etc, plus the awful state of our economy and lays enough blame on Obomb, but, this friend voted for Obomb in 08 and is still on the fence about 12. How, I demand, “how can you have any doubt?” “We are stubborn!” he repeats. I do not understand.
    Of course, I have tried Mogen David wine and some matzah on occasion, and I do not understand those either…

  • Brian H
  • Promise Kept

    “I can easily acknowledge many fine traits among my fellow” PDers, who believe themselves conservative. “Open-mindedness is just”, sadly too often, “not one of them.” My paraphrase of the article’s closing line.

  • Rochelle

    I think It just takes many generations to change group think. Cities, and States are often defined as red or blue and very rarely does that change. It takes generations to change the culture of a community.

  • Brian H

    It is AWESOME to be accused of being closed minded by people who are completely unwilling to EVER consider the validity of other candidates, people who are unwilling to EVER consider anything that does not praise and promote one man.

    If I were a person who was more “open minded” I would probably feel sorry for those people. But, since I am not, I simply find them utterly laughable.