Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The whys and wherefores of the Jewish vote

Dean Barnett is a guy who is generally insightful (his taste in baseball teams aside). Today he posted a piece on "Why Do Jews Not Vote For Republicans?":
SO WHY DO JEWS VOTE FOR DEMOCRATS? ... There are two main reasons: First, the social issues drive Jews into the Democrats’ sweaty embrace; second, it’s a tribal thing.

As far as the social issues are concerned, most Jews are liberal. Very liberal. They’re pro-choice, and they’re very concerned about the separation between church and state. These are serious matters for them.... The American Jewish community in general is very uncomfortable with the virtually every position the Republicans hold on social issues.
Spot on, in my experience.
And then there’s the church-and-state thing. Jews are concerned about being a powerless minority. The Holocaust haunts them; for a lot of Jews, it still lingers as a cautionary tale of how quickly and totally things can go south even in a society into which they’ve fully assimilated....
In Jews of my (40-something) generation and younger, I see this church/state/Holocaust issue as a lot less of a political motivator than the social issues above.
The other reason so many Jews vote reflexively and exclusively Democrat is because it’s a tribal thing. Their grandparents voted only for Democrats. So too their parents. Many of today’s Jews are going to do the same thing.
I think he misses part of the tribal aspect. It's not just that their parents and grandparents voted Democrat, but that there are elements of being immersed in an echo chamber full of folks who believe that to be a decent person is simply inconsistent with voting Republican.
I’ve had conversations with Jews whose primary concern is Israel’s well-being. I point out to them that Israel has never had a better friend than George W. Bush. Objectively, that fact is unassailable. And yet Jews who are tribal Democrats refuse to even engage the issue. The notion that George Bush, an Evangelical Christian of all things, is a friend to Israel is so far outside their conceptual framework they can’t process it. They lack the bandwidth.
A considerable number of the NY-area Jews I encounter regularly are part of the Angry Left which pretty well sees President Bush as the personification of evil and incompetence. Regardless of the logic, it's not the place to start in an effort to engage them.

So what can Republicans do about this? Pretty much nothing.
I've got a glimmer of hope. The RJC thinks Jews are starting to budge. Here's my prescription: (1) Keep supporting Israel and (2) focus the Republican party more on limited government and championing the war on terrror than on social issues. (Hey, that wouldn't be a bad idea, anyway.) Maybe we'll start making some progress.
These things take decades to change. The attitude of the far left to Israel will drive some Jews to consider voting Republican, but nowhere near a majority. The South took a century after the Civil War to even consider supporting Republicans.

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