A common question from my conservative friends is why Jews vote so overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party. Jews voted for Obama with nearly 80% of the vote and his less than warm reception to Israel baffles many observers.
One reason has less to do with being Jewish than being concentrated in largely blue state urban areas that are predominately Democratic anyway. In those areas they may vote Democratic but it may not be because they are Jewish. Yet even in red states Jews tend to be more likely to vote Democratic, just by much narrower margins.
Liberal Jews explain the Jewish values of Tikkun Olam, to fix the world, is more in sync with the positions of Democrats and liberals. But this is a simplistic notion. Do the Christians who often align themselves with missions to help to the poor and sick feel any different. Is it not a bit arrogant to believe that only Jews or Democrats want to help others? Why is it then that conservatives give more of their own money to charities than liberals?
Conservative Jews such as Dennis Prager have explained that the American Jews are more largely secular and have replaced a faith in Torah with a similar faith in liberal ideology. Perhaps there is some truth here but it still leaves open the question as to why this occurs.
from the Volokh Conspiracy, Do Jews really “vote Democratic” because they are Jews?:
Sure, American Jews are more likely to be Democrats than are non-Jews. But Jews also share a lot of demographic characteristics with Americans in general who vote Democratic: they overwhelmingly live in cities and suburbs, not rural areas, and also overwhemingly live in blue states in the Northeast and in California and Illinois; they are more likely to be religious skeptics and less likely to attend religious services than the average American; and Jewish women, in particular, are heavily concentrated in very Democratic-oriented professions like teacher and social worker. So let’s say you removed the Jewish variable, and tried to predict how Jews would vote based on their other Demographic criteria–where they live, how much they earn, education levels, religiosity levels, and so on–how much difference would there be? My guess is that there would be some difference, but not as much as most people would think.
responses along the lines of, “well Jews are smart, and they therefore see that the Republicans are the party of ignorance, really are not helpful at all and suggest that you are living in a blue state bubble. Surveys show that more educated people tend to become more conservative on economics, and more liberal and on social issues, making education something of a wash for party affiliation.
also linked to the Volokh piece, Evan Sayet writes Another Take On Why Jews Vote Democrat
American Jews overwhelmingly tend to vote Democrat for one simple reason: they see the choice as being between 1) the Democrats and their belief in nothing versus 2) the Republicans and their beliefs based on their Christian faith and heritage.
Given that choice, then, rather than side with people of faith – which they see as a different and potentially antagonistic belief system – they feel safer in the party that is devoid of any values or convictions.
The “thinking” behind this is that, if people believe in things then they might fight for those things. They might even commit atrocities in their name. Only those who believe in nothing have nothing to kill or fight for. If everyone just believed in nothing, the “thinking” goes: then the Jews would be safe, for if one doesn’t believe in anything then they can’t believe the Jews are bad.
These people believe that it is beliefs and not what was believed that led to the Holocaust and to all of the other world’s atrocities. It’s why the Modern Liberal’s Blueprint for Utopia as rendered by John Lennon sought a world without countries, religions or any other values or convictions (just all the people living for “today.”)
This fear was perhaps best articulated by Rabbi Joshua Hammerman who declared that “Emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burn mosques [or by extension engage in pogroms, crusades and holocausts], bash gays [or, by extension, bash Jews] or indiscriminately banish immigrants [including the Jews].”
How deep – and insane – is this fear? Consider that what led Rabbi Hammerman to feel such terror was not a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan or a gathering of Neo-Nazis. It was his horror a few years back, over the possibility that the proud Christian Tim Tebow might lead his team to the Super Bowl which would then “embolden” his “faithful,” leading to the possibility of rampages and atrocities.
The Modern Liberal is, of course, wrong. In fact, he is as wrong as wrong can be. First, he is wrong to believe that a nation without values will keep the Jews safe. In fact, a nation without values is exactly the one that would be willing to commit atrocities because there’s nothing morally to stop them. Further, as anyone who knows my work knows: Indiscriminateness of thought does not lead to indiscriminateness of policy. Instead it leads invariably and inevitably to siding with evil over good and wrong over right.
This is why the Jews are not only typically the first target of the Liberal but the people he has the most hatred for. Witness the singling out of Israel for divestment and boycott and the blood libels offered by the likes of Jimmy Carter and John Kerry.
Secondly, he is wrong about Christians being antagonistic to Judaism. Yes, in the past – in the Old World – Christians saw Jews as an a different religion, one that, if adopted by their children would see them denied eternal life. But American Christianity is different.
From the start – in starting this nation and from the moment the settlers arrived – American Christians saw the Jews differently. They saw Judaism not as another religion but as the antecedent and a necessary and true part of their own heritage and beliefs. After all, not only was their savior a Jew, but he made it clear that he’d come not to change His father’s laws – the laws that the Jews brought to the world. American Christians – unlike any other Christians in the past (and elsewhere today) – see Judaism as part of their own religion and whole-heartedly embrace the Jews, the Jewish people and Israel.
I think Sayet is on to something here. There has been vast shift in the view of Jews in the evangelical movement from the “unperfected Christian” (Ann Coulter’s incredibly offensive phrase), a soul to be converted to a soul that should be respected. I strongly remember John Hagee’s impassioned speech at AIPAC some years ago. At the same conference Michael Oren spoke of his book Power, Faith and Fantasy how the American Christian tradition has long been a supporter of Zionism, a Jewish homeland in Israel.
The American Christian experience has been very different from the experience in Europe. Jews, however, who in no small part derive much of their secular modern identity from the holocaust remain suspect. After their experience in Europe only a generation ago they are justifiably reluctant to have anyone else attempt to speak for their best interests.
The American Christians remain largely ignorant of the strongly Christian roots of antisemitism in Europe. Many are stunned to learn that the Passion Play in Europe centuries ago used to incite pogroms against the Jews, or the rabid anti Semitism of Martin Luther was a prelude of what would follow centuries later. Forcing Jews to wear a yellow star or other identifying marks and clothing was not an invention of the Nazis, but a tradition of European Christians for centuries. For more on the relationship between European Christian history and anti Semitism read Constantine’s Sword by James Carroll.
The Jews’ embrace of the Democrats may be partially a rejection of the fundamentalist element of the Republicans, but the new antisemitism is far more embraced by the left. Their fear of the European Christian tradition may be less applicable to American Christians, and their paranoia may have caused them to embrace a far more dangerous foe.