NY-9 Race May Be A Political Awakening In A Jewish Community – But Can These Conditions Be Duplicated?
Today, a special election will be held in New York’s 9th congressional district to fill the seat vacated by disgraced dick pic enthusiast Anthony Wiener. The three polls released this month have Republican Bob Turner up about five or six points over Democrat David Weprin. The district is ordinarily quite blue, giving Weprin a potential organizational advantage, and
Obama’s personal army has deployed 300 troops SEIU expects to send 300 volunteers to get out the vote, so the race is far from over, but polls are very encouraging.
Turner’s lead could ordinarily be chalked up to blowback against the president’s party due to a lousy economy, the nature of Wiener’s departure, or Weprin’s considerable flaws, such as his not having a decent ballpark estimate of the national debt or not living in the district (and not promising to move there if elected).
But there is more to the story than that. NY-9 is by some accounts the most Jewish district in the country, with about 30% of its residents identifying as Jewish. Turner, backed by local moderate Jewish Democratic heavyweights former Mayor Ed Koch and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, is specifically targeting the Jewish community with the argument that they must send a message to Obama that his policies towards Israel have been unacceptable. Koch is featured in robocalls blunting Weprin’s negative advertisements, and the Republican Jewish Coalition is sending mailers to Jewish voters in NY-9 highlighting the Israel issue.
The latest PPP poll surveyed about 239 Jews, which is small but not nothing (I estimated this from overall sample size and percent Jewish. The true number may be slightly different due to rounding). However, even with that small sample size the 56-39% advantage Turner has among Jewish voters is fully outside the approximately 6.3% margin of error, and Romney’s 52-38% advantage over Obama in a hypothetical matchup indicative of a 99% chance of a true lead (Perry has a much more modest 4 point lead and overall negative approval)
Does this mean that the Jewish community is finally waking up – that Obama’s “F*** the Jews, they’ll vote for us anyway” strategy is finally falling apart? Are they finally realizing that a politician being Jewish doesn’t guarantee that the Jewish community can entrust them with their votes any more than Bernie Madoff being Jewish guaranteed that they could trust him with their money? Have they noticed that Jewish Democrat politicians often talk a big game, sign whatever watered-down statement designed to get 90% support in Congress AIPAC puts in front of them, and are otherwise ineffective when it comes to challenging Obama when he unjustly oppresses Israel?
Alas, probably not.
The Jews of NY-9 are not typical. A much larger percentage than usual are Orthodox, a group that has been increasingly willing to vote Republican anyway, but which accounts for only about 10% of the Jewish community. Not only are they more strongly connected to Israel and to Israeli policies that many on the American left oppose, but they lack many of the views that keep the rest of the Jewish community so liberal.
Non-Orthodox Jews are driven in many ways by social issues and the group identities that go with them. The Jews of NY-9 support gay marriage by only a 45-43% margin, with an Orthodox rabbi being featured in robocalls sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage. Nationally, Jews overall support gay marriage by a 75-18% margin, a result Pew found to be more lopsided than any demographic except atheists.
Also, Orthodox Jews were found in a University of Maryland study found to be less motivated by hostility towards Evangelical Christians and more motivated by Israel instead.
Liberal Jews generally hold quite hostile views towards Evangelical Christians, and often believe that their right to practice the religion that they mostly don’t practice anyway is under constant threat.
Democratic politicians and their allies in the Jewish community routinely take advantage of and promote this fear.
They stoke anti-Christian emotions with the most uncharitable interpretations of Christian theology and motivations, and promote the demonstrably false belief that Republicans are more anti-Semitic than Democrats (Studies generally show either no partisan difference or Democrats being more anti-Semitic, partially because minorities are much more anti-Semitic on average than whites).
The first time I encountered Ira Forman, then-president of the National Jewish Democratic Council and now the Jewish Outreach Director for Obama’s reelection campaign, I was at an AIPAC training convention for college students. He told us that were President Bush to be reelected, our children would not be free to practice Judaism.
I looked over at the large delegation from Oral Roberts, a Christian liberal arts college in Oklahoma, mortified that they came to help us only to be forced to sit through being scapegoated in a segment of two-minutes hate.
Many others, such as Howard Dean during his time as DNC chair, have made similar statements.
All that being said, and regardless of who wins tonight, these late polls do show that an Israel-based strategy may motivate Jews to vote Republican under ideal conditions.
Unfortunately, these conditions are hard to find. Gay marriage and abortion are still powerful wedge issues in most of the country, and every legitimately contested church-state matter reenforces many Jews’ existing self-identities as members of an oppressed religious minority, heightening the compulsion to like or dislike groups and parties accordingly. School prayer may be a marginal issue in national politics, but every such battle is a plentiful source of ammunition for the Democratic fear machine.
The challenge going forward is to figure out how change issue priorities so that American Jews are more concerned with true villains such as Ahmadinijad and Hamas, rather than some Christian boogieman. It won’t be easy.