Why Do Jews Still Vote For Democrats?
That’s the question being pondered from some fairly thoughtful discussion at American Thinker back in 2008 to some flame throwing from Eric Alterman just recently.
I expressed skepticism when a poll was released several months ago showing Jews moving away from Democrats, and while I have yet to see reliable data from the election (Alterman’s data is far from convincing), I’ll accept that Jews voted for Democrats at a higher rate than non-Jews.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard from many Jews that they are sick and tired of the Obama administration and are voting against Obama, but of course I don’t claim to circulate among Obama supporters of any religion.
So even if the hold is lessening somewhat, it still seems to be true that Jews as a whole are in the tank for the Democrats.
There are some superficial explanations, such as the predominance of Reform Judaism, which for as long as I can remember (say, 40+ years) has been a branch of the liberal party, and the liberal party for the past 40+ years has been the Democratic Party.
One also could point to group think — Jews tend to be present in large numbers in otherwise liberal districts, so liberalism among Jews is pretty typical for such geographic regions, not particularly a Jewish phenomenon.
There also is a tendency among liberal Jews to equate conservatism with Christianity, and the two with anti-Semitism. Just read Alterman’s piece linked above for a finely distilled version of fear of Christianity.
None of this makes any sense to me. Whatever anti-Semitism has existed in the United States among Christians is dwarfed by worldwide anti-Semitism among Secular Leftists and Islamists. As I’ve written before, since at least since the 1940s American Christians have been about the only thing standing between Jews worldwide and the abyss, and that remains true today.
At the end of the day, there is no logical explanation or justification for the phenomenon of American Jews voting disproportionately and consistently for Democrats. It’s irrational, and let’s just call it that.
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Unlike nearly every other group that came to America got an education and found success the jews still vote like illegal aliens. Although fear of christians may have been a good reason in the middle ages, the continued support of ultra-liberal causes causes middle class jews more harm than good. It doesn't make sense to me either.
When you see how quickly the very groups jews helped and supported turn on them, it's amazing there are jews who march in lockstep with blacks and immigrants. Norman Podhoretz has a (hard to get through) book- why are jews liberals? that attempts to explain this. He makes the very valid point that these days most jews have many more threats on the left than from the right, yet they refuse to see this fact. Irrational, indeed!
Actually it all makes perfect sense if you understand that much of what we do is really motivated at the level of symbols.
Jews are in the awkward position of being one of the most potent symbols in all of human history. They are the Chosen People of God. They are the symbol of the obligation of all men to serve God.
The hatred of Jews by Leftists is irrational on the surface level but reasonable on the symbolic level, since Leftism has become mostly a cover for nihilism and extreme individualism, divorced from obligations to morality and higher things.
And most Jews themselves would like to get out from under their inherited obligation to "bear the yoke of Torah." But they find it culturally difficult to just be indifferent, so Leftism has become a substitute religion. Likewise the "pro-choice" ideology, which is very common among Jews serves as a symbolic rejection of God.
I have an Orthodox Jewish friend who can't understand it either. Especially in light of this Administrations unwillingness to defend Israel (by extension, if he is cozying up to Iran, he is not defending Israel).
It's all part of Bizarro World.
I'm not a member of the tribe, but this question has fascinated me for a long time. Most of my childhood friends were liberal Jews. As we've become older, they've stayed liberal (or have slid even closer to the dark side) as I've become conservative. I can't fathom the static nature of their worldview nor can they my sounding like "a right-wing rabbi." (By stark contrast, perhaps.) While the "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me" refrain reflected my parents' uneasy conversion, tradition had no such grasp on me as I felt the party didn't leave me … it chased me out. If anybody finds the answer to this question, I'd sure like to hear it.
My very politically incorrect hypothesis is that many Jews have a death wish. That is the only thing that accounts for so many Jews voting for a party that despises them and lionizes their would be killers.
Based on my own experience with Jews (I'm Catholic who went to BU grad school if you get my point), I really don't think fear of Christians is the reason. There are still unintentional condescending attitudes among Christians that they are unaware of but nothing that should cause fear among Jews. It's just passive ignorance. Besides, the Jews I've known have generally been very sophisticated about this as well as the very roots of anti-Semitism itself.
I think it's probably more a remnant of the WWII/FDR/Truman era when the world's Jewish population was facing their gravest peril in history and FDR resisted the strident forces of anti-Semitism to open up America to receiving so many European refugees. I believe that this experience was so intense that these loyalties became embedded throughout the American Jewish culture and have carried forward to this day. I am sure that the WWII stories about family experiences told at Jewish dinner tables throughout the years have contained very, very few Republicans.
Why do heroin addicts shoot heroin? They know it will kill them, but do it anyway. Here in Utah, Jews are more suspicious of Mormons than they are of muslims. No group of people are more pro Jewish than Mormons(including Jews). You can't talk people out of a deathwish.
Likely it is a confluence of historical factors:
1. The vague association of Antisemitism with Christianity, via deep cultural memory (and perhaps some residue of the on-and-off again historical antagonism between Christianity and Judaism), and the association of Christianity with the GOP.
2. Many radical, Marxist and Leftist intellectuals came from the Jewish intelligentsia. Medieval Jews, pushed from artisan and craft trades, were forced to excel in trade, finance, law, and medicine. And with tightly clustered communities where an emphasis was placed on rabbinic studies, you had high literacy rates and a good deal of scholarship, which would pay dividends in later centuries with great minds like Spinoza.
Perhaps standing somewhat apart from the Latin West's Christian intellectual tradition led to a self-perception as outsiders, which was translated into a flirtation with radical philosophies and ideologies? In any case, the history of Leftist intellectualism includes many Jewish thinkers, which may have had a trickle down effect.
3. Pasadenaphil makes a very perceptive point and that no doubt has something to do with it.
After much consideration, here is my opinion. Many of the most "intellectual" people throughout more modern history have either been founders or great followers of Marxism. Many, if not most, were Jewish, or atheists of Jewish descent. Examples besides Marx include Freud, Lenin, Ferdinand Lasalle. (reference here: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=873&letter;=S)
Socialism and Marxism were the intellectual-elite political and social foundation since around 1850 in Europe, when monarchies were dying. The feudal structure is very similar to the totalitarian or dictatorial power structure; in Europe, it is a natural move toward "secular" or "non-heredity/descendant" leaders. Prussia and Von Moltke give an example of this progression in European leadership and political structure, although not all were as militaristic.
As many Jews fled the wars in Europe, or sought prosperity and freedom in the US, sometimes due to persecution or oppression (both political and religious), they brought their Socialism with them. Look at the Progressive history in the US, started in Wisconsin, to discover more about the roots of Progressivism. Often these intellectuals became professors at exclusive private schools and universities – many of them had been professors in Europe before coming to America. Teaching their Socialism and progressive ideas at the university influenced many, such as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Prussian and European Socialist and Marxist ideas permeated much of the Jewish population in Russia, as well. Many Socialist Jews were strong supporters of the Bolshivek Revolution, to their ultimate peril under Stalin. Also, after Stalin began his aggressive push to make the world Communist, exporting Marxists all over Europe and the US to spread the propaganda of "Soviet superiority" it was tough to fight against the attraction of his fabricated success; in the book The Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes goes into this in great detail.
I am only a layman historian; however, after much reading and ruminating, I believe overall that the Socialist bent of Jewish people today has its roots in this past, and has been perpetuated in the university system, especially since the 1920's. PasadenaPhil and David Marcoe make excellent points, but I believe it is a combination of these things that explains why Jewish people are attracted to Socialism, Progressivism, Liberalism – in the modern definition.
I have relatives who are Jewish who are liberal Democrats, living in New York. After talking to them about this, they convey the Socialist philosophy without necessarily claiming they are Socialists. In fact, they are very highly educated people, having attended Ivy league universities, attaining PhD's and advanced degrees; they are working as financial analysts in very Capitalist-oriented jobs. Yet they still espouse Socialism. They don't see why there is any conflict – or any reason to stop the "progressive path toward Socialism."
What really baffles me is the general anti-2nd amendment stance of Jews. Having gone through the Holocaust, I would think they would be the most pro-2nd amendment people on the planet. I am a redneck from the US Southwest; I grew up in an environment where every household was armed. Such a thing as a "home invasion" robbery was not only unheard of, it would have been unthinkable.
In the world of my childhood, had the SS showed up at the door, about the second time they would have been met with a shotgun blast, by the third or fourth time we would have been hunting them. Yes, we would have taken a LOT more casulties than they, but they would have shortly decided there were better things to do.
The 2nd amendment was not for 'self defense"–protection against each other–but protection against our government.
Governments have been responsible for the vast amount of human suffering in history. In the 20th century alone, governments resulted in the deaths of at least 100M people. At least 6M Jews.
Yes, we have to have government. But–it is a beast to be held in great suspicion and we can never let it get the ultimate upper hand.
Jews have suffered throughout the centuries from government. Why, oh, why do they place so much faith in it?
If I were a Jew, the 2nd amendment issue would, alone, prevent me from being a Democrat.
BTW, when I discuss this with Jewish friends, they generally are bemused themselves. But–no doubt pull the Dem lever the next time in the booth.
Actually, the point is that religious Jews are indeed more conservative (politically). It is those Jews who have rejected religion that follow the "religion" of liberalism. The atheist is really a member of the most dogmatic of all religions and when a Jew insists on abandoning the religion of his forefathers, he will join the religion of his enemies. In our modern times, this religion is that of the left. Thus, thos Jews that insist on voting Democrat, no matter how "bad for the Jews" Democrat policies are, is just following the messianic feelings that are a part of his makeup.
The worship of FDR in spite of the fact that he actually refused to attempt to rescue the victims of the holocaust (such as refusing to bomb Auschwitz as requested by the inmates themselves, or accept Jewish refugees when it was possible) is part of this.
As the first Republican Jew in my family (I'm 52), and still the only one who admits it, I think there is an awful lot of over-analysis here. The most accurate part, and still the number one reason, is that Jews have been a Democratic constituency for generations, for 3 reasons: 1)Urban Northeastern and Midwestern Jews voted in cities where everyone was Democratic; 2) Ditto Southern Jews, regardless of area; and 3)there and pretty much everywhere else the Republican party was not welcoming to Jews and the Dems were.
There are many reasons this habit persists, but the three that I belive are strongest are:
1) Lack of a compelling personal reason to change. The Jews that do change to the Republicans do so for the various reasons everyone else does, but absent some compelling event, stasis is natural.
2) On the flip side, a compelling reason to remain Democrat. Jews are overrepresented in naturally Democratic constituencies: Law, "Education," Social Work, etc.
3) Social rejection and complications. Trust me on this one. There are plenty of stories. The good part of this is that it also skews the polls. The Jewish Republican/Conservative vote side is always undercounted, because there is a % of Jewish voters who will never admit to anyone, even pollsters if there is the slightest chance they could be overheard. The one exception is that they secretly tell those Jews who are out of the closet. Again, trust me on this one.
Rich, the answer is "death wish." I don't agree with Jeff that Jews are lazy voters. (cf Jeff 1).) Perhaps it is survivors' guilt that manifests itself as what I perceive to be a "death wish."
After thousands of years of persecution and slaughter, why did God spare me and not the millions? That's a question that Jews must struggle with. Why?
When you consider that so many of the radicals whose ideas have wrought death and devastation have been apostate Jews (atheists), then Marxism etc looks more like an effort to recreate a set of circumstances that will to the asking of the vital question.
In Star Trek terms, a lot of Jews are stuck in a recurring temporal anomaly; unfortunately, though the same set of events recur like clockwork, many are too focused on the events to notice the temporal warp thus no change in behavior occurs. The end result of this all is likely to be another Holocaust.
God willing that this time the Jews' younger brother (Christians) will be more proactive in halting the Holocaust before it begins.
Read a muslim the other day posting that Christians are the "step-sons" of muslims, because in heaven, MO married the Virgin Mary.
Juba: No doubt desth wish/survivors guilt is part of it. I suspect the reasons are many and deeply ingrained in the culture and, as such, may not even be understood.
One thing that has improved in my lifetime has been the general attitude of conservative Christians towards other Christians and Jews. When I was young, we had a schizoid attitude–one one hand "Jews killed Christ" and on the other hand "Christ was a Jew". I don't recall it being particularly anti-Semitic, just peculiar to a ten year old.
Interestingly, I have an in-law that is a Messianic Jew–a Jew that is a follower of Christ. After all, that is what Christianity started off as–a Jewish sect.
Today, with all Judeo-Christian variants under attack, there seems to be more of a "we have much more in common than separates us." I hope so, since it is true. As an unbeliever, I see it from the outside, but that is my perception.
It is clearly true that the best friend the nation of Israel has is the conservative Christian community in the US–perhaps the only friend.
There are things beyond my understanding. This is one.
BTW, I reject the FDR hypothesis. FDR was no particular friend of Jewry. They are, as a group, well educated enough to see that.
rich, it's not whether or not FDR had a personal affinity for Jews. His administration was so populated by Jews that the isolationist Republicans were claiming that those Jews were the very reason FDR entered WWII. There was no political correctness in those days and those charges were plastered across the newspapers. If you can't grasp the depths of anti-Semitism in this country at that time, I recommend spending a few Saturdays reading the NYT, Boston Globe, Chicago Trib and other major newspapers of that day.
Did you know that FDR proposed the idea that the Allies offer to relieve the Germans of their "Jewish burden" if Hitler would hand them over? It failed because no other ally, including Britain, refused to accept any Jews and it would have been hard enough to sell Americans that we were going to take in a few hundred thousand Jews. To absorb millions would have been impossible to sell.
FDR was as WASP as you can get but he wouldn't exactly have had to love Jews to be pro-active in preventing the worst shoah in history. There sure were plenty of "respectable" cultural elites who were comfortable with the idea of letting it happen and both the Republicans and Democrats were choking with them. FDR was not one of them and he had the advantage of being president and used that to do something about it.
As imperfect as the story might be, it is impossible to make a credible argument that the FDR/Democrat vs Republican experience is irrelevant. It is at least a big part of it.
The phenomenon of Very Bright People thinking that they are sufficiently good and wise to govern the rest of us is not limited to Jews. See, for example, Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals".
But simultaneously embracing "I don't trust government" and "I want more government" is a great example of cognitive dissonance.
It seems that in all groups, once the fear "our tribe is in danger" is activated, it must settle on some other group as the probable cause. Even if the real danger is elsewhere, they can't see it. We see the danger of the thug, not the Don or druglord running the show. Sizing up immediate threats was an evolutionary necessity – we are less good at indirect dangers. That's not so much Jewish behavior as group behavior. When Jews describe their fear that conservative Christians might turn on them and actually become the most dangerous rather than the best ally, two related topics come up: attempts at evangelism are an attempt to weaken Jewish numbers, and the uneducated louts remind them of the violent peasants of Europe.
But intermarriage with the non-evangelizing Christian sects is a far greater danger to Jewish numbers, and the police and peasants were not the instigators of antisemitic violence in central and eastern Europe. The students, philosophers, and poets did that.
I offer that not as any complete explanation of Jewish liberalism, but as an addition to the excellent comments here.