web analytics
January 31, 2015 / 11 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Jewish Vote: Same Old, Same Old

Front-Page-112312

In the wake of the presidential election, American Jews must once again ask a fundamental question that seems to defy both societal trends and a clear resolution: why do Jews overwhelmingly support the Democratic candidate, year after year, election after election?

That is not to say that the Torah conflates with the Republican platform, but rather that the lack of balance in the Jewish world is striking.

This is not something new, but has been the pattern for more than eighty years. (Late-nineteenth century Jews voted primarily for Republicans, being especially fond of Abraham Lincoln.) It was the late sociologist Milton Himmelfarb who several decades ago noted that “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans,” i.e., they are part of the richest demographic but vote like the (then) poorest.

What continually fascinates is that, like the lure of Pennsylvania to Republican presidential candidates – it seems like it should vote for the Republican but never does – the Jewish vote tantalizes Republicans but never seems to materialize. Based on our race, status, education, employment, etc., Jews should be voting for Republicans but rarely do in significant numbers.

The Jewish vote remains the chimera of the political conservative. For more than eight decades the Jewish vote has averaged 75 percent for the Democrat, rarely deviating more than 5 percent above or below that figure. But until Herbert Hoover’s election in 1928, the Jewish vote fluctuated and was relatively balanced.

It needs to be emphasized that the focus is not on those Jews who are capable of choosing a candidate in either party (as I have done on occasion), but on the significant number of Jews who can never vote for a Republican and will always vote for the Democrat. Their polling booth needs only one lever. It just cannot be that the Democrat is always the superior candidate to the Republican.

In the 2012 election, nearly 70 percent of Jews voted for President Obama, slightly down from the last election (78 percent) but very much in line with other immigrant communities like Hispanics (71 percent) or Asians (73 percent).

But Jews are no longer a predominantly immigrant community, so why do the voting patterns of newcomers, or outsiders to the political system, persist among the Jews, who are in the mainstream of the establishment? And why are Orthodox Jewish voting patterns almost the mirror opposite of the non-Orthodox, with more Orthodox Jews voting for Mitt Romney and, give or take a particular race, for Republicans generally?

* * * * *

First, Democrats are widely perceived as the party of the poor, the downtrodden and the outcast, and Jews – persecuted for most of our existence – have a natural sympathy for the underdog. As charity is a great virtue (and a fundamental commandment) in Jewish life, Jews especially are drawn to a system that appears charitable on the surface – the redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poor – and government is seen as the vehicle of that charitable distribution.

The weakness in that argument, of course, is that Jews do believe in charity, but primarily as a private endeavor. The tithing obligation, or the dispensing of gifts to the poor in biblical times, were all private ventures, and not publicly coerced.

Notwithstanding that at different times in history the Jewish community itself intervened and assessed wealthy members a sum of money to care for society’s poor, that was always considered a last resort and not particularly efficient. The king never levied taxes to care for the poor, though the religious establishment might. Charity as a private act lends moral perfection to the donor; the same cannot be said for a coercive taxation system that distributes only a small sum of the monies collected to the poor.

(Those who view taxation as a form of charity are certainly welcome to pay the higher tax rate proposed by the administration, which is indeed permissible under federal law and would entirely eliminate the current controversy in Washington about the best means of avoiding the fiscal cliff.)

Of course, it would be unacceptable in a Jewish context to have a permanent impoverished class – multi-generational families of welfare recipients – as it should be in an American context. The trillions of dollars spent since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society initiated the War on Poverty has in fact exacerbated poverty, not alleviated it, with more poor in both real and proportionate terms today than when the programs started.

About the Author: Rabbi Steven Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun of Teaneck, New Jersey, and the author most recently of “Judges for Our Time: Contemporary Lessons from the Book of Shoftim” (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2009). His writings and lectures can be found at www.Rabbipruzansky.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “The Jewish Vote: Same Old, Same Old”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Jeremy Bird, working for Israeli campaign outfit V15, shown at Ted Talk, May 20, 2014.
V15 US Political Operative Marinated in Hate-Israel Activism
Latest Indepth Stories
Eli Weiss

Shepherding in the Shomron isn’t your usual kind of shepherding – despite his business-minded beginnings, Eli has discovered that a strong ideological impetus powers the job.

Resnick-013015-Pilot

I said to myself, “This story has got to be told. We’re losing this generation of World War II and if we don’t listen to them now, we’ve lost it.”

Eller-013015

His entire existence was about spreading simcha and glorifying G-d’s name on a daily basis.

IRAN-US-POLITICS-MILITARY

An Israeli strike could theoretically damage Iran’s nuclear program; only US can terminate program

At some point we need to stop simply defending and promoting Israel and start living in Israel

“We Jews are the only people who when we drop a book on the floor pick it up and kiss it.”

Though Zaide was the publisher of The Jewish Press, a big newspaper,I always remember him learning

Speaker Silver has been an extraordinary public servant since his election to the Assembly in 1975 and has been an exemplary leader of that body since 1994.

He spent the first leg of his daylong visit to the French capital at Hyper Cacher.

Drawing Congress into the Iran nuclear debate is the last thing the White House wants.

Great leaders like Miriam and like Sarah Schenirer possess the capacity to challenge the status quo that confronts them.

Obama’s foreign policy is viewed by both liberals and conservatives as deeply flawed

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

More Articles from Rabbi Steven Pruzansky
Torah-Hakehillah-121914

The travail of Yosef was undoubtedly the greatest trauma of Yaakov’s life, which certainly knew its share of hardships.

Pruzansky-Steven-NEW

The brilliance of Yaakov’s approach – and by extension, any type of individual or group effort – is that it appealed to three different modes of salvation.

There is a certain unwordliness to the pope’s call for a two-state solution, an obliviousness to the reality on the ground.

One can’t only take; one must give as well. Giving – not taking – is the essence of the righteous person.

Much of what we know about 19th century Orthodoxy is false, including the provenance of the term Orthodox.

A president who today used the language of FDR or JFK would be derided. If he were a candidate, the media elites would bury his chances of winning the election. He would be a laughing stock to the aimless young people whose uninformed opinions on public affairs seem to matter more than they should.

With the constant drumbeat of articles about “Orthodox” female rabbis appearing in the media almost weekly – essentially the same articles making the same points to the same eager audience, all to make the phenomenon of such “rabbis” seem commonplace – it is important to take a step back and examine how we arrived at this destination.

The Wall Street Journal last month featured a front-page article titled “After These Jewish Prayer Services, Things Come ‘To Life’ at Open Bar,” with the sub-heading, “To Woo Worshippers, Synagogues Compete with Food and Booze.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/the-jewish-vote-same-old-same-old/2012/11/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: