web analytics
March 6, 2015 / 15 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Don’t Misinterpret Jewish Support For Obama


Although the presidential election is still several days away, it is safe to say that Democratic candidate Barack Obama has secured the lion’s share of American Jewish votes.

While some Republicans had spoken optimistically of Sen. John McCain matching, or even exceeding, the nearly 40 percent of Jewish votes that Ronald Reagan received in 1980, it was wishful thinking to expect Jews to forgo their longstanding commitment to the Democratic Party.

Conservatives may dismiss the persistent affection of the majority of Jews for the Democrats as being rooted as much in nostalgia for Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as in the merits of their successors. But Republicans know too well that Jews are second only to African-Americans in their dogged refusal to vote for anyone but a Democrat.

Chief among the reasons why Republicans have failed to create a political realignment was that their wedge issue – support for Israel – is not the only item on the list of Jewish concerns.

Domestic issues, particularly those related to the separation of church and state, and social issues, such as support for abortion rights, are seen as matters of profound personal concern. On a deeper level, most Jews have traditionally interpreted Judaism’s imperative for social justice as a mandate for liberal politics. Conservatives may jibe, not without justice, that the faith of liberal Jews can be defined as the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in, but there’s no denying the power of these ideas.

That said, Republicans were poised to make some gains. McCain’s strong stands on Israel and Islamist terror gave the GOP reason for hope. Also helpful was the victory of Obama, a virtual political unknown, over Sen. Hillary Clinton, who had strong support among Jews. And Obama’s long association with a radical anti-Semite like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright troubled many voters.

By late September, however, GOP optimism fell victim to the panic on Wall Street. But more important in sounding the death knell, at least among Jews, was the Sarah Palin factor.

Though Palin’s presence on the ticket has energized the Republican base, her identity as a social conservative and evangelical Christian had the opposite effect on most Jews, because their views on domestic matters run contrary to hers. The hostility she has generated among liberal Jews, especially women, is visceral and nasty. There’s little doubt she is going to cost McCain some Jewish votes.

So, no matter who is sworn in next January, the Democratic dominance of the Jewish vote will almost certainly remain unshaken. Unfortunately, that has already led a few pundits to jump to some unjustified conclusions.

In an essay titled “Obama’s Jews” in the October issue of Harper’s, Bernard Avishai, an Israeli who is a strong critic of the way American Jews fervently support his country, states his belief that the unwillingness of Jews to vote Republican, despite the GOP’s supposed superior record on Israel, means they are indifferent to such appeals. He blithely assumes this Democratic majority is sticking with its party’s candidate precisely because it has rejected the mantra of down-the-line support for Israel.

Ironically, his view seems to echo the laments of Jewish Republicans, who fear the vote for Obama means Jews no longer care about Israel. That is a particularly bitter reflection for them, because conservatives have long held that, sooner or later, American Jews would switch parties because they were bound to eventually conclude that the Democrats were inherently unreliable on Israel.

It is no secret that there is a large element of the American Left that is inherently hostile to Israel and Zionism. They wield proportionally more influence among Democrats than that portion of the American Right that is similarly hostile to Israel (think Pat Buchanan). To the extent that any Democrat can be identified as a clone of former president Jimmy Carter, whose view of Israel as an apartheid state has thoroughly discredited him as a mainstream figure, the Republicans do gain.

Yet as the results of 1980 proved, when Jewish voters are presented with a Democrat perceived as hostile to Israel, they will vote for his or her opponent. In that election, Carter (whose animus toward Israel wasn’t nearly as pronounced as it has since become) received a record low Jewish vote.

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.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 “Don’t Misinterpret Jewish Support For Obama”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
PA/PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas addresses Central Committee convention in Ramallah.
PA Deciding to End Security Cooperation with IDF
Latest Indepth Stories
Ron Prosor

Values at the very heart of the UN are threatened by extremist ideologies targeting our way of life

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Anti-Semitism today focuses on Israel and the quest to delegitimize it.

Ballots for elections "made in Samaria."

Any Jew who ties his fate to Israel should be able to vote in Israel’s elections-even before aliyah

A young Moshe Meir Weiss introduces his mother, Mrs. Agnes Weiss Goldman, to Rav Moshe in 1979.

There were no airs about him. Rav Moshe was affectionately known as the Gaon of Normalcy.

Israel’s full sovereignty over a united Jerusalem is the only path for true peace in the region.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

The president has made clear – I can’t state this more firmly – the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon.

Obama has an apparent inability to understand Islam in particular and Mid-East culture in general

Pesach is a Torah-based holiday whose fundamental observances are rooted in Torah law; Purim is a rabbinic holiday whose laws and customs are grounded in the rabbinic tradition.

In honor of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s successful speech before Congress.

Mr. Spock conveys a message with painfully stark relevance to our world today, especially in the context of PM Netanyahu’s speech to Congress.

Obama created the “partisan politics” by asking Dem. party members to avoid Bibi and his address

Enough is enough. The Jewish community has a big tent, but the NIF should have no place in it.

I vote for the right and get left-wing policy. Every. Frigging. Time.

More Articles from Jonathan S. Tobin
Tobin-012315

The abuse following publication proved a cautionary tale: no one followed in Peters’s footsteps

German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem at the President's Residence, February 2014 (archive)

Anti-Semitism has returned to the mainstream of European society and Israel has become its focus.

One of the key talking points by apologists for Hamas in the current conflict is that it isn’t fair that Israelis under fire have bomb shelters while Palestinians in Gaza don’t have any. Among other factors, the lack of shelters accounts in part for the differences in casualty figures between the two peoples. But somehow […]

How will all this end? Hamas seems to think it will be Netanyahu who will blink first.

Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Arabs that Hamas has made a mistake.

Z STREET will have the ability to compel IRS officials to testify as to their practices and produce all records.

“Death of Klinghoffer” opera frames the issue as Israel’s existence being the real crime.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/dont-misinterpret-jewish-support-for-obama/2008/10/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: