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Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
NOVEMBER 5, 2012 2:08PM

The "Jewish Vote" -- How and Why Most Jews Vote as We Do

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     In one election only since 1916 have a plurality of Jews  not voted for the Democratic Party presidential candidate. This was in 1920 when Mr. Harding trounced Mr. Cox in a landslide, and when Eugene Debs, the Socialist Party candidate, garnered 38% of the Jewish vote. Even in modern Republican blow-outs, Jews voted for the Democratic canditate by wide margins. 

     Since 1960, Jews have voted for 

 

Kennedy          82%

Johnson          90%

Humphrey      81%

McGovern       65%

Carter               71%

Carter               45%

Mondale           67%

Dukakis            64%

Clinton              80%

Clinton              78%

Gore                   79%

Kerry                  76%

Obama               78%    

 

 Here's a chart, after which I'll share two senses of this, mine and another writer's. 

 

 

 

*Number as percentage of popular vote

 

     My sense of this I have made plain in numbers of posts. From the early twentieth-century on, Democratic Party candidates have more clearly demonstrated ever-increasing commitments to the economic and social values, first articulated in the Levitical and Talmudic Justice-demands about how we see one another together in the open boat we're all in on this tumbling sea, as responsible to one another as we are to ourselves.

     As such, American Jewish voters have taken very seriously the needs and rights of the poor, workers, racial and gender minorities, and the idea that those whom America has blessed economically owe it to themselves, to our fellow citizens, and to the consistent message and warnings of the Prophets, to demonstrate consistent care broadly because we see society as a fundamentally communitarian enterprise even as we foster and applaud the achievements of individuals

     The writer Sarah Posner of 'Religious Dispatches' offers another view (though not one that challenges my explanation). Her focus is different. She asks why Republicans so consistently use Israel as a tool to pry Jews loose from the Democratic Party particularly when the track record suggests it's a bad investment of campaign time/money. Ms. Posner writes:

Most [Jews] vote for Democrats. Every cycle the Republicans try to improve on their last performance, but Jews are overwhelmingly liberal. So Republicans try to draw them in by talking about Israel, an issue very few of them vote on, but an issue that has the added benefit of helping Republicans shore up their evangelical base."

      Now, clearly many American Jews do vote with Israel's security in mind. I do. I am clear-as-a-bell that my life and my family's is tied in to a militarily, economically, intellectually robust Israel. Unlike some of my Jewish friends, I am confident that this President strongly has Israel's back and, in addition, I vote with Israel as one of a number of issues that are very important to me. I also vote knowing that no Democratic presidential candidate since President Truman recognized the State of Israel in 1948 has or will let the US commitment to Israel lapse or even fade. In addition to Israel's being the sole representative democracy in its region, Israel's intelligence agencies are and have been, even prior to formal statehood, the eyes and ears of the OSS and the CIA in central Europe, North Africa, and in the Near East. 

     Nevertheless, while I respect my fellow Jews who do not vote as I do, they are and will remain a distinct minority among us for the reasons Ms. Posner and I educe here.  

 

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As a dispossessed minority in every nation of the world except for Israel perhaps Jews vote the way they do out of self preservation. R&R
You can see why I wanted to get this posted by this evening. Thanks in advance, no matter your take, for your comments.
jmac not a bad reason! :)
I am Jewish. I am a registered Republican, but tend to think and vote as an Independent. And I respect you too, Jon.

I promised myself and a few others that I would stay away from the political, but I must insert myself into this. I do not vote as a Jew or a Christian. I have always voted issues. Often cross over and have lobbied for both sides. Many Jews are not identified as such by name or affiliation. Polls don't factor that in, as we are not counted. It is good that as Jews we don't all think the same way. Would never have any good family 'discussions'. My current family is Christian. The majority are Republican but the few Democrats really give us a good going over. Time to relax. As Mama used to say: Que sera, sera.
Another reason is that the Republican party has been on the side of the privileged who don't want to share the pie with minorities, black, Latino, gay, you name it. And whenever the haters hate, the Jews are always right up there as the bullseye in their target. But remember, the crooked Florida vote had Jews voting for Buchanan, so don't trust the vote counters. Thank you for your statistics, most illuminating.
Pam you're welcome...and thanks!
60 Minutes had an interesting segment last night about the "do nothing Congress" where the lack of compromise in the Senate has led to deadlock and dysfunction. The takeaway seemed to be that we're going to be faced with 4 more years of this. Whichever presidential candidate wins, he will be faced with dealing with this mess. Oy!
What was the deal with Carter? I know he was a free-thinker, but he tried to being peace to the Middle East as much as any of the others.
I can see McGovern at 65%. The Jews probably thought he would be weak on defense. Just guessing, but Carter at 45% had to have something to do with the hostages. Hell, the CIA and every other alphabet went behind his back on the hostage situation. Reagan was actually crowing about the release 5 minutes after he was sworn in. I wonder how that happened?
I have an answer Scanner, but it involves the R candidate's religion (which is non-Christian) and promises made for money backing and this candidate announced his religion off limits. Even Bill Maher left it alone, making me mad! I did the research, but didn't get the article sold.

Jon, I agree with you and Sarah!
Kenny gee...ya think... ... ...? :)
Interesting, Jon. I think there are cultural roots of party affiliation that remain strong in the face of changing issues over the years.

I'm culturally Irish-American, and I think I superimpose a rationale over my gut attachments. I've seen party affiliations change with increasing affluence or perceived threats form newer waves of immigrants, but I think you're right: a cultural predisposition to vote a certain party remains.

Have I said anything of import? No, but I had fun. I'm Irish!

R.
Emily thanks and I think you nailed a part of this
Since Obama has declared himself the sole arbiter as to whether I live or die I find it totally surreal that he is prized as the proponent of democratic freedom. By Israeli standards I am Jewish but find no inspiration nor even comfort at all in its general behavior nor consider its existence either either pertinent or vital or relevant to mine.
Jan,

Here's the good news; neither the State of Israel nor Jewish Religious Law has or wants to have any hold on you.
Makes perfect sense to me.

Lezlie
Famous quote by Herman Badillo, NYC councilman: "Jews live like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans."
Judging by your data Jonathan my friend, I am, rather happily, either Jewish, a Democrat, or both.
It's really pretty simple:
We can't bring ourselves to vote for the sort of mentality that led to the 47% remark. I don't care whether he meant it or whether he was pandering and the remark itself didn't change my mind, it just happens to be a great indicator of a mindset that is, to put it bluntly, contrary to Torah. Democrats haven't all been great about people at the bottom but they've been a damned sight better than Republicans about that. Also, as annoying as Politically Correct can get, I'd rather live with that than live with the politics of resentment like the Republicans have gravitated to. No, our problems are not due to illegal immigrants from Mexico or inner city unmarried welfare queens having 30 babies apiece in order to get bigger government checks while they ride around in Cadillacs. I don't think the majority of inner city unemployed are unemployed because they don't want jobs. I don't think unions exist solely for the benefit of lining the pockets of their officers at the expense of their membership. I don't think blaming victims and making stuff up is either truthful or moral. It is, quite literally, against my religion.

Now, the truth is that the principles I've outlined were shared by a young man steeped in Jewish education by the name of Jesus. Quite frankly, when I say this stuff is against my religion, I don't really understand why the hundreds of millions of Christians in the United States don't think it's against theirs. Like the prophets, Jesus talked a whole lot about helping people who were hurting for one reason or another. He was worried about the disposessed, the poor, the strangers, the shunned. Does that sound Republican to you? I don't know about you, but I don't recall reading anything that sounded anything like

Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone, unless it's at a homosexual.

I'm not saying that Jesus approved of homosexuality, but I'm absolutely saying that if he thought about it at all, it was an awfully low priority. If he were involved in an election, the thing he'd be most likely to say, given what we have records of his having said repeatedly, is

Hey! You're not helping the poor enough!

and I doubt there would be a distinction drawn as to how.
Helping the poor is great, as long as it isn't the government that does it?

In my religion, there isn't an "as long as." The sentence stops before you get there, with a Period.

That includes: "as long as the effort is 100% efficient."

Israel is, for the most part, beside the point in American elections because there is no major constuency opposed to a close alliance with Israel. From an election standpoint, it's a nonsensical issue. It's like birtherism - it's not likely to drive votes in and of itself; in the few cases where it does, it's because voters aren't really familiar with Obama's record on Israel. Or Iran.
JERUSALEM -- American expatriates in Israel are lining up strongly behind Republican candidate Mitt Romney, in contrast to their fellow Jews back in the U.S., according to a survey.

It's an example of their different priorities and perceptions of U.S. policy.

While American Jews have long backed Democratic presidential candidates, American immigrants in the Jewish state are staunchly Republican. One recent survey estimated that more than four-fifths of expatriate voters here cast absentee ballots for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

"I hope and pray that Romney will win and he will do what he says he will do," said Paula Markowitz, a Jerusalem resident originally from Teaneck, New Jersey. "(President Barack) Obama is no good for Israel, no good for the Jews, no good for America."

When I asked my rabbi in Texas during Clintons 2nd term election why he and so many other Jews were voting for Bill Clinton who had hosted Terrorist Arafat at the White House more than any other guest; the Rabbi at least honestly answered me: "I don't know." He and so many others continue to vote against their own interest in every election.
Deborah thanks for reading and commenting!
kosh thank you you have read my many posts on Jesus as a wholly Jewish social philosopher...you could not be more right.
Interesting information.
Deborah,

I've seen that. I've also seen that Ha-aretz ran an op ed yesterday or the day before saying that Obama was absolutely pro-Israel and had helped Israel, because they were tired of the allegations.

The population of Jews who have emigrated to Israel are a self-selecting population. They not only tend to be more religious, they tend to be more religious in specific directions. While Jews here worry about social policy, a lot of American emigres there worry about Judea and Samaria, and Obama is justifiably not supportive of that; I'm not either, and I'm both a Jew and a Zionist. As the most strictly Orthodox man I know, an American living here in America, once told me: Judaism is not mainly about land. Some of the Jews over there get caught up in some pretty strange battles. Stoning cars for driving on Shabbat, like it's religiously legal to throw anything on Shabbat. Avoiding military responsibility to study Torah when the whole point of Torah is responsibility. Arresting women for praying with prayer shawls at the Wall. Shooting a prime minister for encouraging peace, then glorifying the shooter. Israel tends to divide mostly into secular Jews and Orthodox Jews with a small but growing non-Orthodox non-secular population, utterly unlike the US where the Jewish population is predominantly non-Orthodox and non-secular. Religious life over there has gotten kind of nuts, with strong strains way too analogous to America's Christian Right. Both populations are seriously in danger of forgetting the central tenets of their religions while fanatically pursuing way more peripheral ostensibly religious concerns.
You and Kosh are both making me smile here.
Peace, bro'
:)
R
To my dear cousin and all of his followers: Tomorrow, I'll be outside all day at the Blair Mill Inn in Upper Moreland Township, PA doing something that I love to do. I will honor America by standing in front of the polls urging all comers to vote for all Democrates. I'll be getting along and having fun with my couterparts on the R side. We will solve the worlds problems together and eat each others Halloween candy. You see we had a bad storm here last week and Halloween was canceled. So bring a hot beverage to your polling place for us committeepeople and volenteers. May we continue with our President and G-d Bless America.
Roger thank you so much!
Love this post. It explains so well the motivation of the Jewish community, that it's something I think should be posted everywhere. It makes me feel proud to know so many Jewish people who have a social conscience. I have met many Jewish people who are affluent and educated and really care for people. My father, who became a very successful businessman had as his mentors, some very successful Jewish businessmen and. I always tell people that my father received much help from his Jewish mentors back when he couldn't get help from anyone else. Of course my father's case is not the exception. It's the norm when it comes to Jewish people helping out minorities. I salute you.
yeah what is the deal with Saint Jimmy?

his born again-ism?
Uh oh another Wolfman! A cousin! : )
Here is the thing I think: “because we see society as a fundamentally communitarian enterprise”.

Poor old Emerson gets part of the blame for our blazing ‘Individualism’ cult.
He said, “Hence, the less government we have, the better, —
the fewer laws, and the less confided power.
The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is,
the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual…”
~
But he also said
Re. Character,
Character, reality,
reminds you of nothing else;
it takes place of the whole creation.
The man must be so much,
that he must make all circumstances indifferent.
Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age;
requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design”
~
I was never a communitarian til the protection of my class and ethnicity were stripped away.
But my community is one of souls, those whom some Prophet has touched on the head..
I abhor and yet desire Society.
I am in a fix!
yeah what is the deal with Saint Jimmy?

his born again-ism?
Uh oh another Wolfman! A cousin! : )
Here is the thing I think: “because we see society as a fundamentally communitarian enterprise”.

Poor old Emerson gets part of the blame for our blazing ‘Individualism’ cult.
He said, “Hence, the less government we have, the better, —
the fewer laws, and the less confided power.
The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is,
the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual…”
~
But he also said
Re. Character,
Character, reality,
reminds you of nothing else;
it takes place of the whole creation.
The man must be so much,
that he must make all circumstances indifferent.
Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age;
requires infinite spaces and numbers and time fully to accomplish his design”
~
I was never a communitarian til the protection of my class and ethnicity were stripped away.
But my community is one of souls, those whom some Prophet has touched on the head..
I abhor and yet desire Society.
I am in a fix!
Mauricio thanks so much!
James I like Emerson, too. :)
It's no surprise that Jews vote Democratic for all the reasons you mention. The real surprise is that Kristian fundamentalists, who claim the same OT as well as the further teachings of Jesus that re-emphasis the communitarian aspect you mention -- the real surprise is that they consistently vote for the "every man for himself" Republican Party. Then again, that's no surprise to me -- or God.
It's no surprise that Jews vote Democratic for all the reasons you mention. The real surprise is that Kristian fundamentalists, who claim the same OT as well as the further teachings of Jesus that re-emphasis the communitarian aspect you mention -- the real surprise is that they consistently vote for the "every man for himself" Republican Party. Then again, that's no surprise to me -- or God.