In early 2008, I asked, “Who will leave the Democrats first: Blacks or Jews?”. The congressional election in New York’s 9th Congressional District in New York City, won this month by Republican Bob Turner, provides a preliminary answer. The election represents a significant chink in Jews’ solidly Democrat voting record. That district has been termed the most heavily Jewish of any CD, and is estimated at 30% Jewish.
The election result is considered to stem from the Democrats’ abysmal handling of the economy and Obama’s visceral and manifest hostility to Israel. That Obama would be no true friend of Israel was manifest to many of us four years ago, but others are slowly realizing that in fact he is not. But for the Jewish vote to truly be competitive in future elections, many more voters will have to come to that conclusion, and further, that Obama’s Islamophiliac and anti-Israel attitudes are rather consonant with much of today’s Democrat party.
On the other hand, the Democrats’ nomination of a black presidential candidate, and a successful one at that, has since further cemented the Democrats as the black community’s overwhelming choice. That remains true despite the tremendous damage, economic and otherwise, that the combination of that party and that president has inflicted on both the black community and the country as a whole.
The only contingency that might tend to pry black allegiance from the Dems lies in the remote chance that further stark Obama failure, and a concomitant threat to other Dem officeholders up for reelection, causes the party to drop him from its 2012 ticket.
Indeed, both groups, Jews and blacks, are now bound to the Democrats by tradition. It has been claimed that people change their spouses more often than their political parties, and it certainly appears that the tradition issue is a powerful factor in the Jews’ and blacks’ allegiance to the Democrats.
Republicans and conservatives assert that, in fact, their policies better benefit the lower economic classes, including blacks, and all Americans, by providing the means and incentives for individuals to succeed on their own, and creating more wealth and prosperity for the society as a whole.
Jews, on the other hand, are more represented in the upper economic classes, yet still vote Democrat virtually on a par with blacks, essentially against their economic interests. That is the basis for the old saying, “Jews earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans,” and the concept remains essentially valid decades after the saying was coined.
Of course, the vast majority of Jewish immigrants to the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were exceedingly poor. Thus their Democratic affiliation may have made sense at that time. However, their emphasis on education, entrepreneurship, and entry into the professions has resulted in a great American success story. This, in turn, has resulted in the rise of many of them to economic success in this country.
But they still vote overwhelmingly Democrat. A minority can be found among prominent Republicans and conservatives in government and politics, as well as other fields.
In addition to the tradition issue, Jews’ allegiance to the Democrats stems from their liberal/left wing views, particularly on social issues, such as abortion and concern for the poor.
Although some Jews have a concern for the well being of Israel, many do not, and the number who do is probably decreasing. And among many of those who do care about Israel, their level of concern is not great. But, given those limitations, the dissonance between the positions of those Jews who do care about Israel and the Democrat party is increasing significantly.
The Democrats have become a haven for the anti-Israel sentiment prominent among the left wing, and at least some Jews realize that the Democrats’ philosophy of a more flaccid projection of U.S. power internationally – as evidenced by their desire for disproportionate reductions in the defense budget — may gravely redound to the detriment of Israel and the United States, too.
So, who will leave the Democrats first: Blacks or Jews? Although many in both groups have good reason to, a rational outside observer would probably conclude that the Jews have more reason to.
But it’s still a toss-up. Increasing numbers of blacks may realize over time that the Democrats don’t serve their group or individual interests; most Jews may already realize that the party does not serve theirs in any tangible way, but their Democrat affiliation serves them on a psychological level, as they see themselves as on “the right side,” or with the party that “does good.”