Monday, March 29, 2010

Voting Democrat: A Secular Jew's Minhag

This blog was inspired by a fellow Republican Jew I was talking to at shul this past Shabbos.  I know, I know, I'm not the only Republican Jew in a non-Orthodox shul, especially the one my size.  Amazing, isn't it?

After the rabbi gave a sermon on the whole "Obama being absolutely rude to Bibi" incident, I was talking with her [the fellow Republican Jew], and we were going on and on about how corrupt Obama is and how he's a terrible president.  We then got on the subject of how a lot of Americans voted for Obama to assuage what Shelby Steele calls "white guilt."  [Yes, Shelby Steele is black, and amazingly enough he wrote this article over a decade ago!]

What stumped us was when we tried to figure out why 78% of Jews voted for Obama when only 53% of Americans did.  For those of you who don't know, the tradition of Jews voting overwhelmingly Democrat dates back to FDR's election in 1932.  The fact that they have been doing so for nearly 80 years still doesn't answer the question "why."

Surely, it cannot be for economic reasons.  Based on the 2000 National Jewish Population Survey, the most recent survey of the American Jewish population that is out there, Jews are statistically more likely to have a higher salary and less likely to be in poverty.  This translates to "a Jew is more likely to be taxed more heavily."  Although I truly have met some masochistic Jews who don't mind being taxed, most people hate the concept of "the more you make, the more they take," especially when it applies to them.

Maybe it's foreign policy.  The only foreign policy issue that would particularly matter to a Jew is Israel.  Based on the Democrats' stunt a couple months ago to pressure Israel, the vast majority of Israel's destructive critics are on the Left (yes, that's the Left, not the Right) not to mention the fact that the Obama administration in unprecedently the most anti-Israel administration ever, it makes me wonder why any Zionist Jew who leans Left could tolerate the virulent anti-Zionism on the Left.

I think history tells a better picture of why so many Jews vote Democrat.  If you look at a millennia of European anti-Semitism, there were all sorts of expulsions of Jews, pogroms, and many other vile acts of anti-Semitism.  What were the commonalities of their oppressors?  They were religious [mostly Christian, although the Sephardic Jews could have told about their fair share of Muslim anti-Semitism].  They were conservative in the classical sense (i.e., they wanted to preserve the status quo, not conservatism as we know it today).  A final commonality that came about post-Enlightenment is that they were highly nationalistic.  When Jewish immigrants came to America in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, they carried those valid fears with them.  Those fears permeated when FDR created the New Deal Coalition, and because of them, many Jews sided with FDR to prevent an oppressor reminiscent of those in the Old World.

Today, how would one describe a "stereotypical Republican?"  They're religious, they lean Right, and they are more patriotic than their Democratic counterparts.  If it were 1932, I can understand the parallels, but the flaw with that argument is that it's 2010.  Those in the Republican Party are more pro-Israel than those of the Democratic Party.  Although Bush 43. is a poor example of a Republican advocating for smaller, more limited government, that tends to be something that Republicans, as well as most Americans, favor.  This fact is important because the fourth thing that past oppressors have in common is the usage of Big Government to make Jews' lives absolutely miserable.  From the Inquisition to the Cossacks to Hitler to Stalin, the usage of a statist government to commit heinous acts cannot be ignored as a historical fact.

One can't argue that Jews are mentally delayed.  It's quite the contrary, especially when one considers that Jews are 0.25% of the world's population but have managed to acquire 22% of Nobel Prizes.  Just for those math aficionados, we contribute more than our fair share, which by the way, is by a factor of eighty-eight!

The only explanatory option left is that as much as liberal Jews don't like tradition, they have ironically created a minhag of their own--voting Democrat!  It's not out of the realm of imagination to believe that Jews still have some connection to a sense of tradition.  After all, many still feel an obligation to attend Yom Kippur services or a Passover seder, even though their observance lacks in so many other ways.  Plus, even though denial and obstinance can play a detrimental role, just about everybody has a yearning for their roots and heritage, even if it religious in its origin.  In that sense, the minhag of voting Democrat doesn't surprise me.  Jews who abandon Judaism need to latch onto something else, and that something else is the Democratic Party. 

That fervor is so strong that they dishonestly attempt to pass Judaism off as liberalism, something that has sadly been done with an unexpected amount of success.  I save that topic for another blog entry at another time, but it's ironic to note that ardently Democratic Jews have become the very thing they rebelled against---tradition.  And with that, I give you Tevye, who seems to have gone Democratic.....Tradition!

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