Saturday, October 16, 2010

Will Obama Cause American Jews to Vote Republican?

Since the days of FDR, Jews in America have disproportionately voted Democrat in a secularly traditional matter.  The question that is on a lot of Jewish pundit's minds is whether Obama is going to break that voting streak.  I will briefly state why "Mr. Hope and Change" could very well bring about an extended period in which Jews overwhelmingly voting Democrat will no longer be a given. 

This analysis wouldn't be complete without talking about Israel.  As a recent survey from the American Jewish survey points out, an increasing amount of Jews are disappointed with Obama's handling of American foreign policy in the Middle East.  This does not only apply to the "peace process in Israel," but also to how Obama needs to grow a pair when it comes to Iran.  72% believe there is “little” or “no” chance that a combination of diplomacy and sanctions can stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which translates to most people think Obama's approach to foreign policy is a big failure.  As I have implied before, however, Obama's mishandling on the Israeli situation will not suffice to cause a loyalty shift because sadly enough, Israel is not a high priority for many American Jews, even with programs such as Birthright making more American Jews aware of the wonders of Israel.

Ultimately, I think the DNC will hit American Jews where it will hurt, much like it is for all Americans: the wallet.  Obama has not kept his promises to keep unemployment under 8%.  Since there are many Jews who own small businesses, I can only see the upcoming tax hikes to further impede any business owner, whether Jewish or not, and thus cause further resentment to the current administration.  The same will go for doctors, many of which are disproportionately Jewish, when Obamacare is in full effect.  Further obstacles to practicing medicine will leave doctors discouraged and dismayed. 

Although I think the current economic situation will ensure that the Democrats won't get 78% of the Jewish vote that they had back in 2008, I can see a couple of factors that can make this, at best, a short-term disapproval.  The first is the Tea Party and the fact that a lot of Jews are hardly Tea Party material.  Since all the Tea Party candidates are running as Republicans, this can turn away certain Jewish voters from voting Republican.  The other issue is the Christian Right.  Although Jews might be more fiscally conservative than one would give credit, there has always been a chill up the typical American Jew's spine when it comes to allying with the Fundamentalist Christians.  The reason I bring this up is because the Republican Party is further pandering to its base which makes up a large plurality of the Republican Party: social conservatives.  The final point I will bring up which can potentially counter this in the long-run is demographic.  If there is an increase of Orthodox Jews in America due to the birthrate that is comparably higher than non-Orthodox Jews, we can potentially see a Jewish voting base that is significantly more Orthodox than the current ten percent.  As for whether all of this translates into a solid voting bloc for the Republicans or whether the Democrats can keep their hold on the Jewish constituency, we will just have to wait and see.

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