Rightward shift for American Jews?

01.22.03

The Canadian Jewish News has a story about how increasing numbers of American Jews are breaking the traditional alignment with the Democratic party and moving rightward.

We are now experiencing “a very explosive moment in Jewish politics,” one that is rocking the traditional Jewish affiliation with the Democratic party and creating an undercurrent of anti-Semitism, said Peter Beinart, editor of the New Republic magazine.

[ . . . ]

For the left, the methods employed are of secondary importance to the otherwise justified anti-imperialist struggle, so the Palestinian use of suicide bombings are seen as no more than a “misguided tactic,” Beinart said.

Beinart described how traditionally liberal U.S. Jews have recoiled from that view and how they are moving away from their traditional liberal affiliations.

[ . . . ]

With the outbreak of the current intifadah, “this consensus started to crack. The liberal media have gone in one direction and the Jewish community has gone in another. The liberal media have gone left and the Jewish community has gone right.”

One of the reasons I find this so interesting is that I don’t think much has changed on the side of the Republican party. All the reasons that many Jews didn’t vote Republican before still exist. If anything, the party has become even more conservative. The party is still heavily mortgaged to interest groups such as the NRA and the far-right Christian lobby groups.

But now the same people who were wearing Gore-Lieberman kippot in shul on Rosh Hashanah 2000 are switching sides. And to me, what that indicates is not so much a shift in the population, but a shift in the issues.

Nobody agrees with a political party on every single issue. It’s impossible. So people tend to focus on the issues most important to them at the time, and vote for the party that is closest in position to their take on those issues. There’s no question that in the wake of September 11th, the outbreak of mideast violence, the escalating situation in Iraq, and the general shift in international politics, we’re living in a different world. So while four years ago, people might have chosen the party they felt most closely reflected their views on social and domestic issues (i.e. the Democrats), now suddenly foreign policy is the key issue and the Republicans seem to have the more sensible position on that score.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jaws 01.23.03 at 7:03 AM

Some issues that have lead to the shift:

–Policy towards Israel (Republicans are viewed as more pro-Israel now)
–War on terrorism/Iraq
–School Vouchers (supported by some Jews)

Reply

2 segacs 01.24.03 at 1:03 AM

The first two, certainly. The third I don’t think is nearly as important. Some people support school vouchers, some don’t. I don’t think it’s a “Jewish” issue, per se.

Reply

3 jaws 01.24.03 at 2:57 AM

vouchers aren’t specifically a Jewish issue; but it has scored some points in certain circles.

Reply

4 Peter 01.25.03 at 12:32 PM

School vouchers are supported by people who send their kids to day schools and yeshivas. Another issue that has resonance with the Jewish community are racial quotas in college admissions. I think American Jews will be gravitating towards the Republican party on that issue.

Reply

5 jaws 01.26.03 at 2:11 AM

Re: Quotas/Afirmative Action

I’ve read in a few places that back when Bakke vs. UC Regents was being heard by the courts most Jewish groups came out against Affirm. action and quotas.

With the newest case, I’ve heard that different elements of the Jewish community has filed briefs on both sides of the issue–though the more prominant groups are filing anti-U of M’s policy

Reply

6 jaws 01.27.03 at 6:41 AM

follow-up to my last posting: One of the more prominant Jewish groups that filed amicus curiae against the U of M position is actually the ADL

Reply

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