The Jewish vote


Despite the conspiracy theorists’ claims, the Jewish vote is rarely an election factor, and certainly wasn’t this time. Concentrated in locked up states like New York, and not enough to do the job in swing states like Florida, who Jews were voting for wasn’t a top story for most media networks who were too busy covering the story-that-wasn’t-in-Ohio to notice.

But the big question going into this election was, would they or wouldn’t they?

The Jewish vote has been heavily Democratic since time immortal. But in light of 9/11, the war on terror, the situation in Israel and the alignment of the far left with Israel’s enemies, would some lifelong Jewish Democrats shift their allegiance to Bush? Would committed Democrats react like Meryl and Lynn and vote for Bush because of international issues? Or would they act more like Allison, putting these issues aside to vote for the candidate who they still feel is best on domestic issues?

Ha’aretz is reporting that Bush picked up 22% of the Jewish vote this election. That’s up 3 percentage points from the 19% he got in 2000. So it seems that there were at least some Jewish voters who switched allegiances.

On the other hand, that’s still 78% of Jewish voters casting their ballots for Kerry. And the “why” isn’t exactly a mystery:

They predicted “anticipated conflicts” between the Republican majority on Capitol Hill and the Jewish community on issues such as separation of church and state, abortion, gay rights, and same-sex marriage – issues, one Jewish leader said Wednesday, on which “the vast majority of the Jewish community disapproves of the Republicans’ positions and views.”

The voting broke down similarly for Jews as it did for Christians, with the more secular voting for Kerry and the ultra-Orthodox religious allying more closely with Bush:

According to unconfirmed results, Bush won 75 percent of Jewish votes in two large Brooklyn voting precincts that have a substantial concentration of Orthodox Jews, compared to a 25 percent turnout for Kerry.

Ultra-Orthodox activists predicted Wednesday that the final results will prove that other voting precincts in Brooklyn with an ultra-Orthodox populace overwhelmingly supported Bush.

[ . . . ]

“In the current elections, Orthodox Jews played within the community the role of evangelicals in the general electorate,” Furst said. The difference is that evangelicals make up about 40 percent of America’s population, while the percentage of Orthodox members in the Jewish community does not exceed 10 percent.

That may be so, but it’s telling that the division line in the sand seems to be religious versus secular, not one religion versus another. (The Muslim vote, of course, is an exception. An estimated 93% of Muslims voted for Kerry.)

At any rate, the big story here hasn’t materialized the way some people thought it might. The Jewish population did not become conservative overnight, abandoning decades of liberal values in order to vote for a president whose support for Israel is – at least in part – due to his evangelical Christian beliefs. Considering that there was no Joseph Lieberman on the Democratic ticket this time around, getting only 3% less of the Jewish vote than four years ago can hardly be called a defeat for Kerry.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Tali 11.05.04 at 7:37 AM

Anyone who thought that American Jews would vote for Bush based on Israel was smoking the bad weed.

People forget that those abstract ideas about religion aren’t all that abstract, even to a totally secular person, when local public services are run by people who want to make their religion into state law.

Things like freedom from harassment, ability to send one’s kids to a public school, and separation of church and state trump ANY issue happening in a distant country unless one is absentee voting from there.


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