Spend any time in American conservative circles, and if you are a Jew, you’ll receive the question, delivered with a sense of bewilderment, “How come the Jews vote Democrat?” The person asks out of concern, as in, how can the Jews – who are so bright, who take care of their families, who are hard working, who pay their taxes, (who I admire on Biblical grounds) – vote for the rapacious Democratic Party? Why do the Jews who have gained so much by living in the United States and who love Israel, support anti-American President Barack Obama, who conservative Christians also believe has incredible antipathy to the State of Israel?
It’s a legitimate question with a complicated answer – one that has historical and biblical circumstances in origin.
In American history, the Jews from the time of the Revolution of 1776 to the Civil War, played an insignificant role in the development of the United States. There were of course exceptions, specifically, Haym Solomon, who helped finance the Continental Army against the British. During the United States’ first 100 years, the Jewish population was small and the only mass immigration of significance had arrived from central Europe, the German states. Those German-speaking Jews came to the United States mostly for political and economic opportunity rather than religious freedom, which was taking hold in central Europe in the 19th Century as part of the Enlightenment.
After 1815, the German-speaking Jews spread throughout the American states and territories in the Manifest Destiny spirit of the times. Following the Civil War, those Jews became Republicans, if they were anything. In the South, the Democrats were still the party of segregation and a rural way of life, and the Jews were excluded from both. In the North, the Democratic Party of Boston and New York, was primarily Irish and Catholic, and the Jews did not mix there either.
All this began to change from the 1880s to the 1920s with the massive immigration of Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe to the United States to escape poverty and the virulent anti-Semitism and totalitarianism in the gigantic land mass ruled by the Russian czars. It’s hard to imagine today with Jews potently organized that before the Second World War, they were still regarded as outsiders and not welcomed into mainstream American political life in any way shape or form. The Jews in the early 20th Century toiled in urban ghettos, such as the lower east side of Manhattan, but also in the other burgeoning industrial cities of the North, and even in Canada’s Toronto and Montreal.
When the Great Depression struck in the 1930s, the Jews, the same as pretty much everyone else in the United States followed the “Hope and Change” candidate of that time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt into the modern Democratic Party of handouts and government spending, and have effectively never left. Even blacks began to leave the GOP, which had been the party that had freed the slaves. For the Jews, FDR promised equality in addition to economic opportunity with non-discriminatory New Deal hiring. That was a big deal considering that most big corporations in the United States would not hire Jews into the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1940s and 1950s, the Jews had become an important minority voting bloc that could swing both state and national elections. But Jews who vote Democrat in the 21st Century are effectively voting for FDR, just as their great-grandparents did.
After the Holocaust in Europe, anti-Semitism diminished in the United States as racial prejudice became a less-acceptable attitude. Then Little Israel, the State of Israel, scored a dramatic “Six-Day” victory against the Arabs in 1967 and in so doing Americans saw a new Jew, confident, strong and an ally, and Israel an outpost of liberty in the Cold War. In 1965, Vatican II removed the charge of deicide against the Jews from Catholic Church canon and Jews could no longer be hated as part of the Catholic Church’s teachings. The Jews since the Second World War were being welcomed into American life at an unprecedented level. Barriers to Jewish integration into America were crumbling. All of a sudden, Jews were considered good marriage partners, too. The popular TV show, “Bridget Loves Bernie,” in 1972 and 1973 featured a Catholic woman married to a Jewish man.
Even as the Jews have assimilated over the last 100 years and have become the most American of Americans, they have never in large numbers joined “white” Americans in voting for conservative candidates for public office. Despite all this integration and assimilation into American culture, the overwhelming number of Jews still can’t take “yes” for an answer and remain skeptical of mainstream American values. In the 1960s, many Jews joined the counterculture movements and have remained Hard Left in orientation when it came to labor, civil rights, and sexual orientation issues. These Jewish Democrats still see a country not of opportunity, but of oppression, and they identify with the Democrats who they perceive are more concerned for the poor, which is a Biblical Jewish value. Conservatives believe that social welfare programs hurt people’s initiative and make them dependent on government rather than upon themselves, or their families or their communities. Conservatives further see this dependency as contrary to the American value of self-reliance and believe it leads to a sense of entitlement. However, Jewish Democrats don’t see anything wrong with this dependency and don’t even if care if it hurts poor people or not; in fact, they believe in activist government.
From a deeper perspective, Jewish Democrats are demonstrating “Exile” behavior. Exile behavior is identifying with your oppressor and looking to your oppressor for solutions. In Biblical times, it was said that 80 percent of the Jews that were slaves in Egypt remained in Egypt rather than make the difficult journey to freedom and liberty to the Holy Land with Moses. After the Jews established their own country in the Land of Israel, they had two Holy Temples destroyed, and subsequently they have been in exile for the last 2000 years. Part of that exile has included relying on governments to protect them from Christian anti-Semitism, protection that often never materialized. As they say in the State of Israel today, a Jewish country with Jewish leadership, “You can take the Jew out of the Exile, but you can’t take the Exile out of the Jew.” So in the United States, with the exception of the Orthodox Jews, who identify with conservative family values, Jews that vote Democrat are essentially expressing more faith in government than in Divine Providence.
This last election, most Jewish Democrats, proudly wore their Obama yarmulkes, and voted for the president’s re-election. The exit polls indicate that about 60 to 65 percent of self-proclaimed Jews voted for Obama. That’s down from the usual 80 percent number. As they said in the 1970s in New York, “Jews dress Episcoplian, and vote Puerto Rican.” However, many less-blind Jews who voted for Obama in 2008, had buyers remorse and weren’t so comfortable with the out-of-control spending and Obama’s tone on Israel. While these Jewish Democrats probably wouldn’t assert that Obama is anti-Israel, they do question whether he holds the Jewish State in much esteem. It is significant to know that Obama is very unpopular in Israel and he has never visited there during his presidency.
So at the end of the day, for the Jews who vote Democrat, they live out their religion by being a liberal and voting Democrat.
Daniel Wiseman is an independent political commentator, who focuses on national and international affairs. He spent nine years as a professional journalist in Wyoming before working in fund-raising, non-profit management, and is now working in New York City. Wiseman focuses his writing on how to bring the United States back to its Constitutional moorings. He writes exclusively for Canada Free Press.
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