November 11, 2002
ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY:
Riding an Electoral Wave, GOP Jews Say Their Time Has Come
(AMI EDEN, NOVEMBER 8, 2002, The Forward)
GOP victories in Hawaii and Minnesota come at a time when Jewish Republicans insist their ranks are growing — largely, they say, due to the Bush administration's strong support for Israel.
"Coupled with [Virgina Republican] Eric Cantor in the House, you have three young, articulate, dynamic spokespeople who will be able to travel around the country and talk about the message of the Republican Party in ways that will resonate with the Jewish community," said Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Along with Cantor and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, Brooks added, Coleman and Lingle "will be able to put a user-friendly face on a Republican Party that is eager and committed to attracting a larger share of support from the Jewish community."
Recent polls do little to bolster the Republicans' hopes. In one exit poll of Jewish voters in New Jersey this week, conducted for the New Jersey Jewish News by Zogby International, Democrat Frank Lautenberg took 79.7% of Jewish votes to his GOP rival Douglas Forrester's 19%. Jewish support for the Democrat actually increased by 15 percentage points since Lautenberg's last outing in 1994, when he took 65% of the Jewish vote, the Jewish News reported.
No one ever said it was going to be easy to wean Jews, blacks, and Latinos of their counter-productive but deeply-ingrained voting patterns.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 11, 2002 7:57 PM
I was recently at a party with some Jewish friends. We compared stands on lots of issues (Israel, Iraq, taxes, Hollywood, Bill Clinton) and were pretty much in agreement on everything.
But when I asked if they voted Republican, they said "Oh no we could never do that
I don't get it. It's like its a cultural thing, beyond logic or reason or something.
Reminds me about a talk radio show Bill Richardson was hosting about 4 weeks ago when he was running for governor. Not wanting to talk with the peasants, Richardson had all his political buddies call him from around the state. It sounded like a court ceremony of two centuries ago. But then one fellow brought up how Richardson was "the right man" to change how things were run in New Mexico, which typically is an election year promise of the most meaningless sort.
So Richardson, in making conversation, asked this hack what he thought was the highest priority, and the fellow stupidly responded that someone needed to look into why Albuquerque and Phoenix were the same populations in 1950 but Phoenix is 3 times bigger now. He then dropped the line, "maybe its because they have had lower taxes?" Now, the Democrats have controlled the legislature for the last half century, so its not like these taxes are anything that is due to the Republicans. An this dominence of the state is largely due to the way that Hispanics and Indians vote Democrat in unthinking manners. So I'd not say that US Jews are the sole group to consistently vote against their self interests.
You're absolutely right - it's a cultural thing. And very logical given that Judaism is the original social justice religion - every Shabbat some Bar Mitzvah kid is chanting selections from the Prophets in shuls all over the world. Jews stand out as the one ethnic group in America which keeps voting liberal as it grows more prosperous - all other groups get conservative as they get wealthier. Jews made up a large percentage of the Freedom Riders, SDS, Red-diaper babies, feminists, ACLU members, and patrons of the arts. Even "conservative" Jews have family who are these things.
After all, compassionate rules of war, tithing, jubilee year, social obligations to those less fortunate, challenging God, respecting other religious paths, intellectual debate, raising intelligent outspoken children, seeing sex as a gift from God, speaking truth to power - all these attitudes are hard-wired into our religious practice and mythology. Even totally secular Jews are very conscious of and proud of the social justice part of our heritage.
Republicans have to convince us they care about communities as well as individuals. If they argue in favor of free markets, it has to be because markets work best to make the world a better place. Republicans have to encourage civil rights and civil liberties, and keep abortion (which is not forbidden by Jewish law) legal.
Like every proud ethnic group, Jews have relatives all over the world. Most of us are at the most 2 generations from immigrants. Republicans have to believe in immigration and have an international perspective.
The Jewish stereotype of Republicans is WASP, suburban, lowbrow, repressive to their kids. Even suburban Jews think of ourselves as more ethnic, urban, artsy-fartsy, permissive than our gentile neighbors. So Republicans have to not only support the arts, but be willing to support edgy challenging art.
You're absolutely right - it's a cultural thing, Part II . . .
Republicans have to convince us they will maintain a separation of religion and state. Many of us have personal memories of being forced to pray Christian prayers and sing Christian songs in school, or getting beaten up for not doing so. We are acutely aware that large swathes of the Rebuplican religious right still think we are heathens and want to convert us. When missionaries ring our doorbells, we don't think "Democrat."
We are glad Republicans are supporting Israel, and even for sound reasons (not because Israel's wars are the harbinger of the apocalypse). We hope your support of Israel is based on ethics and not in hopes of quid quo pro. But you know something? Most Democratic politicians support Israel too, so you have to have something else to offer us.
To call our voting patterns "counter-productive" is condescending. From our POV, we are protecting our interests.
I think what OJ meant by "counter-productive" was "unknowingly counter-productive."