July 25, 2011

CAN'T CLEAR THE STUMBLING BLOCK:

Christian Wrong: Republicans are once again arguing that American Jews will abandon the Democratic Party. But it won't happen, because Jews recoil from the GOP's overt Christianity, even when it comes with staunch pro-Israel views. (Michelle Goldberg, Jul 25, 2011, Tablet)

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won a plurality of the Jewish vote was in 1920, when Warren Harding won a landslide victory over James Cox. Even then, Harding didn't get a majority--38 percent of Jews supported Socialist Eugene Debs; 43 percent went for Harding. But in the election of 1980, Jewish support for the Democrats reached a contemporary nadir: According to the book Jews in American Politics, Jimmy Carter, an evangelical who who was widely seen as unfriendly to Israel, got only 45 percent of the Jewish vote. Reagan received 39, and John Anderson 15 percent.

Not surprisingly, many people saw this as the beginning of a long-term shift in Jewish voting patterns, one they expected to continue in 1984. In that re-election year, Mort Kondrake wrote in the New Republic that "Jews are pulling loose from their traditional Democratic moorings." The Reagan Administration, he reported, was trying to convince the American Jewish community that Walter Mondale would be weak on Israel, caving in "to Jesse Jackson and confirmed Arabisants from the Carter State Department." (At the time, Jackson's derisive reference to New York as "Hymietown" was very much in the news.) For the first time in 60 years, wrote Kondrake, "it's not clear which party will receive a majority of the Jewish vote."

That November, despite one of the worst showings in modern presidential campaign history, Mondale carried 67 percent of the Jewish electorate. Reagan got less of the Jewish vote in 1984 than Nixon did in 1972, despite the latter's long reputation for anti-Semitism.

What happened? An important part of the answer lay in the growing association between the Republican Party and Christian fundamentalism. Reagan's empowerment of the religious right was a significant issue in 1984. Endorsing Mondale, the New York Times concluded: "Mr. Reagan's opponent talks about church and state with a care that verges on eloquence. [T]hat, alone, would be reason on Tuesday to vote for Walter Mondale." Concerns about religion in politics did not sway the electorate at large, but Jews took them seriously. As a Commentary article said, "It seems that Reagan's increasingly vocal embrace of the New--specifically, the Christian--Right scared Jews more than anything said by either Jackson or [Louis] Farrakhan." Indeed, exit polls showed that Jews had a significantly more unfavorable opinion of Jerry Falwell--a man who'd been awarded the Jabotinsky Prize by Menachem Begin--than of Jesse Jackson.


That which makes Republicans the conservative party makes Jews Democrats.


Posted by at July 25, 2011 3:49 PM
  

blog comments powered by Disqus
« NOR WOULD HE EVEN HAVE BEEN ELECTED HAD HE NOT RUN TO MAVERICK'S RIGHT: | Main | BUT IT MUST BE A TRICK! »