Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Jews vote predominantly for Democrats

A lot of people wonder why American Jews vote predominantly for Democrats particularly in Presidential elections.  For example, Barack O’Bama recorded 77% of the Jewish vote in 2008 in spite of considerable concern regarding his pastor, Jeremiah Wright  and his association with other people known for their hostility toward Jews.  Even now, with President O’Bama’s popularity dropping, 47% of Jewish Americans recently polled said they would vote to re-elect him if a Presidential election was held today.

Some people shake their head in amazement.  They wonder how this can be given some of the foreign relations problems, particularly with regard to U.S.-Israel relations, that have occurred during President O’Bama’s first 18 months in office.  I won’t list those problems here, but I think most of my readers are familiar with at least a few of those issues.

There are a lot of theories about why American Jews vote for Democrats and lean toward liberal views.  I’ve heard a lot of them and I understand these theories.  I also dismiss them.  I have my own theory that I’d like to share with you.

The vast majority of Jewish-Americans are descendants of a wave of immigration from Eastern Europe that occurred between 1890 and 1927.  Most of these Jews lived in the “Pale of Settlement” of Eastern Europe.  This region was ruled directly or indirectly by the Czar of Russia for most of this period.

It would be an understatement to say that the Russian Czars were anti-Semitic.  Moreover, the last Russian Czar, Nicholas II was fully willing to use anti-Semitism to divert public discontent away from his critics and toward a common scapegoat.  Nicholas II was the last Czar to rule Russia and was overthrown in 1917 by a coalition of Socialists, Social Democrats, and of course Communists. 

Thus, during the period of Jewish immigration, the primary opposition to the hated and anti-Semitic Czar were leftists and those who at the very least, sympathized with the leftists’ opposition to the Czar.  When the new Americans came ashore and looked around, the party that best resembled the opposition to the Czar was the Democratic Party.  Thus came a natural relationship between Jewish-Americans and the Democratic Party; one that has transcended several generations. In other words, Jews vote predominantly Democratic because the Democratic Party best resembles the traditional opponents of the Czarist regime from which our ancestors fled.

This theory might not be so evident to you, but it became evident to me in the 1990’s when I formulated it.  During that period, there was a second, smaller  wave of Jewish immigration to the United States from the former U.S.S.R.  Anti-Semitism  in the Soviet Union didn’t die with Czar Nicholas II.  It remained a manifest policy of state.  The Soviet Union's open assistance to  those wishing to destroy the Jewish State are a matter of fact.  While Soviet Jews assimilated under the force of the Communist regime, they still faced considerable discrimination regardless of their efforts to be good citizens.

The primary opposition to the Communist regime in the U.S.S.R. were those who supported free market economics in conjunction with personal political freedom.  To these opponents of the Communism, personal political freedom could not come about in the U.S.S.R. without economic freedom.

When the U.S.S.R. dissolved, its Jewish population left in droves.  Most went to Israel where there were relatives and government programs in place to absorb them.  Others came to the United States where there were also relatives and a significant mixture of private and public programs in place to help them start their lives anew.

These new Jewish-Americans identify with those who opposed the anti-Semitic Communist regime in the U.S.S.R.  As they looked around the American political landscape, they found that it was the Republican Party that best resembled the opposition to the old country’s repressive regime.  To nobody’s surprise, these new Jewish-Americans are attracted to the political party that best resembles the opposition to the repressive Communist regime.  That is why these new Jewish-Americans from the former Soviet Union predominantly vote Republican.  I do not find that surprising.

In summary, my thesis is that Jewish-Americans tend to support the Democratic Party because it best represents the opposition to the government from which our ancestors fled.  This thesis is re-enforced by the phenomenon that Jewish-Americans who have fled the former Soviet Union tend to support the Republican Party because it too, best represents the opposition to the government from which they fled.

What do you think?


KGS said...

Hi TINSC, I agree with your basic premise, there is indeed a correlation between these two groups and the places and time periods they fled directly contributing to their choice of politics.

The same can be said of former Soviet satelite countries and their relations to the US and Israel in comparison to those European states who landed on the western side of the Iron curtain.

Experiencing totalitarianism face to face heightens the senses and awarness and leads to them to establish alliances with those who share similar views.

So of course it's not a Jewish thing, but something that spans all ethnicities and cultures.

There is NO Santa Claus said...

"The same can be said of former Soviet satelite countries and their relations to the US and Israel in comparison to those European states who landed on the western side of the Iron curtain."

I'm not so sure, KGS. First of all, in discussing "former Soviet satelite countries" you're changing the subject. I'm talking about American Jews.

That being said, let's consider your broader thesis for a minute. In Europe, there are some fine examples you could point to that would support your thesis. What about Azerbaijan? What about Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, or (considering Eastern Europe) Moldova? They don't fit your profile. It's a different discussion for a different day.

I'm glad you agree with my thesis about Jewish Americans. But frankly, I'm interested in some other theories about why Jewish Americans vote predominantly for Democrats. Personally speaking, I wish the Democratic Party was unable to take the Jewish American vote for granted. I don't mind Jewish Americans voting for Democrats. I just wish Jewish Americans would be more choosy.

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

ultravox said...

In my opinion you're over-thinking it. It's as simple as the Democrats were ( and are ) more tolerant of Jews and more receptive to Jews. While the Republicans were less tolerant and more hostile to Jews. Historically in America, the political Right has been the most anti-semitic. ( think Henry Ford )

It's the same for Catholics and pretty much the same for any disenfranchised minority- be it a religious minority or ethnic minority.

If you'll excuse the hyperbole, in the American Right Jewish immigrants saw too many shades of the fascism from which they fled.