Are American Jews the Most Foolish Voters in the United States?
By Ron Lipsman
Despite its ludicrous tone, the question posed in the title is a legitimate one. With the exception of American blacks, Jews continue to comprise the most reliable voting block for liberal Democrats in the United States. They vote overwhelmingly in that direction in virtually all gubernatorial, congressional and presidential elections. Obama obtained more than 80% of the Jewish vote, not uncharacteristic of the percentage of Jews who have cast their ballots for Democratic presidential candidates since Franklin Roosevelt. Reagan was an exception, but he only obtained roughly 40% of the Jewish vote. No other Republican since has come close to that number
I maintain that the massive, ongoing, enthusiastic and predictable Jewish vote for liberal Democrats is an example of one of the most foolish voting records by any ethnic group in the history of the American republic. The black vote along the same lines is self-destructive and foolish, but there are some bona fide explanations—especially in the last election. On the other hand, as I will show in this article, the sustained allegiance by American Jews to the Left is not only self-destructive and foolish, it is also short-sighted, naïve, ineffective, harmful and ultimately inexcusable.
Individuals vote for candidates for all sorts of reasons. But often, a large number of members of an ethnic community might cast ballots of a similar nature. This is not surprising. People have touchstone issues that can easily affect which lever they pull (or which tab they press on their computer screen) and it is not unusual for common feelings on such issues to be shared among the members of an ethnic community. In the case of the Jewish community what might those touchstone issues be? For example, any individual Jewish voter might care deeply about abortion or taxes or judicial activism. But so might any other voter. What are the issues that touch him deeply as a Jew, perhaps enough to sway his vote for President? I will discuss three here:
* The security and well-being of the State of Israel and its Jewish population.
* The security and well-being of the American Jewish community.
* The fundamental purpose of the Jewish people's continued existence, especially in America.
There are other issues, like separation of church and state, school vouchers or affirmative action, about which some Jews feel strongly, and those feelings might be connected to their Jewish identity. But I maintain that none of those are as fundamental as the above three, which are at the heart of how most Jews see themselves as Jews, and as American citizens. So I will restrict my attention to the three in the bulleted list.
Support for Israel. Although most American Jews have chosen not to relocate to Israel, and they see their family's destiny continuing to unfold in the United States, nevertheless, they care deeply about Israel. Many have relatives or close acquaintances who live there. Others have visited, many times in some instances. They feel a kinship with the Jews of Israel, a pride in their accomplishments and a concern for their precarious situation. Unless they are totally cynical, they recognize the miracle of the creation of the Jewish State on the ashes of the Holocaust, and the equally wondrous miracle of its survival in the face of unremitting and murderous hostility on the part of its Arab neighbors and the Muslim world. They are grateful for the support their country, the US, has shown for Israel and they are determined that said support shall not waiver.
But here are some undeniable facts. In the Western World today, the main hostility to Israel comes from the Left. In Western Europe, Canada, even the United States, Israel is routinely slandered as an Apartheid State and a Nazi-like occupier by politicians, academics and media-types on the Left—almost exclusively on the Left. While there remain a few lunatic, fringe figures on the Right who engage in such calumny, their numbers pale in comparison to those on the extreme Left. Worse, many in the mainstream Left are equally virulent in their denunciations of Israel. People like Jesse Jackson, Ramsay Clark, Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich, so-called mainstream liberals, are fervent in their condemnations of Israel and in advocating policies that would sunder the Israel-US alliance and align America more with Israel's enemies. The bias even extends to the White House. While Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were great friends and admirers of Israel, Lyndon Johnson virtually abandoned the Israelis prior to the Six-Day War, Bill Clinton's favorite White House guest was the terrorist Arafat who had Jewish blood on his hands, and you cannot convince me that Jimmy Carter is not an anti-Semite.
Yet American Jews keep voting for these people. What are they thinking? It is totally clear that there are many on the Left, usually in the Democratic Party, who do not wish Israel well, who if they get the chance will reorient US policy away from the support and defense of Israel, and who turn a blind eye to the genocidal rage of the Holocaust-denier and Jew-hater, Ahmadinejad, and his proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas. Why are American Jews voting for those people? Are they blind? How could they be so foolish?
Support for the American Jewish Community. Well, maybe the American Jewish voter is not all that fixated on Israel anymore. Perhaps his concerns lie closer to home—with the protection and support of the Jewish community in America. Sorry, fellow members of the tribe, but hostility to Jews in America is just as much concentrated on the Left as is hostility to Israel. The list of well-known leftist anti-Semites is too long to contemplate, and any that I name here would be quick to deny it and condemn me. So let me just explain how some of the favorite policies of liberal Democrats are poisonous to the American Jewish community.
Where to begin? Liberals love to tax the rich. But which is one of the richest ethnic communities in the United States? Duh! Liberal philosophy leads to economic policies that penalize the business community, especially small businessmen. Well, which ethnic community is entrepreneurial in spirit and heavily represented in the small business community? Duh again! Liberal philosophy is definitely anti-military, demanding that international conflicts always be resolved by negotiation and that war is to be avoided at all costs. At the moment the liberals who are running the country are throwing money at every federal agency except the Defense Department. They are decimating our military and our intelligence agencies. And exactly how is that going to enable the US to help protect Israel from its genocidal neighbors in the Middle East? For that matter, how will we protect ourselves from the same genocidal maniacs? Unilateral disarmament (no missile defense, cut the defense budget, don't modernize our nuclear arsenal, delay or postpone development of new weapons systems) can do nothing but harm to the Jewish communities in both the US and Israel. But Jews love the loony liberals who are intent on doing it.
The list goes on. Liberal Democrats are thrilled by the human invasion of our shores that is underway from Latin America and other third world venues. They claim that the invaders will enrich our culture and improve our prosperity, and that welcoming them is an appropriate way to deal with the oppression in the countries from which the hordes are fleeing. Of course, it is just coincidental that liberals expect these "new Americans" to be overwhelmingly left-leaning voters. Now in the last half-century, the Jewish component of the US population has shrunk from 4% to less than 2%. As our numbers dwindle, so will our clout. Exactly how is mass immigration—legal or otherwise—by groups of people who are immediately classified as underrepresented minorities and thereby entitled to special privileges that Jews are denied, exactly how is that going to improve our well-being in the US?
The Left wants to build a very high, impenetrable wall between church and state. That is only one part of their plan to convert America from a country in which religion has played a fundamental role to one in which religion is marginalized, hidden and eventually banished. Jews favor this approach because of memories of poor treatment at the hands of Christians over the centuries. Well, in which secular or pagan societies have we fared better? Nazi Germany? Soviet Russia? France? (In the latter, anti-Semitism is rampant again today.) The strongly Christian society that America was, and which Jewish voters are helping to destroy, laid out the greatest welcome mat ever seen in world history for the Jewish people. Today, evangelical Christians constitute arguably the community most supportive of Israel in the US or the Western World. But we spurn them and vote for "friends of Israel" like Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama. I cannot imagine anything more foolish.
The issue of group rights versus individual rights is another particularly thorny one for American Jews. In the pall-mall rush to identify groups in America that are to be accorded special rights, "civil rights" advocates have settled on blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, occasionally Asians, but more frequently homosexuals and the disabled, and let us not forget females. The Jews rarely if ever make the cut. You would think that, constituting a shrinking percentage of the population, and not favored for any special status in the group rights game, Jews would be falling all over themselves to support individual rights. Not the case. Jews are amongst the biggest promoters of group rights. And from which political corner does the mantra of group rights originate? The Left!
This may be a case of political philosophy trumping ethnicity and self-interest. It is a well-known fact that in fields like education, business, science, literature and the arts, the millennia-old traditions of Jewish scholarship and study have produced a people who can compete extraordinarily well. Given a level playing field, we do indeed compete exceedingly well. The long roster of achievements by Jews in these areas: Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, selections for membership in the National Academy of Sciences, even Oscars, attests to that success. Why in heaven's name would we want to support rules that tilt the playing field to our disadvantage, impede our brethren from competing on even terms, and thereby diminish the chances of our continuing these stellar achievements? Why indeed! Because the lure of Leftist ideology blinds too many Jews to the folly and self-destructiveness of their devotion to group rights. Indeed, Jews and Jewish organizations are routinely found among the strongest advocates of group rights. For example, they fervently support diversity programs that have had the direct and documented effect of denying qualified Jewish applicants seats in medical and law schools. This is done in the name of atoning for sins committed by white Americans against black Americans—real though those sins were—at a time when the Jewish applicant's ancestors were peasants in Europe. Furthermore, the beneficiaries of those affirmative action programs often have no ethnic connection to those who suffered the outrage of slavery. So A is paying B to atone for sins committed by C against D. Is this wise? Is it just? Or even compassionate? I think not. But it is certainly foolish.
Moving on, it is also not surprising that many Jews support multiculturalism. They harbor a deep-seated suspicion of the classic WASP culture and its Christian origins and emphasis. The Jewish people have a very problematic relationship with Christianity and although things are pretty good now, one can never be too secure. Multiculturalism has the potential to loosen the grip that a Christian-oriented culture has had on America and this is a good thing for the Jews—or so the thinking goes. Thus you will find Jews lined up squarely in the multicultural ranks. That is, squarely on the Left.
But as with other aspects of the Jewish political agenda, the commitment to multiculturalism is short-sighted. The overwhelming majority of the Jews of America, those alive today and those who have lived in the republic since its birth, would categorize the US as the warmest haven the Jewish people have encountered outside Israel in the last three thousand years. Well, things were pretty comfy in Persia 2500 years ago, and in Babylon about 1500 years ago, and in Spain some 600 years ago, but it is understandably hard to compare the levels of comfort in those societies to life in America during its existence. In any event, I note that the environment in America that offered the Jews such great comfort was dominated, for most of that existence, by the WASP culture that we are so anxious to denigrate. Is there some kind of disconnect here? Yes, I had to sing a few Christmas carols when I was in public school. That does not change the fact that from the arrival of my grandparents in this country about a century ago through the arrival of my grandchildren about a decade ago, my family has lived a good life, free to pursue our Jewish religion, culture and traditions as much or as little as we wished. The non-WASP cultures that the multiculturalists are so keen to graft onto the American scene emanate from countries and regions where my fellow Jews have not had such a cozy existence. Again, I question whether a commitment to multiculturalism by Jews is not self-defeating. It is certifiably foolish. Finally, to conclude this section, I note that the good gentile people of America began in the last generation to refer to the religious component of Western Civilization as the Judeo-Christian heritage. And we are going to turn our backs on that!
Purpose of the Jewish People in America. The third core "issue" on which Jews cast their votes is more nebulous than the previous two and somewhat trickier to discuss. Whereas the first two issues were easily and unambiguously stated, this one is less so. The goal of improving the lot of the Jews in Israel, or in America, is explicit and understood by those who profess it—as well as those who oppose it. Whether policies adopted by politicians supported by the Jews act in furtherance of those goals—or thwart them—is a matter of opinion. And it has been my thesis above that large segments of the Jewish community foolishly support policies which, in fact, have negative consequences toward the attainment of the two goals.
Now for the third. Jewish people are unlike say Swedes or the Swiss in that they constantly ruminate about their role in world history. Conscious of their survival over thousands of years against enormous odds, they think about their contributions to mankind during that period and just as importantly, they ponder how they should contribute to the betterment of humanity in the future. This is a complicated issue, but at the risk of oversimplification, let me say that the thinking generally runs down one of two tracks—which might be summarized by the well-known Hebrew phrases: Or l'Goyim and Tikkun Ha Olam, a Light Unto the Nations and Fix (or Perfect) the World. Along the former track, the Jewish American, who is usually, but not necessarily, religiously observant, takes on his role in a biblical sense. Specifically, the intent is to live his life according to the ancient precepts of his religion and in doing so he leads a moral, ethical and holy life that sets a shining example for the peoples of the world. His ultimate goal is to encourage all of mankind to live a righteous life for the betterment of the world. Although he does this in the context of a supportive Jewish community, he comes to the decision to live this way, to highlight his Jewish way of behavior as a beacon to mankind, as an intensely personal decision, made of his own free will.
On the second track, the Jewish American takes his lead more from the prophets than from rabbinical tradition. He sees his role as one of the vanguard who, having identified the flaws of man and his stewardship of society and the environment, sets about to "fix" it, that is, to improve, even perfect, mankind and the world. He will do this not so much by leading an exemplary life that sets a good example but more by joining with those gentiles who desire the same objective, in order to enlighten everyone else about the true path and then to enact rules that all will follow for the betterment, indeed perfection of mankind and the world.
Now to put the above two tracks in an American context, I will choose in each case a classic American phrase that encapsulates the fundamental animating idea to which the individual is devoted in his quest for his "Jewish purpose." For the former, I offer up individual liberty and for the latter, social justice. That said, what I observe is that when your average American Jewish voter thinks about his role as a Jew in the unfolding American drama, it appears to me that the pursuit of social justice comes to mind a lot more frequently than does individual liberty. And as with the two previous issues, I maintain that the choice the majority of American Jews are making on this issue is foolish. Part of my belief stems from my overall assessment of the relative values of the agendas of the Left and Right in America today. Without going too far astray, let me just say that I believe that the statist, collectivist, big government, anti-free market, counter cultural policies that the Left is pursuing—and increasingly successfully I might add—will lead to the ruination of America. The quest for social justice, which is no more than a euphemism for socialism, will at best turn the US into a clone of the socialist states in Western Europe that are decaying before our eyes, or at worst into a despotic tyranny that our forefathers foretold would emerge if we could not maintain the limited government, republican form of government that they set up for us. It is a sad fact that the majority of American Jews have lined up foolishly on the wrong side of this monumental battle.
To conclude my discussion of this issue, let me make an ironic observation about our foolish preference for social justice over individual liberty. Life for Jews has been precarious in exile, where we spent the better part of the last two millennia. Centuries of dealing with oppressors have caused us to develop defensive mechanisms. Clearly a society committed to social justice—which to many Jews suggests a fair and equitable society—would provide a safer environment, and it makes sense to work for that rather than grandstanding about the rights of the individual, rights that most societies have not accorded him. Well, despite the freedom the US grants to exercise these rights, the Galut mentality dies hard.
The ironies connected with this last issue are as poignant as the previous. The Jewish people of America have a remarkable record of individual success. Through hard work, dedication and perseverance, Jews have climbed to the top in many professions, in business, science and the arts. Moreover they did it without affirmative action or other artificial governmental mechanisms to prop up their efforts. They constitute a true testament to individual liberty, or as some conservatives are wont to express it, to rugged individualism—even if more of the cerebral than physical kind. Yet they remain committed to social justice in the form of government set asides, group preferences in college admissions, special loans for minority businesses and the whole plethora of welfare-like programs which scream out that this or that individual from certain groups cannot succeed on his own without special assistance. The Jewish experience in America is proof of the fallacy of that thesis. But why should Jews deal in reality when their dreams of social justice are so much more enticing.
The question remains: Why? Why do we behave so foolishly? Why do we make political choices and pursue policies that run counter to our own self-interests? I have demonstrated here that this is exactly what the Jewish community in the US is doing. Why do we do so? Well, Jews might be foolish, but they are hardly stupid. Therefore, what is the explanation? That will be a topic for a future column.
College Park, MD
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Professor of Mathematics
Former Senior Associate Dean
College of Computer, Math & Physical Sciences
University of Maryland
ph: (301) 405-7061 (o), 301-538-8381 (c)
Author of: Liberal Hearts and Conservative Brains