Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
Are American Jews the Most Foolish Voters in the United States ? II
by Ron Lipsman
University of Maryland
Recently, I wrote an article for the Maccabean Online (http://www.freeman.org/MOL/pages/july2009/are-american-jews-the-most-foolish-voters-in-the-united-states.php) in which I made the case that the sustained allegiance of Jewish Americans to liberal candidates and causes ran contrary to the fundamental interests of the Jewish community and its voters. My argument centered on three themes—or touchstone issues as I called them—around which Jews often base their decision on who shall receive their ballot. Those themes were:
· 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 .
I demonstrated that, corresponding to every one of the three themes, liberal politicians were pursuing policies that were completely inimical to the interests of the American Jewish community. Just to cite a representative example from the article: Jews fervently support diversity programs promoted by liberals—programs that have had the direct and documented effect of denying seats in medical and law schools to qualified Jewish applicants. Numerous such absurdities were highlighted in the article, which closed by posing the question "why?" Why, indeed, do Jewish Americans continue to be the second most reliable voting bloc for liberal Democrats, despite the fact that the liberal Democrats the Jews help to install in power routinely promote measures that are completely contrary to the interests of their Jewish supporters? I will attempt an answer in this article.
In fact, I will offer up seven reasons. Some of the reasons are deeply rooted in the character and history of the Jewish people. Those particular reasons have also been discussed in Chapter 10 of my book, Liberal Hearts and Conservative Brains (http://home.comcast.net/~ronlipsman/index.html). The remaining reasons are related to more modern developments—specifically, to the loss of self-esteem that is so prevalent in the nations of the Western world today. [I have also addressed the latter reasons in another venue (http://www.intellectualconservative.com/2009/08/05/on-the-existential-threat-to-israel/.)] My goal here is to tie these two groups of reasons together in a comprehensive explanation of the apparent madness of the American Jewish voter that I described at length in the previous article in this magazine.
So we seek rationales for the overwhelmingly liberal orientation of American Jewry. To do so, I must begin with an immediate qualification. As readers well know, the Jewish community is fractured into subsets according to the religious branches of Judaism: orthodox, conservative and reform. At least these have been the commonly acknowledged categories for many years. But I think this categorization no longer applies very well, and it absolutely does not apply toward a political classification. First of all, the number of branches has been growing to include Reconstructionist, gay, some would add messianic, but also—what may be the largest group—the unaffiliated. Next, for my purposes, that is, political grouping, the classification is actually much simpler—namely, orthodox on the one hand and everyone else on the other. What I will say next applies primarily to non-orthodox Jews. The orthodox Jewish community is much more politically conservative than the rest of the Jewish community. But since the orthodox are estimated to constitute no more than 10% of the Jewish population (actually, I find it hard to believe it is not substantially larger), my comments apply to the great majority of the Jewish people living in the USA . That said, I will now offer seven (interrelated) explanations for the overwhelmingly liberal bias of (non-orthodox) American Jews.
Prophetic tradition. The history of the Jewish people is characterized by a constant tension between the universal and the particular. In the former, the outlook is outward rather than inward. The Jewish people must pay close attention to its assigned role in the world, to the nature of its interactions and dealings with Gentiles, and to the effect that those interactions have on both Jews and Gentiles. As a guide for this outlook the Jews look to the books of the prophets in the Bible for their heroes and teachers. In the latter framework, the mindset is more inward than outward. The Jews are the chosen people of God, destined to live apart, a holy people whose mission is to observe and obey the word of God in as strict a fashion as it can. In addition to the Torah (the five books of Moses in the Bible, which constitute the Law), the guide is the Talmud, the book of commentaries on the Law written by Rabbis and sages nearly two millennia ago, and which dictates the details of the life of an observant Jew down to the minutest detail.
You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to guess that orthodox Jews have adopted the inward (Talmudic) approach, whereas non-orthodox Jews (i.e., just about everyone else) tend to favor the outward approach. And you don't have to be Hercule Poirot to assay that the Talmudic approach goes more comfortably with a conservative political outlook while the prophetic tradition aligns much more easily with a liberal political view. Well, maybe I've oversimplified a bit, but I believe there is a great deal of validity to this explanation. The vast majority of American Jews see their role in America, if not the world—that is, if they see themselves at all as Jews who have a role to play in the world—as, to use a well-known phrase, "a light unto the Gentiles." It is the job of the Jews to be a moral beacon, to light the way toward a more perfect world. Idealistic! Utopian! And definitely leaning toward a liberal outlook. So, small wonder that we vote 80% for liberal/Democratic candidates. Given that the orthodox only account for 10% of us, one wonders why it is not 90%. Maybe I am right about 10% not being the correct percentage of the orthodox among American Jewry.
Tikkun ha' olam. That's Hebrew for "fix the world." This explanation is closely related to the first, but is not exactly the same. Being a "light unto the Gentiles" is mainly a matter of setting a good example—for instance, leading a moral life, obeying the ten commandments (well at least numbers 5-10 since 1-4 are a bit more problematic), exhibiting holy qualities (like goodness, mercy, compassion, tolerance) that would impress any good Gentile. Fixing the world is more activist. It is more than just setting a good example. It means putting on your overalls and getting your hands dirty in doing God's work to improve the world. It means righting wrongs, correcting injustices and helping your fellow man. This meddling, universalistic attitude clearly conflicts with the particularistic, inward view of the Talmudic tradition, but it dovetails with the prophetic vision excellently. At its most effective it can be seen in the enormous contributions individual Jews have made to mankind. I am thinking of: Einstein, Freud, Salk and Sabin, Jesus of Nazareth and, dare I say, Karl Marx. Boy did he fix the world! In any event, the connection between this mantra and the propensity of Jews toward liberalism is easy to see.
Protectors. In our wanderings over the last two millennia, we Jews have become very adept at enlisting protectors. These would be people (or institutions) at the highest rungs of society—kings, nobles, dukes and princes, even bishops of the Church—who had great power and would spread their cloak of protection over a local Jewish community in exchange for some special service that that community could provide. Generally, it was business oriented items like capital, loans, scientific expertise or trade contacts that the noble lacked and to which he was having difficulty gaining access. So he made a deal. The Jews supplied the desired commodity in exchange for protection from the hoipoloi. The hoipoloi was usually a Christian or Muslim rabble who saw the Jews as infidels and/or economic or social threats that they would just as soon deal with by killing, expelling or converting them. But they were enjoined from acting on their bad intentions by the power of the noble. Jews became very skilled at finding protectors. Today, American Jews see the US Government as their protector, and they expect it to keep all those right-wing, fundamentalist evangelicals from imposing their will on the poor, powerless Jews. The services the Jews provide are exactly Salk, Sabin, etc. Historically, when the protector didn’t need the services of the Jews any longer, he threw them to the wolves. I don't think that will happen in the USA . But as our numbers dwindle and our influence ebbs… Nah, this is America !
Fear of the rabble. This and the previous explanation go hand in hand. But whereas the previous item focused on whom the Jews were protected by, this one concentrates on whom the Jews are protected from. Certainly the history of danger from the mob is tragically full of relevant examples. Jewish communities have been sacked and looted, their members raped and killed by mobs too many times—during the Crusades, during the Chmielnicki Rebellion in Poland , on Kristallnacht, etc. It was to forestall such events that the Jews sought the powerful protector. But in modern times, the greatest threat has come from the potential protector, namely from the government itself. The vast death and destruction inflicted on the Jewish people during the last century was by the German government, and to a lesser extent, by the governments of the Soviet Union and tin pot dictators in the Arab world. This suggests that the old strategy of government protectors is no longer viable.
Now let us reinterpret in terms of American Jewry. In light of the ghastly world history of Jew hatred, the Holocaust, the vilification of modern Israel , world-wide anti-Semitism, it's always in the back of our minds that we may not be completely safe—even in America . Moreover, in a laissez faire environment, who will restrain the rabble? We need the protection of the federal government. A key strategy we have employed to secure that protection is to be ardent supporters of the strongest possible separation of church and state. This will keep the government totally secular and therefore both receptive to and capable of ensuring the protection of our community. So, it is readily apparent how our need for "protectors" and "fear of the rabble' push us towards a left-leaning philosophy.
Identifying with the persecuted. This one is a no-brainer. With our people's history of persecution, we have natural sympathies for the underdogs of the world. We resonate to the dreadful history of slavery in the United States . We feel for the poor and huddled masses yearning to come here—like we did—even if they employ illegal means to do so. Knowing what it is like to be a minority community, we identify with minority populations in the US . Any blow for the persecuted is a blow for us. Yet again, it is not hard to see how this mindset skews our attitude toward liberalism.
The previous five explanations that I’ve offered are clearly tied to the history and character of the Jewish people. Next, I will supply two more that are much more closely related to modern developments in the Jewish community and more generally within Western Civilization.
Loss of faith and identity. Throughout the Western world (Europe and North America , primarily), people’s attachment to their religious heritage has been shrinking markedly. It is not at all far-fetched to describe the majority of the societies of Western Europe as post-Christian. The churches are empty, symbols of Christianity and mention of Christmas holidays are discouraged, even the “Constitution” of the European Union neglects to mention the Christian foundation that underlies the centuries old history and traditions of the continent. Similar trends are evident in the United States , although not nearly as deeply or extensively—except perhaps in the Jewish community. The fastest growing religious affiliation among the American Jewish populace is “unaffiliated.” The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is proving to be far less attractive than the lure of a big house, a fancy car, a Caribbean cruise or even an iPod.
But human beings cannot escape their “spiritual” nature. The world is too complicated, unpredictable and dangerous for man not to seek some metaphysical understanding of it in order to cope with the mysteries, miseries and misadventures that inevitably envelope his life. What we observe is that in the Western world, what replaces Judaism or Christianity is usually secular humanism. Secular humanism, the religion of the irreligious, preaches that the rules by which human behavior should be governed are not to be determined by an unseen deity, but rather by human beings here on Earth. The laws of a transcendent God are superseded by rational human thought. Consequently, secular humanism, with its placement of man rather than God at the center of existence, with its belief system that elevates rationality, scientific progress, equality and tolerance above liberty and tradition, is absolutely tailor made for a liberal political outlook.
I believe the replacement of religious faith by a powerful form of secular humanism is particularly striking among the Jewish unaffiliated. For, unlike among the Gentile population, the shedding of one's religious affiliation by a Jew, i.e., renunciation of Judaism—whether active or passive, usually involves far more than just a loss of faith. It is the loss of an entire identity. This is because, as is well known, being Jewish means much more than just being a member of a certain religious community. Jewishness, in addition to implying membership in a religious community, also encompasses a nationality, a history, a language, a culture, an ethnic identity, and even more. I shan't go into an elaborate explanation of the various components of Jewishness, especially as I imagine readers of this magazine scarcely need such a lesson. And I won't dwell on the fact that many secular Jews attempt to jettison the religious component without casting aside all the other components. (The last to go is usually the culinary part of the ethnic component—thus the Bagel Jew). Suffice it to say that the void in the lapsed Jew's soul is often much bigger than in his Gentile counterpart, and thus devotion to secular humanism, once adopted, can be very deep. This leads to an inordinately loyal attachment by the Jew to the liberal causes that are the hallmark of those who follow the secular humanist "faith."
Which brings me to the seventh reason:
Loss of self-esteem and susceptibility to brainwashing. The Jews of America are not immune from the phenomenon of declining self esteem that is rampant in the Western world. The people of Western Europe have lost their faith in the cultural, political and economic principles that have sustained them for centuries. Yes, they are now post-Christian; but they are also post individual liberty, post free market capitalism, post robust national defense, post European culture and post Western Civilization. History reveals that great civilizations more often die by suicide than by conquest and the nations of Western Europe are playing the death scene before our eyes.
The suicidal impulse is far less pronounced in the US , but it is manifesting itself with increasing force. And one such place in which it appears is within the Jewish population. The most obvious symptom—intermarriage. With estimates now running as high as 60%, what greater testament could there be to the loss of self-esteem among the Jews of America. (Incidentally the toll has already been taken—whereas the Jewish percentage of the American population equaled 4% a half century ago, it has now dropped to less than 2%.) But the manifestations are manifold. They are detailed in the symptoms I described in the previous article—all the self-defeating, absurd left wing causes supported by liberal Jews.
The sixth and seventh explanations above—loss of faith, identity and self-esteem—leave too many Jews with a huge void to fill. Thus they are powerfully susceptible to the brainwashing that they—and all of America—have been subjected to for many decades at the hands of the media, government schools, the higher education establishment and all the other liberal-dominated, opinion-forming organs of American society. The result: Jews become the most foolish voters in America —consistently voting for and supporting liberal policies and causes that rain down harm on the Jewish community.
College Park , MD
September 1, 2009
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