Pandering to a religious constituency in a presidential election has its ups and downs.
The ups: The fundraisers where the hosts invite all of their fabulous, deep-pocketed co-religionists: The clergy singing your praises (without specifically intoning your name) from the pulpit: Church photo-ops where old women in wheelchairs roll up to you (or are launched in your direction by shameless staffers) and clutch your hand at precisely the moment that the guy from AP is snapping pictures.
And then there are the votes. Oh the votes! For it sometimes happens that a religious group votes in a block.
Professor Berlinerblau’s Law: it is worthwhile to pander to a religious constituency when the constituency in question will give you over 75% of its ballot.
Corollary to Professor Berlinerblau’s Law: the religious constituency in question had better be large enough to merit your attention, so Shakers are definitely out.
But Jews are in. Even though they comprise only 2.2 percent of the U.S. population (roughly 6.5 million Americans), Jews are concentrated in states of great electoral relevance (New York, California, Florida). Too, they have demonstrated the aforementioned unanimity in presidential contests. In 2004, 76% voted for John Kerry. In 2000, 79% for Gore. In 1996, 78% for Clinton. In 1992, 80 percent for the same candidate.
It stands to reason that if Hillary Clinton wins her party’s nomination in 2008 she should fare swimmingly among Jewish voters. Democrats always do. Save a little slip up involving Suha Arafat in 1999–these things happen–the senator from New York has enthusiastic support from this group.
Yup. Hillary should do just fine among Jews. Just fine. Unless, of course, her opponent is named Rudy. This is, after all, a politician who took 75% of the Jewish vote in the 1997 mayoral race while running against a Jewish candidate, Ruth Messinger.
Giuliani’s popularity among this group is not difficult to comprehend. As far as many are Jews are concerned, he is a Democrat–a Democrat with an edge. Like most Democrats, he is moderate on abortion and gay rights. Like most Democrats (with the possible exception of Dennis Kucinich) he is an unwavering supporter of Israel.
But this brings us to the edge: little in Giuliani’s past indicates that he would be reluctant to either respond to, or preempt, any threat posed by rogue states, Iran in particular. (That the American Center is unsettled by Ahmadinejad’s regime is clearly something that the Clinton campaign has picked up on as well).
It is this combination of mainstream views on social issues and a hawkish foreign policy that will impel Jewish voters to give Giuliani a much closer look than any Republican presidential nominee since Reagan. In was in the 1980 election, incidentally, that Jews gave 39% of their vote to The Great Communicator (and 45% to Carter and 14% to Anderson).
The Jewish block was politically fractured. And as we shall see in the next discussion, a fractured religious constituency is the dreaded downside of faith-based pandering.
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
November 8, 2007; 11:34 AM ET
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