Yesterday, I made a variety of predictions about the way Evangelicals might vote next week. Today, I turn to Jews. But since tomorrow I am going to have a lot of experts, advocates and Beltway Insider Types lecturing about this subject at Georgetown University, I want to see what they have to say before going out on a limb. I will report back to you about the conference on Friday. For now, a few predictions and a few observations:
Trending toward the GOP: Jewish-Americans are widely–and generally, justifiably– viewed as among the most reliable Democratic voters in the nation. Be that as it may, the pattern across the last 4 presidential races suggests that things may be slowly changing. George H.W. Bush received 11% of the Jewish Vote in 1992 (though Ross Perot probably lowered his numbers a bit. Ditto James Baker). Bob Dole got 16% in 1996. George W. Bush, 19% in 2000, and then 24% in 2004.
If the trend holds, John McCain could plausibly garner nearly 30% on November 4. Actually, that wouldn’t be so unusual since Jews have given more than 30% of their vote to a Republican presidential aspirant in a little less than half of the presidential elections since 1952.
So two questions arise: 1) will we see the recent pattern of rising support for the GOP among Jews continue in 2004, and, 2) will it go beyond the 30% threshold. I am going to hesitantly say “yes” to question 1 and “no” to question 2. As for why more Jews will vote Republican in 2008 than in 2004 we might think about . . . .
The generational divide: A recent Gallup poll which I discussed on Friday showed that younger Jews, not older Jews, were more inclined to vote for McCain. Again, the numbers did not exceed 30% for that cohort, but it does raise the possibility that the future may be rosy for Jewish Republicanism. In 1956 and 1980 Jews gave roughly 40% of their votes to Eisenhower and Reagan. So if a “youth movement” does exist in American Judaism, then these numbers might be attainable in 2012 and 2016.
Babushkas rocking the vote?: What is behind this small but significant shift to the Right? One widely discussed and plausible hypothesis points to the influx of roughly 650, 000 Jews from the Soviet Union to the United States over the past three decades. True, these immigrants don’t turn out on Election Day as reliably as their American cousins. But many arrived with a political outlook forged in the crucible of a failed Communist worldview–a worldview that was, shall we say, somewhat un-liberal and more congenial to Republican positions.
The Palin Factor: Here, I have only anecdotal evidence to go on, but I am truly surprised by how many Jews have related to me that they were seriously considering McCain, until he selected his running mate. The first and most obvious complaint they make is a generic one, namely that she is not sufficiently experienced for the job.
A few weeks ago, however, I pointed to James Besser’s intriguing angle in The Jewish Week. He argued that the Governor of Alaska’s populist rhetoric of small-town America may make some Jews nervous. And they are getting nervous in spite of the fact that Palin herself has no association with the type of anti-Semitism that once characterized professors of that rhetoric.
Given that Palin has had good relations with her Jewish constituents, has said all the right things to the community, and has reached out to many of the right people (she met, for example, on Monday with Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor) I wonder if Besser is on to something.
By Jacques Berlinerblau |
October 29, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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