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November 09, 2006

The Jewish vote, 2006

The folks at the Republican Jewish Coalition are very well meaning, but this latest press release on the exit polls is so heavy with spin it makes my head spin: "Jewish GOP Vote Hits 26.4%."

For those of you who (a) are not Jewish, or (b) pay no attention to the Jewish vote, that headline may cause you to do a double take. "Jewish GOP Vote Hits 26.4%." That sounds far worse than anything else that happened to the Republicans on Tuesday. But it's not. The point of the press release from the RJC is that this is good. It's good. Let me repeat that. It's good.

In 2004, the RJC was having multi-celled organisms over Frank Luntz's exit polls showing a 25% Jewish vote for Bush. I argued at the time that the Jewish vote was probably higher than that (some was "hidden") and suggested that the correct "benchmark" for the Jewish Republican vote was 25%, which corresponds to the percentage of the Jewish population living in red states. But not even I placed the Jewish vote above 30%.

So if the 25% in 2004 was good, how can we be ecstatic about 26.4%? Is such an increase even meaningful?

No doubt, the RJC poll results show a few mildly promising signs, with an emphasis on the mildly. For example, Orthodox Jews, a small but growing part of the Jewish population, voted 42% for Republicans. (Why only 42%, you might ask, when it should be about 80%?) "Younger" Jews -- meaning those of us under 55, which isn't that young -- voted 30.7% for Republicans. And people who were exposed to the RJC's ad campaign in local newspapers voted 35.4% for Republicans.

The RJC ad campaign was quite good, by the way, even though its effectiveness was somewhat limited. Here are three of the newspaper ads (click for large image):

Try as I might, I can't find much hope in the RJC's vote figures. This election was not the time to expect a sea change in Jewish voting patterns -- at least, not away from the Democrats. But I really have to wonder what it's going to take to make Jews have a second look.

You can try to justify the Jewish vote this year by focusing on concerns about Bush's handling of Iraq. But just between us, you know that's not why Jews continue to vote for Democrats. Jews have what I've called a "shtetl mentality" and vote for Democrats because they're afraid of those Christians who actually believe in their religion, a group of people who often find their home in the Republican Party. No matter that these believing Christians tend to be overwhelmingly pro-Israel. No matter that, with rare exceptions, the people who are anti-Israel (and often anti-semitic) find their home in the Democratic Party. A ridiculous number of Jews think that if you scratch the surface (and perhaps you don't even have to) pretty much every believing Christian wants to convert us or force us to live under Church doctrine. (And the worry about Muslims who actually do want to convert us and force us to live under shari'a law -- to live, if we're lucky -- not so much, it seems.)

A lot of the Democratic leadership talks a good game about Israel, but there are two problems with relying on the leadership. First, there is a very strong grassroots anti-Israel part of the Democratic coalition. Jews are completely unable to come to terms with this fact, and they live in a terrible state of denial. I wrote about this a year and a half ago. Second, the Democratic leadership's skeptical view of American power is as harmful to Israel's security as overt hostility. For a longer treatment of these points, see Ed Lasky's piece in the American Thinker.

And don't tell me that Israel is only one issue for Jews or that you disagree with the policies of the Israeli government. Fine, but if you're an American Jew, your life and well being depend on a strong America and a strong Israel. You can't separate yourself and expect to flourish. As Jews on continental Europe, and even in England, can tell you, your life as a Jew in this world is precarious. We have to recognize who our friends are -- and who they are not.

We obviously haven't been able to do so yet.

UPDATE: I may be a pessimist myself, but this 87% figure (Jews voting for Dems) strikes me as completely bogus. I think I personally know more than the 13% of Jews who supposedly voted Republican.

UPDATE: An excellent analysis of the two conflicting polls figures by Richard Baehr in The American Thinker.