Does it matter anymore?
November 20, 2020
“The Jewish Vote.” What ever happened to the “Jewish Vote”? While we never meant more than one or maybe one and a half percent of the total turnout, there was always press, commentary, speculation, even some wringing of hands about the turnout, the political leaning and the meaning of the “Jewish Vote” during every national election for a really long time.
I could never figure out what the fuss was all about. We truthfully could not have any real impact on the final outcome of any presidential campaign. Outside of maybe the five boroughs of New York, I doubt Jews could affect any local race. But, still, there it was on the air, in the papers and in numerous studies.
“The Jewish Vote.” Until now. Somehow in the past few election analyses, “The Jewish Vote” statistics do not appear. Well, to begin with, there is really no way to accurately measure the number of Jews who vote in any given election, except maybe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Secondly, it does not make political or even common sense to have somebody hired to ask people exiting a polling place: “Pardon me, but are you Jewish? Great! How did you vote?”
So, let us do some speculation. It was assumed, it seems forever, Jews were believed to be overwhelmingly liberal leaning. Ergo: Democratic voters. This reflected our supposed liberal views on race, equality and other factors that meant we would vote Democrat and liberal up and down the ballot.
Times change. So do political parties. When the “Jewish Vote” seemed important, the Democratic Party was “Liberal,” the Republican Party “Conservative.” Jews, by our nature, our heritage and our experience in the world were overwhelmingly “Liberal.”
The United States is the only developed country with a democratic process of election to have only two major parties. Closest to us would be England with its “Conservative” and “Liberal” parties.
But nobody would claim that England has the same diversity, the same racial, race and geographical differences as the United States. We are by far the largest nation in the world with a “democratic” electoral system.
So far as Jews are concerned, we are still the tiny percentage of the population we have always been. One wonders; Looking back at history, why such an emphasis on the “Jewish” vote ever existed.
For eons, the United States ignored the Hispanic vote. Now that seems to be a really important part of the political strategy of both parties. While it is hard to compare the size of the Hispanic population of America with the Jewish population, America is still getting that one wrong. The difference in political attitudes between Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, Venezuelan Americans, etc. is huge.
So, if the pundits choose to ignore those differences, why should there be an urge to pars the Jewish Vote? Anti-Semitism has been dealt with on the legal front and until recently seemed to be less important politically. Has the overall electorate become less interested or maybe simply bored with how Jews voted?
Well, maybe. One thing for sure, as Jews diversified in their political leanings it became more difficult to separate the “Jewish Vote” from the overall.
Even where Israel is concerned, politically, there is no longer 100 percent loyalty from American Jews to the State of Israel. As a concept, Israel has close to one hundred percent loyalty from the Jews of America. On the other hand, as a functioning nation with its own political parties, philosophies and destiny, there is again, a left/right split within the Jews of America.
Meanwhile, the demographic trends of young Jews ae not that different from the overall. Young Jews are no longer a dependable generation for either party. And there attitudes on Israel vary from ardent Zionist to an almost total lack of interest.
In the 1980s and 90s along with the rest of that generation age group, they watched the American Dream almost disappear. They saw Dad lose his job or at least his desire for the “Corner Office” as the economic world crashed. In many cases, this younger generation even lost their homes.
Losing faith in the previous “American Dream” they entered the “Gig Economy” with gusto. They flooded into the world of entrepreneurship. Their reasons for this were different than the original Jewish entrepreneurs. Years ago, Jews became entrepreneurs because so many business doors were closed to them. Today? We are just as deft at creating opportunities as ever — but in a world where creating your own business is easier and there are so many avenues to pursue.
As Jews become diverse in their political philosophies as well as their business activities, as the Jewish “Middle Class” is harder to pinpoint, their political leanings likewise scatter. I think it is probable that as this real political divide continues to grow, so will the diversity of the “Jewish Vote.”
Are we still for equality, human dignity and equal opportunity? God, I hope so.