Hakadosh Barack Who?

by on Mar.22, 2010, under Politics

Like Matthew Yglesias, I was impressed by Jacob Weisberg’s forceful rebuttal of Israeli apologetics in Slate.com:

But if the stupidity of the settlements is obvious to most American Jews, it is not to the majority of Israelis, who have chosen a prime minister who represents the rejection of a two-state solution. At the same time, American liberals have recoiled from the pattern of miscalculation and inhumanity—there is no other word for it—in Israel’s attempts to protect itself from Hezbollah and Hamas.

However, Weisberg’s conclusion — that this would lead to the much-predicted Republican resurgence among Jewish voters — was surprisingly unsourced and unbuttressed to me:

Barring a breakthrough in the peace process or a change in the Israeli government, I’d predict the drift to continue to continue, with Likud-Republican-religious-AIPAC supporters settling into one camp and Kadima-Democratic-secular-J-Street supporters coalescing into another. […] For Democrats, the fracturing of Jewish support, which is crucial both in terms of money and swing votes in a few key states, hardly bodes well. Those who undertook the “great schlep“- to Florida to convince their grandparents to vote for Obama may be getting an earful from them now. Obama won nearly 80 percent of the Jewish vote in 2008. I doubt he will get as much of it in 2012.

There’s relatively little evidence that Jewish voters care enough about Israel to switch party allegiance. (There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. Have you met my family?) Sarah Posner in the American Prospect, looking at exit-poll data from the Pew Center on Religion and Public Life, found that “Obama garnered 79 percent of the Jewish vote (which looked more like Gore’s 78 percent than Kerry’s 74 percent), despite a relentless campaign of vicious smears, rumors and insinuations targeted at that community and claims that Obama was anti-Israel and a friend of terrorists.”

According to this chart, Obama’s gains with Jews (+4%) were slightly lower than his gains with other groups and with voters overall (+5%). It’s arguable that another Democratic candidate, who was hit with as much “soft on terror” but less “seekrit Muslim”, would have been more popular with Jews the same year. It’s also possible that it’s harder to make gains as the scale of the majority grows; OTOH “blacks voted 95-4 for Obama (up from 88-11 in 2004)”. Regardless, until the evidence in, I think Jews are going to continue, in the words of Milton Himmelfarb, “earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans.”

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1 Comment for this entry

  • Joshua Malbin

    It’s funny that Republicans continue to profess bafflement over why Jews don’t come link arms with fundamentalist Christians, as if we weren’t aware of the place Israel holds in their eschatology. How stupid do they think we all are, anyway? Do they think this stuff is a secret?

    More than that, American Jews are for obvious reasons highly sensitive to bigotry, and I believe will never join the Republican party so long as it continues to trade on bigotry for votes. I think Republicans don’t understand that because the public face of their electoral bigotry isn’t directed at Jews, so they don’t imagine that we should care.

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