Thursday, January 26th | 4 Shevat 5783

August 14, 2012 2:09 pm

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Republicans?

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avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan. Photo: wiki commons.

It’s a love affair that’s defied time, common sense and the occasional betrayal: US Jews and the Democratic Party. Why are America’s Red Sea Pedestrians endlessly enamored with the Kicking Donkey?

A number of theories have been developed in an attempt to explain this condition. Jews living in the United States are relatively secular (yet steadfastly “culturally Jewish”) and the Democratic Party typically does better with secular constituencies. This general inclination dovetails into a trend that began in the early 1990s whereby the Republican Party became more strongly influenced by the religious right. As a result, Republican candidates at all levels increasingly aligned themselves with the evangelical community. Jews, along with mainline Protestants, took their votes elsewhere as a result.

Jews in America are not only a microscopic religious minority in a largely Christian nation; they are a racial minority as well. And it is this lingering sense of being a stranger in a strange land, little more than a visitor whose continued well-being is anything but a foregone conclusion, which is the root cause of the state of co-dependence that exists between American Jewry and the Democratic Party.

Some of this paranoia is not without historical justification. Recent US history is one characterized by not-so-subtle discrimination against Jewish Americans, excluded from certain neighborhoods, universities, jobs and even country clubs simply because of their religious and cultural background. And since the Republican Party has historically been associated with the country-club set, this history has led many Jews to identify with the Democratic Party.

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While historically based, this instinctive revulsion toward all things Republican has warped into a perception that today’s GOP is hostile towards racial minorities, women, immigrants (legal or illegal) and the LGBTQ community.

Thing is, we’re alive and well and up to our necks in 2012’s election season: 2012, not 1933.

It’s altogether curious that the most questioning, squabbling, contrarian people in human history display such a uniformity of thought and action regarding its political affiliation. This willingness to scuffle has served as a catalyst for the Jewish genius that’s been our peoples’ calling card since time immemorial.

More recently, Jews have accounted for roughly twenty percent of all Nobel Prizes ever awarded – and this while constituting only one fifth of one percent (0.2%) of the global population. Jews are similarly overrepresented in academic publications of all descriptions, in science, in the media, in business and in other fields of human endeavor.

While Einstein, Freud, Spinoza and scores of other outstanding tribesmen (and women) came from various socioeconomic, religious, cultural and educational backgrounds, they all had one thing in common: a willingness to buck the pervading trends that had taken hold of their respective Jewish communities.

It’s ironic that American Jews’ decades-long fixation on the Democratic Party as the only address for those seeking to build an egalitarian, pluralistic and open society that’s blind to differences of race, religion, national origin and sexual orientation is in fact one of the few remnants of a fast-eroding American Jewish particularism.

And despite a much-ballyhooed prediction by Republican leaders of a massive shift of Jewish voters away from US President Barack Obama this November, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his newly minted running mate Paul Ryan should not base their political fortunes on the exodus of American Jewry from the warm, nurturing bosom of the Democratic Party.

Come November, it appears that vast majority of America’s Jewish citizens will once again cast their ballots to the tune of “Change we can believe in.”

Now, superstition can be defined as an “…irrational belief usually founded on ignorance or fear and characterized by obsessive reverence for omens, charms, etc.” Focusing only on Obama’s domestic record, a prospective voter (Jewish or not) would have to suspend three-plus years of utter incompetence courtesy of the executive branch:

Inauguration Day 2012 (February)
Unemployed Americans 12.0 million 13.1 million
Unemployment Rate 7.8% 8.5%
Gas Prices $1.85 $3.39
Misery Index 7.8 11.5
Americans in Poverty 39.8 million 46.2 million

Regarding Israel, some Jewish people, aghast at the Obama administration’s treatment of the Jewish State, may cast their lot in with Romney. However, Jews in 2008 were also skeptical about a political unknown who had defeated a Clinton and had “Hussein” for a middle name. Yet even then, Obama still claimed 78 percent of the Jewish vote.

So, as Election Day approaches with all the bells and whistles befitting this quadrennial spectacle, America’s Jewish citizens may want to take heed of Rabbi Hillel, who famously asked: “”If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?”

For while Tikkun Olam (“repair the world”) has long been cited by liberal-minded American Jews in order to buttress and gain support for their left-leaning political agenda, isn’t it just possible that “repair the world” may also apply to saving jobs and supporting pro- growth economic policies (based on equality of opportunity, not outcome) that will ultimately benefit all citizens?

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