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November 13, 2014 5:54 pm

As Jews Shift Away From Democratic Party, Is Ed Koch’s 2012 Advice Being Heeded?

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In 1936, 85 per cent of Jewish voters opted for FDR, but today's figures show the danger of taking votes for granted. Image: Wikicommons

A few months before his death in February 2013, the legendary former mayor of New York, Ed Koch, gave a lengthy interview to The Algemeiner, in which he issued some pointed advice to both the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.

“I believe it’s harmful for a community to be exclusively for one party,” Koch said to the Jews. “The Jewish community is… far too tied to the Democratic party. Even though I’m a Democrat, I think they should make clear that the candidate, whether Democrat or Republican, has to win their support in every election and not be taken for granted.”

Addressing the Democrats, Koch said simply: “The Jewish community currently is taken for granted by the Democratic party.”

Two years later, it seems that growing numbers of Jewish voters are heeding Koch’s counsel, while the Democrats don’t appear to have absorbed what he said.

As The Atlantic magazine reports, in a feature entitled “Are Democrats Losing the Jews?”

First, some raw facts. In the 2006 midterm elections, 87 percent of Jews voted for Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives. Last week, in the 2014 midterm elections, 66 percent cast ballots for Democrats. That’s a 21-point drop in eight years.

The article makes clear that none of this data should have Republican strategists punching the air, and delves deeply into the demographic factors behind Jewish votes, but it does confirm that Democrats should not be taking Jewish votes for granted. More importantly, perhaps, they shouldn’t be taking Jewish support for granted either.

“The importance of the Jews isn’t their votes,” said Benjamin Ginsberg, a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. “They account for a huge share of the activist base of the Democratic Party and account for much of the money available to Democratic candidates. If you are a Republican strategist, it seems fairly obvious that if you can shift Jewish support even a little bit away from the Democrats, it makes the Democratic Party less competitive.”

Meanwhile, the 2016 election will provide an opportunity to see if a related piece of Ed Koch advice is taken on board.

“I suggest that they consider both parties in every presidential election,” Koch said in his Algemeiner interview. “It could be a time when they would all vote for the Democratic candidate, as in the days of Goldwater, Johnson in ’64.  But I do not believe that any community should be perceived by any party as theirs no matter what they say, no matter what they do.”

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  • Dr. Pesach Rothstein

    As a psychologist studying the self destructive impulse in chemical addiction models, I am constantly amazed at our ability to continue a course of behavior that is clearly damaging to our well being. Many Jews sense something has gone very wrong with the Democratic Party but remain unwilling to make a change in their voting habits. Indeed, most liberal American Jews see themselves as “Democrats” before they see themselves as Jews. They have huge religious congregations in huge buildings that are curiously empty on Shabbos and they do not notice. Out of every hundred congregants only a few have faith in God but instead are western secular humanists, yet they do not notice it. They elect a black muslim as president who is openly hostile to Israel and they scratch their heads and wonder what is wrong with Israel. Self destruction runs deep in American jews and for many, this is their final Jewish generation before oblivion.

    • Dear Dr. Rothstein,

      How dare you tell the truth about the liberal Jews who support Obama. Who do you think you are?? I say, you are completely correct. You stated your comments very well. Yes, many Jews see themselves as “Democrats before they see themselves as Jews.”
      “Out of every hundred congregants only a few have faith in God but instead are western secular humanists, yet they do not notice it. They elect a black muslim as president who is openly hostile to Israel.” I completely agree with you on all of this.
      Good for you to have the courage to speak the truth. Marc Urbach

  • Robert Weintraub

    When Jews arrived in this country in large numbers in the early part of the 20th century the chief obstacle to their advancement was the Republican WASP elite. The legislation severely restricting Jewish immigration in 1924 was enacted by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican President. Jews applying to elite colleges, medical schools or jobs in Fortune 500 companies faced rampant discrimination. The management of these schools and businesses were overwhelmingly Republican. On the other hand the Democratic Party welcomed Jewish voters and Jewish contributors. Roosevelt brought more Jews to Washington than any prior President. The Jewish immigrants were mostly working class and therefore leftwing in its political orientation. Discrimination against Jews in colleges and businesses are rare today. Todays Jews are predominately middle class. As far as Israel is concerned the Republicans are much more supportive. Old loyalties take a long time to die.

    • Menachem

      Why is Israel in this discussion at all? And whose to say one is more pro-Israel than the second? at all times?

  • Ilya

    The trouble with liberals is that they confuse a lack of moral criteria with open-mindedness and tolerance. You’re supposed to weep for the perceived underdog no matter how great a scoundrel he may be, i.e., their pet terrorists, Hamas. The rightful role of Jews in politics is who serves Jews and society best at any given time.

  • judithg

    I support the party that supports Israel. period. case closed.

  • Donald Krausz

    The antis accuse Jews of dis-or dual loyalty. We lived in Europe since the Romans, contributed vastly to its wealth, health, industry and administration. While in Europe we also suffered massacres, pogroms and the murder of one third of our entire number. The locals as a whole and their governments did very little to prevent this, and even after the war and to this day some have refused compensation or to punish the murderers among their own populations.

    We have reluctantly had to conclude that there is only one country that will support us when the chips are down and that is Israel. We look upon it as our mother, drunk or sober. When she is in error, we have to try and correct or heal her, not destroy her as the anti-Semites, Moslems and the BDS are doing.

    We will support and fight for the countries that have provided us with homes and a decent existence to the best of our ability. We will integrate with and love our fellow citizens. But make no mistake, Israel is the only one that can be relied upon to have our back and provide refuge when others persecute, murder, dispossess and expel us after 2,500 years.

    Don’t try and remove the only insurance policy and permanent security that we have.

  • Robert Davis

    I absolutely agree with the excellent advise Koch gave Jews! It is evident the democratic party is totally OBNOXIOUS for Jews and if the latter took just one single minute to think over it evey one would understand that the democrat party is not just taking Jews for granted but also for …nitwits! And they are right because that is what Jews are! And suicidal and sheepish and cowards and milk cows!

  • DocReality

    Based on recent history, this Jew will not be voting Democratic for a very very long time…and certainly not for that thug Hillary Clinton.

  • Haile Stressor

    I’ll bet that a large portion of the Jewish vote wasn’t even cast last week. The explanation of the low turnout, remarkable even for a midterm election, is that many voters who had twice voted for Obama, and who had twice been betrayed by him, still couldn’t bring themselves to vote Republican and showed their anger by just staying home.

  • Jacqueline

    I as a Jew voted republican. I knew from 2008 that this man Obama was anti– Israel I voted against him and could not believe the Jews were still voting for him again. I hope we have woken up. Look at the chaos in the world.

    • Jerry

      You are correct. We need just look at what the liberals on campus are doing to our kids. They are teaching them to root for Hamas. A true schonda.

  • Mireille Mechoullam

    All what I have to say: Bravo for Canadian Jews who woke up and switch their vote to the conservatives.
    The problem with the American Jews they vote for the party instead for the best man who can solve the problems what we are encountering now.
    It also time for the Republicans to get their together and be united. We have such a good opportunity now that they have the House and the Senate.

  • NCS

    Historically we Jews in the U.S have been sympathetic to social causes because we too have been for centuries the under-dog. The trouble is that the progressives/far left seem to want to kill America. They seem to hate their own country. If they can ruin us economically they seem bent on that direction. Business DOES stimulate the economy contrary to what the next possible Democratic presidential candidate is quoted as saying. Do we really want a nanny state where the government controls us from birth to death? Have we come so far from our Jewish roots of strong desire for freedom in enterprise? What kind of American president chews gum in the face of a national leader? This is a clarion call to Jewish democrats: THINK BEFORE YOU VOTE in 2016 and let your money speak intelligently before supporting another candidate that will weaken this great country we are privileged to live in. Don’t be swayed by insincere rhetoric. If you love Israel be wise in who you trust to keep our commitment to that nation.

  • The American Jews I know, for the most part, have such an
    aversion to the Republican Party that it’s as if they
    had the fear if they reached for the lever in a voting
    booth for a Republican candidate, they would contract
    aids or some other horrible malady. How do you convince
    these people that Republicans are not anti-working class
    or that they have Jewish rights or Israel’s right to
    survive in their hearts? It’s a question that’s been
    around for about eighty years.The only relief is the
    knowledge that U.S. Jewry does have a solid Republican
    minority of approximately fifteen percent.

    • Teresa

      As a relatively latecomer to the American political scene (only some 20 years) I still cannot understand how my Jewish friends always claim that abortions are more important then status of Jerusalem, State of Israel or even their own taxes. It’s always the abortions… I ask them all a few years after their misguided choices how many abortions did they have and was it worth it – all I get is “the look” by which they mean – you really have no idea about “our values”.

      • H brown

        I agree that abortion is now more important to American Jews than is the survival of Israel. So also is gay marriage.

  • art

    The Jewish community has been immorally silent and afraid to speak up in opposition of the Obama policies and outright hatred and hostility towards Israel The Democratic party clearly has taken Jewish support for granted. The Jewish community should play the parties against one another to get tost support and input. The parties of today have little in common with the parties of the 40’s and 50’s


  • Jonah

    The last thing a Jew is, is stupid. The Jews can vote democratic as soon as the Islamocrat is out of office. To vote democratic with this present administration is like taking a knife to your own throats and forcing your children to be persecuted in schools or at other places they hang out. All Jews have a bulls eye on their back with this administration…wake up before its to late, unfortunately it may be to late. Beware of the Carterites and the Clintites.

  • Eric R.

    Jewish voting patterns will shift rightward because a growing percentage of American Jews will be Orthodox and Hasidic, and they tend to be strongly Republican.

    It will also be aided by the fact that the Democrats have morphed into a Euro-Socialist party, with all the Israel-bashing that goes with it. In Canada, this latter factor, as it applies to the Liberals (and the wacko left NDP), combined with PM Harper’s strong support for Israel, has driven many Canadian Jews from the Liberals to the Conservatives.

    • theo

      As a non American Jew I am shocked to know that American Jews vote for a party with the most radical president America has ever had
      His world view and his policies are totally anathema to what Jews stand for He is pro Islam and does not hesitate to castigate Israel while ignoring the genocides of the Arab nations That Israel is the only democracy in the area and America’s most steadfast ally means little to him
      He belittles his own country by seeking arrangements with rogue nations
      Wake up there

    • Robert Davis


    • Lynne T

      It wasn’t just Canada’s fairly small Jewish population that turned away from the one “Natural Ruling Party”. It was a widespread rejection based on the parade of crap leaders, crap platforms after Paul Martin Jr. retired and scandals like the sponsorship scandal under Chretien’s administration.

      • Dana Keren

        I am afraid the Canadian people forgot the Chretien administration scandals, forgot what state the Canadian economy was during the “Natural” Liberal rule. The Liberals now have a new god, Justin Trudeau, the son of the (according to Trudeaumaniacs) “great leader” Pierre Trudeau. Justin is incompetent to be a school administrator, to say nothing of administering a country’s government. I fear for Canada (electons already in 2015) and am afraid Israel will lose a great friend, Stephen Harper and his government. I no longer live in Canada but the political trends there truly worry me