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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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