Why is the Daily Kos surprised?

Daily Kos headline:

No one could’ve ever predicted that Jewish voters would support Obama…

Why not? They have traditionally voted Democratic. Even when Ronald Reagan got his huge landslide in 1980, he only got 35% — Jimmy Carter got 45% and independent John Anderson 14. In 1972, 65% of Jews voted for McGovern when he was massively trounced by Nixon.

In fact, since 1916 (the earliest election listed in the source linked above), the only times the Democratic candidate got less than a majority of the Jewish vote were in 1980 and in 1920, when it was split between the Democrat, James M. Cox (ever heard of him?) and Socialist Eugene V. Debs!

So why is Markos surprised?

The great majority of Jews in the US are secular or at least non-Orthodox. Many Orthodox Jews, interestingly, do support McCain, but they comprise only a small percentage of all American Jews. Non-Orthodox Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, and most of their political opinions closely align with those of Obama. The only issue about which one might expect there to be a divergence is — Israel.

It is very, very difficult to predict what a candidate’s policy will be in office. Especially about hot-button issues, they are all very careful to say all of the right things to avoid alienating important constituencies, and for Obama the Jews — with large populations in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and other important states — are such a constituency.

But you can make guesses based on the advisors a candidate chooses (even when he sometimes fires them), his associations and his supporters. In terms of his likely Israel policy, Obama does not look especially good in this respect. And Kos and others recognize this.

So he is surprised that Jews are apparently ignoring this issue. He shouldn’t be. The bad news is that most liberal American Jews have long since lost any special feeling for Israel. For most, it is “just another country“.

Unfortunately for those of us who do care about Israel, there’s little reason to believe that the Republican policy — if it is anything like the Bush Administration’s — will be any better. See my previous post (“expensive futility“) for why. And there are plenty of other good reasons not to return the Republican party to office.

Now I’ve irritated everyone.

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2 Responses to “Why is the Daily Kos surprised?”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    There were times in the race when McCain was getting a much larger percentage share of the Jewish vote. The fact is that the low- road campaign he has conducted has given the sense that his character, which was his great selling-point, is too not as solid as once thought.
    I do not wholly agree with Vic Rosenthal’s claim that the vast majority of American Jews, who are not religious, just do not care about Israel. I think many do care. But they also care about other things, first of all their own situation in America. And on that basis they see Obama now as better prospect than they do yet another Republican.
    I agree with the general point that one cannot know from the candidate’s promises what they will do in office. I also agree that the advisors Obama has had, and still have are worrisome from Israel’s point- of – view. It could be disastrous.
    But then again we do not know where the ‘tests’ will come, and where hard reality will force him to be. I do not imagine that any U.S. President would consider any kind of Israeli defeat a feather in his cap. The countries are too allied historically, and the reputation of the United States is bound up with the survival of Israel.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Shalom Freedman made Aliyah in the 1970’s. The American Jewish community has changed since then, a great deal. Liberal Jewish support for Israel is not a given anymore.

    The problem is not that an American President will welcome an Israeli defeat. The problem is that they are surrounded with people who think that a defeat couched in terms of ‘peace’ is really a victory. And then it will be too late to prevent a catastrophe.