Jewish World Review Jan. 21, 2003 / 18 Shevat, 5763
Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat
Moreover, given Jewish values and given blacks' views on a host of important social issues, there is really no compelling reason for blacks and Jews to vote Democrat.
Let us begin with the Jews. Judaism, like every great religion, is essentially conservative: Judaism demands obedience to a judging G-d and to a moral code set forth thousands of years ago. That is why the more orthodox a Jew is religiously, the less likely he is to be a liberal politically; and the more likely he is to vote Republican. Furthermore, the dominant Jewish issue, the security and survival of the Jewish state, is also unlikely to orient a Jew politically leftward. Even sociologically, Jews voting instinctively Democratic makes little sense. Jews, more than many, consider it shameful to rely on others for welfare, raise their children to believe in hard work, and benefit from a merit-based society. Indeed, even those Jews who vote Democratic usually lead rather conservative lives.
As for blacks, their virtually unanimous voting for the Democratic Party makes even less sense. For one thing, most blacks tend to have socially conservative views (considerably more so than their fellow Democrats). Blacks tend to be religious, have traditional views on homosexuality and abortion, and believe in school vouchers, a policy strongly opposed by the party nearly all of them vote for. Moreover, while the Democratic Party has brilliantly portrayed itself as the party that made civil rights possible, a greater percentage of Republicans voted for the landmark civil rights bills than Democrats.
None of this is meant to suggest that there are no Democratic Party positions that appeal to blacks and Jews. The great majority of blacks apparently do support affirmative action, a position entirely identified with the Democratic Party. And the majority of Jews do support larger government and higher tax rates, fundamental Democratic positions.
But if each party's policy positions were the sole determinants of Jews' and blacks' voting habits, the two groups should evenly divide their votes between the two parties.
Clearly then, it is not Democratic Party positions that explain why so many Jews and blacks vote Democrat. Something deeper must be at work.
That something is fear in the case of Jews and anger in the case of blacks. And both the Jews' fears and the blacks' anger are a result of their respective collective memories.
The Jewish memory in question is of Christian anti-Semitism and the Nazi Holocaust. Even Jews who know little about either Jewish or Christian history know by high school age that for nearly 2,000 years, Jewish communities suffered from anti-Semitic persecution at the hands of Christians, that Christians massacred Jews during the Crusades, that there was a Spanish Inquisition, and that the Holocaust came from Nazism, a far-right doctrine.
Because of this deeply ingrained memory associating Jewish suffering with Christianity and the far right, most Jews have a primal fear of Christianity (and even of religion generally, including Judaism) and of conservatives. Jews therefore vote for the party that opposes the party associated with anything even remotely connected with public religion or the right.
The black memory in question is of white racism. It seems obvious that many African-Americans carry a residual anger against whites and against America as a result of centuries of slavery and racism. They therefore vote for the party most associated with policies (such as affirmative action) ostensibly designed to fight racism (meaning, always, white racism), and which frequently condemns alleged ongoing white racism. And blacks vote against the party they perceive as denying that America continues to be racist, the party that opposes race-based policies, and the party that celebrates America as if it isn't a racist country.
The problem with these memories is not that they are inaccurate; it is that they are no longer accurate. And they therefore paralyze the two groups who hold onto these memories, Jews and blacks.
Next week, we will explain why these memories and perceptions are no longer accurate (and therefore paralyze blacks and Jews from clearly perceiving the present white, Christian and conservative realities), and what, if anything, Republicans, whites and Christians can do about these unfortunate perceptions. For these perceptions are ultimately bad for Jews, bad for blacks, and bad for America.
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01/14/03: Why the Arab world hates America --- time to myth-bust