For American Jewish liberals, this has been a week to keep the windows on upper floors locked tightly and plenty of tissues handy.
For them, the outcome of last week's elections was a nightmare. The man they hate and fear won because the people they most hate and fear turned out at the polls to vote for "moral values" that they think threaten the future of American democracy.
The re-election of President George W. Bush was not only the triumph of a candidate that they despised, but most of the post-election chatter from the media confirmed their worst fears about the state of American society and politics.
Are they right to be so scared?
First, let's make it clear that despite the positive spin coming from some Jewish Republicans, the 2004 election demonstrated convincingly that the Jewish vote isn't shifting or even budging very much. The same exit polls that talked of the election being won on "moral values" revealed that only 24 percent of American Jewish voters chose Bush, solidifying their position as one of the most reliably Democratic sectors of the population.
That was up only 5 percent from Bush's dismal 19 percent in the 2000 election. So were the Republicans wrong to spend all that time and effort on making their case that Jewish voters should abandon their ancestral political home and vote for Bush?
Probably not. According to the exit polls, 3 percent of the electorate was identified as Jewish. So what does 5 percent of 3 percent amount to when the counting is done? Plenty. Even a small shift in the vote in certain states was helpful to the president as he worked toward a majority of the Electoral College. And when you are building a 3.5 million vote Republican margin of victory, the extra 175,000 votes that a 5 percent change represented is nothing to sneeze at. If those 175,000 votes were based on Bush's stand on the war on terror or on support for Israel that probably justified the GOP strategy.
It is also probably true that Republicans did far better among Orthodox Jews, achieving perhaps as much as two-thirds of that relatively small slice of the public.
But that said, it cannot be denied that if the Jewish vote is changing, it isn't happening at a rate likely to approach a Republican majority for at least another generation, if it ever happens at all.
But for all the overblown analysis about exit polls showing religious Christians being the reason why Bush won, it must be said that it is precisely this image of the "red state" voter that seems to be keeping the Jews firmly in the pockets of the Democrats.
Republicans may be right that Bush's generally sterling record on Israel was the reason why those 175,000 Jewish voters switched to the GOP this time. But Democrats who believe that the fear of the Christian right kept the Jewish vote for Kerry at 74 percent are equally correct.
FEAR AND LOATHING
This can be measured not only in the statements issued by liberal Jewish groups expressing fear about the future of abortion rights and the environment, but in the sheer contempt expressed by many rank-and-file "blue state" Jewish Democrats about the 51 percent of Americans who voted for Bush.
Like some frustrated European newspaper editors who asked in their post-election headlines how 59 million-plus Americans could "be so dumb," many Jewish liberals I spoke to regarded the election as one that was won by faith over science. This reflected a belief in their own inherent superiority over what they think are their dimwit ideological foes. Yet besides elitist arrogance, it also reflected the deep fears that many Jews have about living in a world where faith is paraded openly in the political arena.
It is not just that they consider conservative manipulation of the "rabble" to reflect the latter's lack of sophistication. Liberal Jews truly seem to believe that the deep philosophical differences in this country over issues such as abortion and gay marriage represent a spiritual chasm between freedom and tyranny.
The point is, if you believe only a fool would vote for the Republicans, then how can you trust such a majority to safeguard minority rights. And it is not a stretch to conclude that a large number of Jewish voters genuinely believe that the Christian right intends to subvert democracy in the name of Christianity? While most conservatives feel no threat to the separation of church and state in these debates, liberals see the wolf at the door.
For this portion of the electorate, the notion that the Democrats failed because they were not able to express their faith convincingly is anathema because it is precisely the public expression of faith that scares them. Such a world, they believe, is inherently dangerous for Jews and any minority.
TIMES HAVE CHANGED
That view may have been justified by the world our grandparents grew up in, where the extent of Christian religiosity was a good indicator of anti-Semitism. But though most Jews haven't noticed it, that isn't the case anymore. Indeed, it is the liberal Protestant sects, which Jews still see as natural allies on domestic issues, that more and more seem vulnerable to the virus of anti-Semitism, especially where Israel is concerned.
Nor does the fact that these same evangelicals whom we fear so much remain staunch friends of Israel and act as far more of a check on any possible Bush administration tilts toward the Palestinians than the vaunted "Jewish lobby" seem to impress most Jews.
Polls notwithstanding, attitudes toward terrorism may have decided the election far more than attitudes about faith.
But the truth is, the majority of Americans are comfortable with placing faith in a political context, and inherently distrust politicians who aren't. The average liberal Jewish voter feels just the opposite. So long as that remains the case, expecting a major shift in the Jewish vote is probably unrealistic.