Anytime you write about Jews and African Americans, you run the risk of being labeled anti-Semitic and racist. There’s no way getting around what will be inevitable criticism. But since Michael Medved, an observant Jew and a conservative, broached the subject in the November 21, 2011 issue of USA Today, I feel that I’m on safe ground to respond to some of his points. The title of the article is “How Not to Win the Jewish Vote.”
It’s always amazed me that racial and ethnic groups vote for people in their group because they identify with the group by no choice of their own. When Democrats suggested that Mario Cuomo run for president a number of political “experts” considered his Italian background as an advantage — at least a few percentage points — by securing the Italian vote. If Cuomo had been running for political office in Italy, he would be just another Italian candidate.
What would a Cuomo presidency have done for Italians? Make them feel proud to be an Italian? Joe DiMaggio did more for Italians than Cuomo ever could have done. Lower the price of pasta and pizza? I can say this because my grandparents, on my mother’s and father’s side, were born in Italy. I’m a full-blooded Italian. Would I have voted for Cuomo because of his Italian background? Not on your life!
I love Judge Andrew Napolitano, a person of obvious Italian heritage. If the Judge were to run for political office, would I vote for him because of his Italian heritage? Not on your life. I wouldn’t vote for someone like Cuomo but I would vote for Judge Napolitano because of their political views and how they lined up with the Constitution. Ethnic background wouldn’t have anything to do with how I would vote.
The same should be true of Jews and Blacks, but it isn’t. If Italian voters should be Italian-blind, then blacks should be color-blind. Most are not, and as a result they vote against their own long term self-interest. The same is true of Jews.
Conservatives make the mistake that a vote for the support of Israel is almost an assured vote from Jews. Medved says as much:
Most obviously, any successful strategy should drop the groundless notion that candidates win backing in the Jewish community based primarily on support for Israel. In 2008, John McCain not only boasted a much longer pro-Israel record than Obama’s, but along with his Christian-Zionist running mate Sarah Palin, he also stressed commitment to the Jewish state more fiercely and frequently than did his Democratic rival. Nonetheless, exit polls showed 78% of Jewish voters backing Obama, providing a victory margin 50 points larger than his advantage with the overall electorate.
There are multiple generations of Jews who don’t have much knowledge or interest in a nation that is thousands of miles away and has no immediate impact on them in the here and now. I like Italy and want to visit next year, but I don’t fret about support or opposition to Italy as a nation. The same is probably true of many Jews.
Evangelical support for Israel is based in Israel’s “chosen nation” status. But many Jews see through this type of support for Israel. They know that after a so-called rapture Israel will endure a bloody holocaust. Here are just two examples of many that I have in my research files.
Prophecy writer Kay Arthur has stated publicly that what lies ahead for Israel will make Hitler’s Holocaust look like “a Sunday school picnic.” In her novel, Israel My Beloved, “Arthur has the heroine standing in a massively destroyed Jerusalem, dead and dying Jews littering the ground around her as she whispers in horror, ‘Auschwitz was never like this.’”
Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary had this to say in a debate that he and I had on the Dallas, Texas, radio program (KCBI) on May 15, 1991:
The present state of Israel is not the final form. The present state of Israel will be lost, eventually, and Israel will be run out of the land again, only to return when they accept the Messiah as Savior.
For many Jews, the interest that evangelicals have for Israel is only in how Israel fulfills an end-time scenario that benefits Christians. Such beliefs “leave many Jews poised to vote on fears of Christian intolerance rather than hopes of Christian love for Israel.”
In reality, religion plays only a minor or no role in the lives of most Jews. For the most part, they are secular. Many are atheists. Only the Orthodox, which is a small minority, share common moral and nationalistic interest with evangelicals. Medved writes:
By every measure, American Jews are less involved with religious organizations and observance than their Catholic or Protestant neighbors. As Gallup regularly reports, religious outlook plays a profound role in shaping political preferences. In 2008, those who attended religious services every week gave McCain a big advantage of 12 percentage points while those declaring they “never” attended church (16% of the population) went for Obama by an even more lopsided margin: 67% to 30%.
Only a minority of Jews choose to attend worship services even monthly. A majority are irreligious. “Given their prevailing disconnection from observance or religious affirmation, many Jews characterize themselves not by what they believe but what they don’t believe: We’re not Christians.”
So what’s Medved’s solution for the GOP?: “Republicans will make real inroads only when they strengthen their appeal to the non-Orthodox, who still constitute 90% of total Jewish population.”
For a devastating critique of Jewish liberalism, see Larry F. Sternberg’s Why Jews Should Not Be Liberals.