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Keep the Faith: The Jews Vote Obama

November 5th, 2008by Gershom Gorenberg · 6 Comments · Politics and Policy

Oops. It didn’t work. Labeling him a Muslim, labeling him a crazy black man, saying he’ll be bad for Israel. Apparently, those scare tactics stirred up exactly that minority of American Jews who don’t vote Democratic anyway. Well, we all have relatives we don’t understand. The rest know how to translate “In every generation, a person must see herself as if she came out of Egypt” into how to vote.

So the exit polls show that 77-78 of Jewish voters picked Obama (there have been slight variations in the reports). The exit polls showed that Kerry got 75%, and Gore got 81%, so this falls right in the middle. Actually, since the Jews are a small part of the exit poll sample, and since exit polls are not known for their high accuracy, perhaps we should take the differences between the numbers for the three elections as statistical noise. As for the great Jewish shift to the Republicans, heralded every four years by Jewish Republicans and neocon pundits, it belongs with the return of the Lubavitcher Rebbe as things that crazy relatives announce but that do not happen. We’re sorry, folks, for their impolite shouts. They’re relatives, so we still invite them for Seder. Maybe someday they’ll get the message.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Narm // Nov 6, 2008 at 12:17 am

    Greetings from an American and (primarily) a South Jerusalemite be-galut in London.

    Various thoughts have occurred to me in the weeks leading up to Election Day, November 5. One is that Barack Obama has been more than a symbol of the African-American communities’ growing acceptance and respect in the mainstream of America (what took so long?). He is also about to become the first American president since Kennedy with strong links to a land from which his forebears had emigrated. In 1960, who’d have imagined voting for a Catholic for president in the USA. Run down the list of chief executives since JFK; not an ethnic among ‘em. President-elect Obama follows the Kennedy mold in that way.

    What’s more is he reflects the changing nature of immigration to the States; the lamp beside the Golden Door is recalled for having attracted the poor of Europe, but in the past half century, citizens of the developing world have been drawn by the promise and promises they perceived in America. Obama’s personal story includes a spell in Indonesia. He’s American-born and an immigrant, and his appreciation of that promise is intensified by his own experience.

    But one other thing — almost ironic — occurred to me while discussing the election with total strangers on a commuter train this morning. (Stop me if this point has been made by all the pundits already.) Unwittingly, George W. Bush laid the groundwork for Senator Obama’s success. And I’m not referring to the lame-duck’s lame handling of the economy.

    It’s that Bush broke with the standard of appointing African Americans to cabinet posts dealing exclusively with social welfare or urban affairs. He chose the best people he could to represent America at the highest levels on the international stage. And because General Powell and Dr. Rice were in the spotlight so much during the past eight years, that non-Black Americans became accustomed to these fellow Americans of terrific intellect and talent making the case for their country.

    Has that been mentioned before?

  • 2 David // Nov 6, 2008 at 5:10 am

    I love the “crazy relative” concept. They’re probably all blogging as well.

  • 3 Chuck Jarris // Nov 6, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    What I don’t understand is why the Jews would support this man. Do they not see the threat this man imposes on them? Once again, it’s like sheep to the slaughter for the Jewish people. So blinded by trust that they just don’t see what’s coming their way. Very perplexing. I guess we can only watch and see what happens in the world with this deceitful man, Obama, at the helm.

  • 4 John Sterns // Nov 6, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Only the voters know for sure, but I think there are very understandable reasons for Jews voting for our President elect.

    For starters, they probably didn’t like the way the Republican campaign was run or the way some Republicans behaved. “Muslim baiting” and “race baiting” have a lot in common as an electoral scare tactic. Some of the “crazy relatives” fell for it, others remember the time in America when you wouldn’t think of electing a Jew to national office because of prejudice. “You can’t elect him, he’s a Muslim” reminds too many people of “you can’t elect him, he’s a Jew” from not that long ago. There’s also an annoying tendency to want to get the facts straight and judge a person on their own merits.

    Another campaign factor was Governor Palin. She hit the “real Americans come from small towns” theme very, very hard in the closing weeks of the campaign. That’s right, us Angelinos in Southern California, all those nice folks in Miami, they aren’t the real strength of America – it’s in the small towns (with small numbers of electoral votes!) Politically this is called “speaking to your base” and “narrowing” your voter base. It’s a real turn off if you come from Florida or NYC instead of Kansas, last I checked big city folks were Americans, too, same as all those nice people from small towns.

    The “bubble and burst” economic policies of Republican de-regulation certainly was a factor. If you want to get folks attention, have 25% of their 401K plans evaporate just weeks before the election.

    Most of all, though, I would like to think it was the message of change, of hope. There is more to our future than dread and fear. I think that resonates with those who identify with “out of Egypt”.

  • 5 Chuck Jarris // Nov 6, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Hi John, well said. It will be interesting to see how the world responds to Obama now and what their actions will be his first year in office. Hope springs eternal but something within me screams for due caution.

  • 6 Narm // Nov 9, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    One thing that neither candidate promised to do — and really ought to have done, given the tension in the Caucasus — was not to create or get sucked into another cold war.

    Still, our president-elect may be better in that department than Senator McCain.

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