Norman Podhoretz : Why Are Jews Liberals?

Roundup: Media's Take

[Mr. Podhoretz was the editor of Commentary from 1960 to 1995. His latest book, "Why Are Jews Liberals?" is just out from Doubleday.]

One of the most extraordinary features of Barack Obama's victory over John McCain was his capture of 78% of the Jewish vote. To be sure, there was nothing extraordinary about the number itself. Since 1928, the average Jewish vote for the Democrat in presidential elections has been an amazing 75%—far higher than that of any other ethno-religious group.

Yet there were reasons to think that it would be different in 2008. The main one was Israel. Despite some slippage in concern for Israel among American Jews, most of them were still telling pollsters that their votes would be strongly influenced by the positions of the two candidates on the Jewish state. This being the case, Mr. McCain's long history of sympathy with Israel should have given him a distinct advantage over Mr. Obama, whose own history consisted of associating with outright enemies of the Jewish state like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the historian Rashid Khalidi.

Nevertheless, Mr. Obama beat Mr. McCain among Jewish voters by a staggering 57 points. Except for African Americans, who gave him 95% of their vote, Mr. Obama did far better with Jews than with any other ethnic or religious group. Thus the Jewish vote for him was 25 points higher than the 53% he scored with the electorate as a whole; 35 points higher than the 43% he scored with whites; 11 points higher than the 67% he scored with Hispanics; 33 points higher than the 45% he scored with Protestants; and 24 points higher than the 54% he scored with Catholics.

These numbers remind us of the extent to which the continued Jewish commitment to the Democratic Party has become an anomaly. All the other ethno-religious groups that, like the Jews, formed part of the coalition forged by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s have followed the rule that increasing prosperity generally leads to an increasing identification with the Republican Party. But not the Jews. As the late Jewish scholar Milton Himmelfarb said in the 1950s: "Jews earn like Episcopalians"—then the most prosperous minority group in America—"and vote like Puerto Ricans," who were then the poorest.

Jews also remain far more heavily committed to the liberal agenda than any of their old ethno-religious New Deal partners. As the eminent sociologist Nathan Glazer has put it, "whatever the promptings of their economic interests," Jews have consistently supported "increased government spending, expanded benefits to the poor and lower classes, greater regulations on business, and the power of organized labor."...

... The Jewish immigrants who began coming here from Eastern Europe in the 1880s were right to call America "the golden land." They soon learned that there was no gold in the streets, as some of them may have imagined, which meant that they had to struggle, and struggle hard. But there was another, more precious kind of gold in America. There was freedom and there was opportunity. Blessed with these conditions, we children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren of these immigrants flourished—and not just in material terms—to an extent unmatched in the history of our people.

What I am saying is that if anything bears eloquent testimony to the infinitely precious virtues of the traditional American system, it is the Jewish experience in this country. Surely, then, we Jews ought to be joining with its defenders against those who are blind or indifferent or antagonistic to the philosophical principles, the moral values, and the socioeconomic institutions on whose health and vitality the traditional American system depends.

In 2008, we were faced with a candidate who ran to an unprecedented degree on the premise that the American system was seriously flawed and in desperate need of radical change—not to mention a record powerfully indicating that he would pursue policies dangerous to the security of Israel. Because of all this, I hoped that my fellow Jews would finally break free of the liberalism to which they have remained in thrall long past the point where it has served either their interests or their ideals...
Read entire article at The Wall Street Journal

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Randll Reese Besch - 9/13/2009

Unlike Mr. Podhoretz who is a radical once Liberal but not a staunch Conservative in his radicalism. If has made him much wealthier and more comfortable in who supports his works. Is he a Humanist? I don't know. Conservatives, like their Libertarian colleges aren't so much. Social Darwinism is their credo of life. And death. Dog-eat-dog is their way of doing things.

The Jews in general in the USA need to keep their Humanism first as should every person on this planet. We see what happens when Humanism is thrown away or locked up.

Per Fagereng - 9/11/2009

Maybe it's because most Jews are more intelligent than Podhoretz and his neo-cons.

hedy s borenstein - 9/11/2009

It's time the Jewish people in America realize they are no longer the "underdog", and should vote for a person based on their integrity, morals, and intelligence, opposed to
being afraid they might suffer the consequences if they don't. As a second generation Jewish American, I am an Independent who votes against MORE government, because I want be be left alone. I only wish more of my contemporaries would "wake up", and not follow in their parents' footsteps. This time, with Obama as President, these American Jewish liberals will get exactly what they asked for...and they will cry the blues.