Republicans hoping to win over Jewish voters apparently believe that Israel's war in Gaza is, well, a godsend. Pointing to polling that shows that Democrats (31 percent) are less likely than Republicans (65 percent) to see the carnage in Gaza as justified, GOP advocates like former Bush administration official Noam Neusner claimed in The Hill "that is going to make American Jews who are Democratic Party voters less comfortable in their own party." Combined with the disproportionate growth within the American Jewish community of the Orthodox (who support Republicans by 57 to 36 percent compared to the 70 to 22 percent Democratic advantage overall). GOP cheerleaders like Breitbart News are optimistic that "the time is right for a rise of the Jewish GOP."
But those Republicans who believe the massacre in Gaza is manna from heaven should think again. After all, surveys consistently show that Israel is a lower priority concern for Jewish Americans. On the issues that matter to them most—the economy, health care and social justice—the draconian right-wing agenda is simply anathema. Throw in the evangelical enthusiasm for the End Times in which Jews become biblical cannon fodder for the Second Coming of Christ and you've got the formula for enduring Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party.
Call it the "Sarah Palin Effect."
We've been here before. Six years ago, Republicans had high hopes of peeling away Jewish voters from the Democratic Party. Pointing to Barack Obama's name and his former pastor, Jewish Republican groups called Obama "naive and dangerous" who as president could trigger a second Holocaust. But despite their early optimism, Obama's ultimate Jewish support on Election Day was little different than other Democratic candidates past.
As it turned out, a key factor in John McCain's failure to get American Jews to choose him was his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. In the run-up to the 2008 election, Newsweek reported that "Palin may hurt McCain among Jewish voters." The dynamics in Florida, later carried by Barack Obama, were particularly telling:
Many Florida Jews who had previously been open to McCain appear to share the couple's aversion to Palin, according to political scientists, polling data and anecdotal reporting. "She stands for all the wrong things in the eyes of the Jewish community," says Kenneth Wald, a professor at the University of Florida. Among the examples he cites: Palin seems to disdain intellectualism, she's a vociferous opponent of gun control and she attended a fundamentalist church that hosted Jews for Jesus, which seeks to convert Jews to Christianity. (Palin apparently sat through a speech by a leader of the group in which he said terrorist attacks on Israel were punishment for Israelis' failure to accept Jesus as the Messiah.)Please read below the fold for more on this story.
Despite polling which suggested Obama lagging among Jewish voters traditionally loyal to Democrats, the Illinois senator ultimately maintained his party's hold on its vital constituency. Despite the fearmongering of the McCain campaign and state GOP operatives, Obama dominated among Jews by 78 percent to 21 percent. By way of comparison, John Kerry (74 percent to 25 percent for Bush) and Al Gore (80 percent to 17 percent) scored about the same as Barack Hussein Obama with American Jews. As Newsweek concluded:
"There's no question that Obama came into this election with probably less going for him than most Democratic nominees," says Wald. But the Palin pick "probably blunted any gains the Republicans had made."In an article titled, "I Find Her Offensive," Salon echoed that finding. "John McCain was making a bid for South Florida's Jewish voters, a crucial demographic in a purple state," Tristram Korten wrote, "But then he chose Sarah Palin as a running mate."
Recent surveys of American Jews confirm what the exit polls tell us every four years: the Jewish electorate that is perhaps the single most liberal voting bloc in the United States. A poll conducted two years ago by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at New York University revealed why the Jewish community continues to reliably vote for Democrats, "election cycle after election cycle:"
The poll, which has a four percent margin of error, also found high support among Jews not just for social causes they have long championed including gay marriage (68 percent support) and access to legal abortion (63 percent favor), but on economic issues such as taxation. Sixty-five percent said they support raising income tax for those who earn above $200,000 a year and 62 percent said they thought the power of financial institutions pose a threat to the United States.As Haaretz noted in reporting on the survey, "Israel related issues seem to have little effect on Jewish voters' decision in choosing between Obama and Romney." That finding echoed the results of an April 2012 poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan organization:
The survey also found that 73 percent of those polled favored the government requiring private health insurance to cover birth control.
A majority of 51% pointed to the economy as the issue most important to their vote, followed by gaps between rich and poor (15%), health care (10%) and the federal deficit (7%). Only 4% of Jewish voters said Israel was the most important issue for them when deciding who should get their vote. Even when asked to name their second-most-important issue, Jewish voters gave the issue of Israel only marginal importance.With 52 percent supporting higher taxes to fund programs for the poor and overwhelming majorities backing abortion rights (93 percent), marriage equality (81 percent) and stronger environmental regulation (69 percent), Jewish voters are tightly aligned with core Democratic Party values. "Whoever wants to appeal to Jewish voters has to go through social values," PPRI CEO Robert Jones explained. "Our poll shows that you cannot appeal to these voters through the single issue of Israel." GOP spin meister and current talking point generator for the Israeli government Frank Luntz agreed:
The data would suggest that the Republicans' focus on attacking both Obama's record on Israel and his troubled relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was having little, if any, traction.
"Concerns about Obama and Israel have been trumped by the right-wing language of Republican candidates. The Jewish community is looking at the fight over abortions and contraceptives and religion, and they don't like it."Which turned out to be exactly right. In 2012, Mitt Romney as predicted won evangelicals by a staggering 59 points. Yet despite the campaign of right-wing demagoguery, Barack Obama crushed Romney by 69 to 30 percent among Jewish voters. (Four years earlier, Obama swamped McCain by 78 to 21.) Even with President Obama's slumping poll numbers, 55 percent of Jewish Americans approve of his performance, a figure virtually unchanged since 2010. And with the recent primary defeat of Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia, this fall's midterm elections could bring the number of Jewish Republicans in the House to—wait for it—zero.
That dismal reality has led some of the GOP faithful to lash out. Breitbart columnist Ben Shapiro called the Obama administration "obviously anti-Israel" and, despite its large number of Jewish staff and advisors, "borderline Jew-hating." In March, Michele Bachmann lamented to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that the American Jewish community "sold out Israel."
That's an amazing claim for Christian Zionists like Bachmann to make. In its October 2013 analysis, the Pew Research Center reported that at a whopping 82 percent, "A majority of white evangelicals believe God gave the land of Israel to the Jewish people, compared with 40 percent of American Jews who believe the same." But just as jaw-dropping as the fact that white evangelicals are twice as likely as American Jews (40 percent), and five times more like than "Jews of no religion" (16 percent) is the implication for U.S. policy:
White evangelical Protestants also are more likely than Jews to favor stronger U.S. support of Israel. Among Jews, 54% say American support of the Jewish state is "about right," while 31% say the U.S. is not supportive enough. By contrast, more white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel (46%) than say support is about right (31%).Not possible and for many evangelicals, not desirable. After all, in their eschatology, the conversion of some Jews—and the slaughter of the rest—at Armageddon is part and parcel to the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the Second Coming of Christ.
White evangelical Protestants are less optimistic than Jews about the prospects for a peaceful two-state solution to conflict in the region. When asked if there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, six-in-ten American Jews (61%) say yes, while one-third say no. Among white evangelical Protestants, 42% say Israel and an independent Palestinian state can coexist peacefully, while 50% say this is not possible.
For Christian Zionists like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) ("Support for Israel is handed down by God and if the United States pulls back its support, America will cease to exist"), Gov. Rick Perry ("As a Christian I have a clear directive to support Israel") and Mike Huckabee ("no such thing as a Palestinian"), Israel serves merely as a means to an end. In that telling, it is a divinely required stepping-stone to the End Times conversion (and much larger slaughter) of the Jews that will accompany the Second Coming of Christ. And that has a real impact on foreign policy. As the controversial head of the Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee, explained in 2006:
"The United States must join Israel in a pre-emptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West ... a biblically prophesied end-time confrontation with Iran, which will lead to the Rapture, Tribulation, and Second Coming of Christ."With friends like that, Israel doesn't need enemies. And with Republicans like that, it's no wonder American Jews continue to overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
But you can't blame conservatives for wanting to pretend it isn't so. Consider, for example, Emily Schrader's wishful thinking over at Breitbart:
The Grand Old Party is the party most protective of many issues that Jews care about—for instance, a limited government that allows citizens freely to practice their religion without stifling bureaucracy, and of course, standing with the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel.Leave aside for the moment that virtually every Democrat in both Houses votes with Israel on virtually every issue. The Grand Old Party makes a mockery "of many issues that Jews care about." That's why they keep pulling the lever for Democrats. If she needed any more confirmation on that point, Schrader could have just spoken to her Breitbart colleague.