Results of the 2006 National Election Pool's exit poll of
Jewish voters in various Senate races.
Democrats speak for Jews' not-so-silent majority
-- Ira N. Forman
When it comes to politics, America's Jewish community is both savvy and
sophisticated. Neither party "owns" our loyalty, and neither party can count
on knee-jerk support from American Jewry on Election Day.
It is because of our sophistication as a community that American Jews
continue to vote for Democrats in overwhelming numbers. Quite simply, the
Democratic Party is far and away the party most closely aligned with Jewish
values on issues both foreign and domestic.
In his recent commentary in the New Jersey Jewish News ("On
issues, the GOP trumps Democrats"),
Matt Brooks, executive director
of the Republican Jewish Coalition, attempts to make the opposite case. He
argues that "more and more Jews are recognizing that the issues of critical
concern for the Jewish community are in line with Republican positions." If
ever there were a perfect example of wishful thinking, this most certainly
One need only look at the numbers. According to the authoritative public
exit poll for 2006, only 12 percent of Jewish Americans voted for Republican
candidates for Congress that year — a historic low. George W. Bush's 22
percent of the Jewish vote in 2004 was significantly lower than the 30
percent to 39 percent Republicans regularly won in the 1970s and 1980s.
While anything can happen in politics, as things stand today there is every
reason to believe that Democratic candidates will earn overwhelming support
from Jewish voters in 2008. Why? Because of where Democrats stand on the
issues. Brooks tries to build a case that "the issues of critical concern
for the Jewish community are in line with Republican positions," but the
evidence simply is not on his side.
Every major study of Jewish public opinion — ranging from the
Jewish Committee's 2006 study to media polls to polling we've conducted at
the National Jewish Democratic Council
--- suggests that Democrats lead on
virtually every domestic issue among Jewish voters. Perhaps this is why
Brooks dedicated little more than a sentence in his piece to domestic
The truth of the matter is that Jewish voters care about issues such as
education, health care, the environment, protecting seniors, protecting
children, Social Security, civil rights, civil liberties, gay and lesbian
rights, reproductive choice, energy independence, stem-cell research, and
maintaining a strong wall between church and state.
When Republicans attempt to ban funding for stem-cell research or debate who
is sufficiently antichoice during presidential debates, Republicans lose
Instead of talking about any of the vital domestic issues, Brooks dedicates
most of his column to Israel. In so doing, Brooks and other Republicans who
attempt to turn Israel into a partisan wedge issue do the community a major
Make no mistake, Democrats and Republicans alike are committed to the safety
and security of Israel. Even conservative columnist Bill Kristol and the
ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dan Burton, have
said there is no real difference between the two major parties when it comes
Brooks attempts to nitpick specific examples of Democratic actions he finds
objectionable. Using his logic, you could build an equal case for Republican
weakness on Israel based on the House Republican Leadership's support for an
amendment that would have reduced aid to Israel by millions or its
opposition to the foreign aid appropriations bill that included billions for
Israel. One could also point out the Bush administration's ties to the Saudi
government or its refusal to work seriously toward reducing our dependency
on Middle East oil.
It is also worth noting that, in its analysis of the new Democratic-led
Congress, reporting by JTA suggests that support for Israel appears to be
more secure than the previous Congress, which was led by Republicans.
Every major Democratic and Republican presidential candidate supports
Israel. No matter what happens in November 2008, we will all but certainly
have a president who understands the importance of the U.S.-Israel
Brooks' false concerns about Sen. Barack Obama
(D-IL) are little more than
partisan gamesmanship. The best way to judge a candidate's support for
Israel is his or her voting record. Since Obama entered the Senate, his
record on Israel and security issues has been impeccable. In fact, he's
currently leading the way to pass legislation that would promote divestment
from Iran ---
legislation that is currently being blocked by Sen. Richard
Shelby (R-AL). Indeed, all the major Democratic candidates --- Biden,
Richardson --- have strong voting records in favor
of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
By all recent accounts, Jewish voters are trending even stronger toward
Democrats. Some conservative pundits paint this trend as evidence of
stupidity on the part of our community (the "masses are asses" theory of
politics). These pundits are wrong. American Jews largely support the
Democratic Party and its candidates because, on an array of issues foreign
and domestic, Democrats reflect the positions of the vast majority of Jews.
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