The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, April 01, 2004

The GOP and the Jews: is 2004 the breakthrough year?

Way back in January 2003, I had pieces on the apparent futility of the Republicans chasing the black vote and the surprising fall in GOP support from Asians.

The theme, certainly in the first piece, was the old Goldwater maxim, go hunting where the ducks are - affirmative action kow-tows doomed to failure, for instance.

The Jewish vote has, since the days of Roosevelt, leant heavily Democrat, relative to the white vote of the same social class and state of residence [1].

The aggressively pro-Israel stance of the Bush administration - serving the National Security Strategy, rather than that mythical cabal that has been so productive a fantasy for Likudnik publicists - should logically have redressed the balance a bit.

And Dean Esmay cites The Hill (March 30) on a Democrats counter-attack, suggestive that the GOP are indeed making progress.

Whilst Bush got 19% of the Jewish vote in 2000, Congressional GOP candidates in 2002 upped that to 35%.

Worried Congressional Dems have been telling Jewish lobbyists [2] that they want to bash the Arabush by proxy every bit as much as the GOP - they do have a minor credibility problem in that their man John Kerry told Arab-Americans in their Michigan heartland last October that the barrier/wall/fence was a
barrier to peace
According to the graph in a December 2000 analysis by the National Jewish Democratic Council [3], the level of Jewish support for the GOP (numbers from 1972) was around 30% until 1988, with the 1992-2000 levels in a sharply lower band, roughly 10-20%. Kennedy, Johnson and Humphrey all picked up 80% of the Jewish vote.

The NJDC piece suggests reasons for the differential Jewish support for the Dems - at least in recent years:
  • upsurge in influence of the Christian Right in the GOP;

  • fall of the USSR;

  • the fiscally responsible Clinton;

  • GOP WASP snobbery (they want to say, anti-semitism, feels to me!).

Perhaps, with things having heated up in the Middle East under Bush, more Jews are concluding that the Bible-bashers and snobs can be stomached in the cause of the greater good of saving the Homeland. And fiscal responsibility seems out of fashion all round.

All this is terribly general: one obviously needs to look where a switch in the Jewish vote would be useful: state by state stuff - even precinct by precinct.

And - for all the shmoozing being done by the GOP, I'm not sure what changes in policy they could make that would increase Bush's share of the Jewish vote in November: in terms of indulgence towards Israeli action, the pedal is already practically to the metal right now!

Besides, I'm not sure how far Sharon's evident reluctance to escalate against the Palestinians more than a step at a time is due to a fear that US would retaliate if such escalation were to result in a step-change increase in Arab casualties.

Nor I am clear on the general tolerance or desire of American Jewry for such escalation. There may well be a tipping-point in the level of Arab losses at which many potential GOP voters would be turned off by too much USG indulgence to Israel.

I'm pretty sure the ways that changes in the variables would affect the electoral outcome in November are non-linear, counter-intuitive or just plain incomprehensible.

And, of course, the Fat Man Over The Water may no longer be in charge by November - corruption case oblige. Just perhaps.

  1. A case where the old Stephen Potter Oneupmanship ploy But not in the south would be based in fact - at least in the Deep South during most of the Jim Crow period: there, most to almost all whites would vote Democrat: little or no differential support among Jews.

  2. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. It proudly proclaims on its homepage that it is
    the voice of organized American Jewry
    But I thought, back during the Rep James Moran affair (plenty here - trace back from March 21 2003) , and Easterbrook/Kill Bill (several pieces - the last on January 8) that we established that there was no such thing as a single Jewish anything! Stereotypes were false, diversity was the reality. Yet here we have organized American Jewry speaking with just the one voice.

  3. Its mission statement reads:
    Founded in 1990, the National Jewish Democratic Council is the national voice of Jewish Democrats.


A Forward piece of January 21 on the 2004 State of the Union is interesting: groups complaining about the silence radio on the Palestinians (which was a Good Thing for those wanting maximum support for GOI policy, surely?). But also liberal concerns, such as the Patriot Act, homo-marriage amendment and faith-based initiatives.

The Forward campaign blog on March 23 demonstrates even-handed cynicism:
Says the prez today, "As far as the Middle East, it's a troubled region and the attacks were troubling."

He added: "Israel has a right to defend herself from terror, and as she does so I hope she keeps consequences in mind as to how to make sure we stay on the path to peace."

So much for the "straight-talking" president. Hamas's oft-stated goal is to destroy Israel, so one fails to see much possibility of Bush's "path to peace" with it. The Egyptians tried for months to broker a Hamas ceasefire, and failed.

That said, we expect something similarly obfuscatory from John Kerry.

On January 11, the American Jewish Committee published a survey of Jewish opinion (taken around the beginning of December 2003). On the Bush/Kerry head-to-head, it gives a 59:31 split. Bush rated around 30% with all the potentials polled except Lieberman, who rated a ten point premium. (Now that's what I call Joementum...)

An interesting piece (December 10 2003) from The Hill on the efforts of House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer to limit the embarrassment to the cause of Congressional Black Caucus showboating on non-binding resolutions and the like.

One Dem anonymouse is quoted as saying
it's important for the Democratic Party to show solidarity with Israel

Do you think they all caught that in Michigan?

(On the other hand, GOP hacks are boasting of Schwarzenegger collaring 40% of the Jewish vote: which is rich, given that Arnie would not have stood a snowball's chance in hell of winning a GOP primary.)

There's also a long piece from January 2001 from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs The Israel Swing Factor: How the American Jewish Vote Influences U.S. Elections with what looks like useful, if biased [1], background.

And a December 2003 piece from the same source Are American Jews Becoming Republican?

  1. I generally don't point out that stuff is biased, on the ground that to do so would invite the inference that I believe the rest is not. I say it here to give me a hook to hang this comment on.

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