A national election is right on top of us. Since at least the 1920s, American Jews have been among the most reliable supporters of the Democratic Party, whether as a voting block or as financiers. Half of American Jews self-describe as liberal. But more tellingly, they vote Democratic at a rate of 70%. Jews are successful in many pursuits, yet they frequently seem to work against their own economic and political interests through their strident liberal leanings. The question is “why?” That will be the subject of this thought piece today.
What you need to know about Jews (and I’m proud to be one) is that most of us believe that our business successes in the arts, education, politics, philanthropy, and other areas require us to give back to the society that enriched us. We should also lead the fight to improve the lot of the poor and powerless. Jews lay claim to more Nobel prizes, patents, more economic success, and likely more doctors than any other ethnic or religious group in the world. That merely proves we are smart. That still does not explain why we collectively lean toward liberalism. Let’s dig deeper to understand why.
American Jewry is tied to America’s twin social problems of antisemitism and race relations. On balance, Jews in other areas of the world, particularly Israel, tend to be conservative. I think it can be said that the threat and reality of antisemitism made the suffering of blacks, particularly in the South, a sympathetic and emotional pull to the left that put both groups seemingly on the same team. However, Jews were in a position to do something about it. Blacks, not as much. This desire culminated in the founding of the NAACP in New York, largely with the support of Jews.
In my hometown of Atlanta, the President of Rich’s, which was, our largest department store chain, plus the President of National Linen were the two most important backers of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP. It was this group that introduced Martin Luther King to the world.
Arguably, without Jewish support, you may never have ever heard of MLK. America did not welcome Jews who were escaping Nazi Germany before the war. Jewish influence here was not as great as it is today. Jews kept their heads down as antisemitism predominated. Jews were excluded on many levels including social clubs, business, and housing. Such exclusions caused Jewish communities to become insular. Other Jews simply hid their Jewishness.
Post-war, all this helps to explain why Jews still felt persecuted, even in America. They tended to align themselves with liberal causes which often promised an end to injustice. Sadly, the last vestiges of these threats still exist as we witness recent attacks on Jewish houses of worship and schools.
I attended an Atlanta Public School in the mid-60s. A couple of times a week, a Hebrew School bus would pick me up after school to take me to my religious study class. One particular day, a group of adults surrounded my bus and shouted epithets at us. One window was broken. My parents were devastated, but I was back on that bus the next time it came by. Thankfully, that incident never repeated itself. Interestingly, my parents were conservative as well. Perhaps Conservative values run in families?
There is a growing gap between American Jews and Jews in other countries. While Jews are always “on guard” for real or imagined threats, they largely depend on the government to right wrongs and to protect them. While in Israel and quite a few other countries, that may seem naive. The refrain “Never Again” is more of a reflex action when spoken by American Jews. It means something quite different elsewhere. I can’t recall who said “To live in this world, not in the world of the politically utopian or the religiously messianic” but I think it capsulizes an important sentiment. Without the threat of imminent demise, American Jews who vote reliably Democratic and align themselves with every liberal social cause have lost perspective.
Every day, the divisions within our country on any social or economic line you can think of, are enhanced by a lack of logical thought as to the long-term consequences that flow from liberalism. The central premise of liberal thinking, as expressed by Barb Cortez, a former HHS Department Head, states:
“From my observation of liberals, I would say they notice the disparities in society and would like to close the gaps. They would like bigotry not to be accepted in society. Liberals would like every human to be treated with the same respect. Liberals would like the basics of life or the basics of a good life to be afforded everyone especially since we can afford to do it. The basics of life are food, housing, health care, education, a living wage, justice, and a clean environment.”
Liberalism’s end game lies exposed. Food security, housing security, healthcare guaranteed, education, guarantee of a living wage together with a Justice system that works for everyone. Who wouldn’t want to make a more perfect world? But one just doesn’t exist. It’s been tried, but to accomplish it, we’d have to become a nation of drones. We’d have to drive out the very features of Man that have given so many of us prosperity and longevity. Lust, avarice, greed, and some other powerful human emotions and drives, often accompanied by the opposite of egalitarianism predominate in a free society.
Another wise philosophy was expressed in this way; “Live in this world, not in the world of the politically utopian or the religiously messianic.” I completely agree. Liberals have had their chance, and while they think they have changed the world, the change they think they’ve brought us is even more poverty, suffering, and a contrived economy where the government almost always makes the wrong calls.
Liberals wage phony wars (foreign and domestic) to right the wrongs they see as an impediment to a better world. Conservatives build on what works. If they stick to their philosophical guns, that is.
American Jews make up a disproportionate share of our political leaders. There are 37 Jewish members of Congress and the Senate which represents about 7% of both bodies. Only 2.4% of our population is Jewish. Jews are motivated to serve in disproportionate numbers by their desire to make our world better. Unfortunately, their persuasive positions overwhelming lean left.
Please don’t misunderstand the intent of today’s missive. At my core, I believe in the value of conservative Jewish theology and the power we, as a group, have to make our world better. However, our human DNA will not support a utopia. I wish that every Jewish leader from whatever walk of life would realize the limitations of good intent. They must remember, every day of their lives, how close the clarion call of “Never Again” still is and hue to a conservative approach to all things in life.
Too often, our desires to make us believe we can change fundamental human behavior, and by extension the world, will never materialize.
l’chaim! To Life!
Allan J. Feifer Patriot