Memo to Curt Schilling: Here’s why Jewish Americans Overwhelmingly Vote for Democrats
by Jon Perr –
The short answer: Jews vote Democratic because people like Curt Schilling are Republicans.
Former Boston Red Sox pitching great Curt Schilling announced this week that he might run against Democratic Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in 2018. Schilling, previously best known as a bankrupt businessman and collector of Nazi memorabilia who was fired by ESPN despite famously bleeding from wherever in the 2004 American League playoffs, took to the cable news shows to ask why Jews vote for Democrats. As he phrased the question to Jake Tapper of CNN:
“I would like to ask you something as a person who is practicing the Jewish faith and have since you were young, I don’t understand, maybe this is the amateur, non-politician in me, I don’t understand how people of Jewish faith can back the Democratic Party, which over the last 50 years have been so clearly anti Israel, so clearly anti-Jewish Israel that I don’t know what else need to be done, said or happen — the Democratic Party is aligned with Israel only because we have agreements in place that make them have to be.”
Leaving aside Schilling’s complete ignorance of the past 50 years, his offensive question deserves a response. The long answer to the question of why Jewish voters overwhelmingly prefer Democrats, as I explained back in February (below), is because the party closely aligns with their views across almost all issues domestic and foreign, including Israel. The short answer? Jews vote Democratic because people like Curt Schilling are Republicans.
For the background, here’s “Why Jewish Voters Still Won’t Support Republicans in 2016.”
The GOP has a dream today. The GOP has a dream that one day Jews and Gentiles will be able to join hands and vote Republican in every village and every hamlet, in every state and every city (but most of all in Florida).
But that dream of the coming of the Jewish Republican won’t be realized any time soon, and certainly not in 2016. After giving Barack Obama 78 and 69 percent of their votes in 2008 and 2012 respectively, Jewish Americans have consistently remained among his most loyal constituencies. This week, the Pew Research Center reported that Democrats enjoy a 38-point edge among Jewish voters, virtually unchanged since Mitt Romney was sent packing four years ago.
There’s no mystery why. In a nutshell, American Jews overwhelmingly support Democratic positions across a wide gamut of issues. While commitment to Israel (especially “Greater Israel,” including the West Bank) is a litmus test for evangelical Christians, polls consistently show Israel is a much less important factor in the voting considerations of U.S. Jews. Oh, and one other thing: Many recent Republican presidential candidates and their (literal) amen corner see Jews as biblically mandated cannon fodder ripe for conversion or mass slaughter in the fulfillment of End Times prophecy.
As Chemi Shalev put it in Haaretz in December:
One of the prime factors that has driven the Republican Party to unequivocally embrace Israel in recent decades, no strings attached, is Christian Evangelicals, whose inordinate influence on the GOP has been on public display throughout the primary season. But Jews dislike and distrust Evangelicals more than any other religious group in America, turning the GOP’s Evangelical-inspired support for Israel into a double-edged sword that can repel American Jews no less than it attracts them.
Consider, for example, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
Rubio, along with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, took the unprecedented step of vowing never to publicly criticize Israel, just the latest codification of the GOP as the Washington-based arm of Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud Party. But when it comes to marriage equality, an issue which enjoys the strong support of American Jews, Rubio explained:
“We are clearly called in the Bible to adhere to our civil authorities. But that conflicts with also our requirement to adhere to God’s rules. So when those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win.”
And whose God might that be? Urging his supporters forward, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz proclaimed, “If we awaken and energize the body of Christ–if Christians and people of faith come out and vote our values–we will win and we will turn the country around.”His wife Heidi recently boasted that as president, her husband Ted would show America “the face of God,” that is, “this Christian God that we serve is the foundation of our country.” And among the hundreds of evangelical pastors who rallied to Cruz’s support in Iowa, South Carolina, and around the country is Mike Bickle, founder and director of the Kansas City-based International House of Prayer. As the Times of Israel helpfully recalled:
Bickle runs the Israel Mandate project, an effort to convert Jews to Christianity, which runs daily livestreamed prayer services for “the nation of Israel to receive their Jewish Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus),” according to its website.In recent years, Bickle has delivered numerous sermons that predict a new era of Holocaust-like conditions for Jews before the Second Coming, insisting that the Jews who do not recognize Jesus as their messiah will either die or be sent to prison or concentration camps. Perhaps most famously, he has suggested that a passage from Jeremiah 16:16 explains how Adolf Hitler’s murder of more than six million Jews was permitted by God.
If that message sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Back in 2008, Republican nominee John McCain accepted the endorsement of Pastor John Hagee, only to disavow him after his own lectures about Jeremiah and how “Hitler was a hunter” became public. But as the founder and leader of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Hagee remains a very big deal in Republican circles.
CUFI for years has featured American politicians, leaders of major American Jewish organizations, and Israeli ambassadors only too eager to mobilize evangelical’s backing and cash for Eretz Israel. Their mission? According to the organization’s “Israel Pledge:”
We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right.
That historic right was God’s gift to the Jews, His Chosen People.
Unfortunately for the likes of Hagee, Gary Bauer, Sen. Lindsey Graham, Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, and the rest of the crowd which gathers at the annual CUFI gatherings in Washington each year, most Jewish Americans do not share that belief.
After all, surveys show that while 44 percent of Americans—and only 40 percent of American Jews—believe Israel was given by God to the Jewish people, among Israeli Jews the share identifying themselves as God’s Chosen People reaches 70 percent. As it turns out, far and away the group most dedicated to the proposition that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people is American white evangelical Protestants. And their End Times story doesn’t end well for Jews anywhere.
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) to believe this are the implications 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%).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.
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. That helps explain why white evangelical Protestants love the Jews, giving them an impressive 69 on Pew’s 100 degree thermometer. Alas, that love goes unrequited: “Despite evangelicals’ warm feelings toward Jews, Jews tend to give evangelicals a much cooler rating (34 on average).”
For Christian Zionists like former Rep. Michele Bachmann (“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.
Other recent surveys of American Jews confirm what the exit polls tell us every four years: The Jewish electorate 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.The survey also found that 73 percent of those polled favored the government requiring private health insurance to cover birth control.
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:
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.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.
Which turned out to be exactly right. In 2012, Mitt Romney as predicted won evangelicals by a staggering 59 points. But despite the campaign of right-wing demagoguery, despite the National Review’s boasting in 2011 that “only 43 percent of Jewish voters would reelect Obama” and Dan Senor’s lectures about “why Obama is losing the Jewish vote,” President Obama crushed Gov. Romney by 69 to 30 percent among Jewish voters.
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 2014,Michele Bachmann lamented to Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council that the American Jewish community “sold out Israel.” The 2014 war in Gaza and the 2015 showdown between Netanyahu and Obama over the Iran nuclear deal reanimated Republican hopes of “Jewish voters drifting away from Democrats.” But taking on the sitting American President, Netanyahu lost and AIPAC lost even bigger.
Still, Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matt Brooks predicts happy days ahead for the GOP. He recently cited exit polls that showed the Republican share of Jewish voters tripling between 1992 and 2012. “Election after election we continue to make gains and inroads,” Brooks said. “The Democrats are on the wrong side of the trend line.” But while it’s true that George W. Bush picked up only 11 percent of Jewish voters in 1992, Ronald Reagan collected 31 and 39 percent during his two campaigns for the White House. And given the 2016 GOP presidential field, Shalev argued in December, it takes a lot of chutzpah for Republicans to be optimistic this year:
Seventy-one percent of American Jews support environmental regulations – so they’ll vote for a candidate (Marco Rubio) who denies global warming and says such regulation “will ruin America’s economy”? Nearly 80 percent of Jews think that society should accept homosexuality – so they would vote for a party whose candidate (Ted Cruz) backs “conversion therapy” and thinks homosexual conduct is “a choice”? Seventy-seven percent of American Jews support gay marriage – so they’ll vote for a candidate (Ben Carson) who has pledged to constitutionally overturn the June 2015 Supreme Court decision allowing it? Sixty-seven percent of American Jews support a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants – so they’ll vote for a candidate (Donald Trump) who thinks they should all be deported by force or who suggested after the Paris terror attacks that a religious group such as Muslims should be required to bear special identity cards? Finally, no less than 84 percent (!) of American Jews support legal abortion – so they’ll support a party whose candidates oppose legal abortions across the board, including some (Carson, Rubio, Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum) who would outlaw abortions even in cases of rape and incest? Forget about it.
At least for 2016.
If there is a saving grace (pun intended) for Republicans, it is this: Orthodox Jews, currently about 10 percent of America’s Jewish population, are younger, marrying sooner (and within the faith), and having more children than their counterparts. And as the Pew Research Center summed it up, it’s clear why the growing share of Orthodox could be so important for Republicans:
Compared with other U.S. Jews, Orthodox Jews are far more socially and politically conservative. When the survey was conducted in 2013, 57% of Orthodox Jews said they identified with or leaned toward the Republican Party. By contrast, just 18% of other Jews identified with or leaned toward the GOP. Orthodox Jews were also much more likely than other Jews to self-identify as politically conservative (54% vs. 16%).
Of course, demography isn’t always destiny, especially when people like Mike Huckabee accuse President Obama of preparing to “march Israelis to the door of the oven” and Michele Bachmann calls for converting as many Jews as possible because Jesus is “coming soon.” So Republicans hoping for a spike in Jewish support shouldn’t expect any miracles in 2016. But they can always dream: “Next year in Washington!”
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos