Six prominent Jews explain why most Jews are so liberal

From Commentary magazine. (H/T Robert Stacy McCain via ECM)


Since nature abhors a spiritual vacuum, Podhoretz concludes that the religion of liberalism—that is, faith in the powers of government — has replaced Judaism in the hearts of Jews. . . .
Why, asks Podhoretz, do Jews cling to this belief if it no longer serves our interest? . . .
If I may be allowed so vast a sweep of generalization, Republicans, conservatives, are the party that feels comfortably at home. We need not attach a value to this observation; you may approve of this sensibility or not. But for Jews, unease is our mother tongue. . . .
David Wolpe

Jewish liberalism endures, Podhoretz concludes, because turning conservative, in liberal eyes, is nothing short of heresy—or worse, apostasy.
Jonathan D. Sarna

Most American Jews, on the other hand, seem to have learned from an early age that to be Jewish is to be a liberal Democrat, no matter what. . . . [T]he loyalty of American Jews to the Left has been unaffected by the failure of the Left to reciprocate that loyalty.
Jeff Jacoby

In many cases, Podhoretz notes, left-wing politics took the place of a Judaism that felt to new American immigrants like a business suit on a beach: conspicuous, constraining, ridiculously out of place. . . . On this reading, emotional, facts-be-damned Jewish liberalism is a gravestone marking the death of religious faith.
David Gelernter

But my own tentative personal resolution, reached after reading Why Are Jews Liberals?, is this: I’m going to stop worrying about American Jews. They’re not worth the headache. Either they’ll come to their senses or they won’t, and there’s not much I (or anyone else, I suspect) can do about it.
William Kristol

For most American Jews, the core of their Jewish identity isn’t solidarity with Israel; it’s rejection of Christianity. This observation may help to explain the otherwise puzzling political preferences of the Jewish community explored in Norman Podhoretz’s book. Jewish voters don’t embrace candidates based on their support for the state of Israel as much as they passionately oppose candidates based on their identification with Christianity — especially the fervent evangelicalism of the dreaded “Christian Right.”
Michael Medved

But what McCain writes himself is also worth noting:

Thus, for the past several years, we were treated to endless liberal jeremiads against “abstinence education,” as if the sex-ed curriculum in public schools were the single most important issue in national politics. The propaganda purpose of this liberal campaign was to suggest to people who think of themselves as sexual sophisticates that the GOP is actively promoting ignorance.

If you wish to identify the source of the Republican Party’s electoral weakness among under-30 voters, this is it — even though, as I say, this perception of the GOP as “anti-sex” (or “pro-ignorance”) is strictly a function of liberal propaganda. GOP leaders have failed to recognize the damage inflicted by this propaganda, have failed to clarify the policy issues involve and have, at times, unwittingly played to the negative stereotype of Republicans as uptight, repressed, and clueless about sex.

Depicting the “Christian Right” as an especially benighted and menacing component of the Republican Party has, as Medved notes, a particular value in discouraging Jewish Democrats from reconsidering their political loyalties. To any liberal, the conservative is always the Other. But by depicting the GOP as dominated by the “Christian Right,” the Otherness of conservatism is effectively doubled — if not, indeed, magnified exponentially.

Never mind that evangelical Christians are overwhelmingly pro-Israel and philo-Semitic. The liberal propaganda depiction of evangelicals as backward ignoramuses, taking their marching orders from a handful of TV preachers, accomplishes its intended purpose — to evoke a distinctive cultural revulsion among Jews, and to conjure up nightmare visions of an American Kristallnacht.

So, I think two of the problems are 1) religious bigotry and 2) fears of irrational policies. And I think I know how to fix that.

Where are the studies and arguments that socially conservative policies are actually good? Good for people’s happiness, good for reducing government expenditures, and good for individual liberty itself? I wonder whether any conservatives can even articulate the argument that strong families and abstinence are needed precisely to make sure that government doesn’t have to grow to deal with the consequences of family breakdown and pre-marital sex, such as violent children and STDs?

I have noticed the exact same thing that the article describes is happening with Hindus. A combination of religious bigotry and contempt for policy positions embraced on ignorance. It’s not the fault of Jews and Hindus – we in the conservative movement need to do a better job of explaining the reasons for our positions in non-sectarian terms. E.g. – if homeschooling really is better as a policy, then we should have the studies to show that it produces better grades.

2 thoughts on “Six prominent Jews explain why most Jews are so liberal”

  1. Embracing a policy position out of faith differs from embracing it out of ignorance.

    Regarding Jews, Romans 9:6-8 does the simplest job of explaining American Jewish liberalism. Simply put, self-identification with a major religion does not necessarily mean anything. Someone could easily look at Barack Obama and Bill Clinton and ask why Christians support socialism or abortion. The answer is because people sometimes act inconsistently with the faith that they profess.

    Most “Jews” in America are not really Jews — because they do not particularly care much about the faith. Even the law of Moses means very little to them. (Orthodox Jews and some other minority sects are the exceptions, but they are rare.) American Jews just like to practice some basic rituals like circumcision and bar mitzvahs because these customs give them a culture and community to cling to. The majority of self-identifying Jews do even follow the kosher food rules. Nowadays, you don’t even necessarily have to believe in God to identify yourself as a “Jew.”

    I think real Jews are pretty rare in the modern world. Most of them have either become atheists, or become New Agers, or become Christians, or else become pharisaical like the Orthodox Jews (which are rare).

    Hinduism, meanwhile, is simply a Left-leaning religion. India, for example, has always leaned Left
    ( It doesn’t have much to do with American Christians. Just claiming to embrace a few traditional sexual morals, as some older Hindus might, cannot override the overall liberal bent of the paradigm. For one thing, the Hindu religion critiques the very idea of objective morality.


  2. Back in 2003, the Public Interest magazine published an analysis on Democrat voting patterns in an article entitled <a href="Our Secularist Democratic Party. The article incorporated social scientific research, polling and opinion sampling and whatnot. The finding of the authors was that liberal voters had a hostility toward Evangelical Christians that approached the hostility that Nazis had toward Jews.

    From the article – which is unfortunately not archived at the Public Interest any more –

    “The anti-fundamentalist voter

    The increased religious polarization of the electorate has given rise to a new type of voter: the anti-fundamentalist. We discovered this when we examined one group of ANES respondents: those who rated Christian fundamentalists 35 degrees or below on ANES’s scale. We wanted to find out whether elite hostility to Christian fundamentalists, clearly apparent in the convention delegate surveys, had filtered into broader segments of the public. In ANES’s 2000 survey, about a quarter of white respondents met the anti-fundamentalist criterion, rating fundamentalists 35 degrees or below. For comparison purposes, only 1 percent felt this antagonistic toward Jews and about 2.5 percent expressed this degree of hostility toward blacks and Catholics. ANES results indicate that anti-fundamentalism appears disproportionately among secularists, the highly educated, particularly those living in big cities, and persons who strongly favor legalized abortion and gay rights, oppose prayer in schools, and who, ironically, “strongly agree” that one should be tolerant of persons whose moral standards are different from one’s own.

    The results indicate that over the past decade persons who intensely dislike fundamentalist Christians have found a partisan home in the Democratic party. Clinton captured 80 percent of these voters in his victories over President Bush in 1992 and over Senator Robert Dole four years later; Gore picked up 70 percent of the anti-fundamentalist vote in the 2000 election. One has to reach back to pre-New Deal America, when political divisions between Catholics and Protestants encapsulated local ethno-cultural cleavages over prohibition, immigration, public education, and blue laws, to find a period when voting behavior was influenced by this degree of antipathy toward a religious group.

    Yet it is not just their loyalty that makes anti-fundamentalists important to the Democratic coalition, but also the contribution they make to the total Democratic vote. According to ANES survey results, over a quarter of Clinton’s white supporters in 1992 said that they intensely disliked Christian fundamentalists; in both 1996 and 2000, about a third of the total white Democratic presidential vote came from persons with these sentiments. During this era of religious polarization, Democratic presidential candidates have never captured a majority of the three-quarters of the white electorate who do not feel antipathy toward Christian fundamentalists. As a result, gaining solid support from anti-fundamentalist voters has become crucial to achieving victories at the national level. The upshot of these voting trends is that the Democrats today face electoral liabilities analogous but opposite to those of the Republicans….”


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