General Question

comity's avatar

Why are the Republicans courting the Jewish vote?

Asked by comity (2832points) December 11th, 2011

As long as I can remember secular jews voted on social issues, and were relatively liberal Democrats. Orthodox Jews are passionate about Israel but they constitute 10% of the Jewish population. Yet, in the Republican debate last night, the Republicans were courting the Jewish vote. Hubby says it’s because of money and donations to campaigns. I think maybe they really do care about Israel and such. What do you think?

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37 Answers

laureth's avatar

Many Jewish people seem to vote based on the Israel issue.

With Democrats turning more toward sympathy for Palestinians, I bet the Republicans see it as an opportunity to pick up some votes. Crazy Dominionist Republicans can easily find common ground here, because they like Israel too. (Note: Not all Republicans are crazy Dominionists.)

elbanditoroso's avatar

This is a result of two things – demography and Israeli politics.

Demography – the post-holocaust population in America is getting older. Far from being the liberals (and sons/daughters of holocaust survivors) of the 1960w, that age cohort has gotten older – in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. This means that they have worked (and saved) for decades and have economic interests that are more closely aligned with Republican politics than with the traditional Democratic views.

Second, the increasingly conservative Israeli government stances tend to appeal to that same age group; the liberal zionist almost socialist Israel of the 1960s has evolved (or devolved) to the highly capitalistic economic urges of the 2000s. It’s arguable if this is good or bad, but it is a fact.

So there are multiple reasons that the republican message (such as it is) resonates with Jews in the US.

comity's avatar

@elbanditoroso Interesting analogy. I’m not a zionist but I’m an older liberal democrat who remembers the holocaust well.

@laureth I feel sympathy for Palestinians as well as the Israelites. But, Israel is surrounded and not by well wishers! Wish they could work out their differences and compromise.

laureth's avatar

@comity – I agree. I wish there were a real, lasting solution. Sadly, I see two obstacles to that. First, Palestinians want the right to return, meaning that any given house, farm or business may belong to both the current Israeli owner and the former Palestinian who was kicked out of that land years ago. How do they know who owns what? Second, every time one side or the other has a leader that starts talking about serious peace efforts, they seem to wake up dead.

thorninmud's avatar

Florida is one reason. The total Jewish population of the US is quite small, and mostly concentrated in Democratic strongholds. But the electoral balance in Florida is so precarious, and it’s such a gold mine of electoral votes, that if the retired Jewish voters there can be nudged a bit to the Republican side it could pay off bigtime.

Another reason is that there is a great deal of sympathy for Israel among fundamentalist Christians, so this is a wink to that key part of the base..

filmfann's avatar

Israel, like Medicare, is one of the make or break issues many look at in choosing a candidate. It doesn’t matter how you stand on the economy, jobs, China, or bail-outs, if you don’t have the right postition here, you don’t get their vote.

wildpotato's avatar

The premise of the question seems flawed to me – about half of my large extended Jewish family are right-leaning, and about half of those folks would be considered secular. I don’t think being Jewish makes a person more or less likely to be conservative.

@filmfann I’ve never found that to be the case. Also, being Jewish does not automatically mean you support Israel unequivocally.

comity's avatar

@filmfann I’m an older gal of Jewish descent from New York and I found that to be the case here. Liberal all the way! Until lately that is.

bkcunningham's avatar

You may have it backwards. Why are more Jews courting Republican candidates? Voting trends show the Democratic Party losing the Jewish vote and they are returning to the Republican Party.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Why? Because Obama is a Muslim and doesn’t give a crap about Israel.

[ This statement is intended as hyperbola and is not for public consumption ] : P

thorninmud's avatar

Wow, a couple of days ago I assured @comity that if she had been here longer she would realize that statements like “Obama is a Muslim” would only be said in jest on Fluther. Guess I’ll have to retract that.

comity's avatar

@CaptainHarley I remember when jews were ostracized and people were worried about them, now its muslims. I like all people, except the ones who treat me and others badly. I think we have to cool it a little about all Muslims. How about you out there? How do you feel?

dabbler's avatar

Because why not appeal to any demographic you can snag to vote for you?
And because the Rebpublicans’ (hey, most Dems’ too) hyper-militarized approach to problem-solving appeals to the Zionist tendencies of some of the most vocal and most influential Jewish leaders in the US.
The guns-before-diplomacy, we-will-do-anything-for-Israel sound bite policies appeal to lazy minds who can’t imagine a stable and secure Israel without annihilating everyone around them. And for some damn reason current Republican (hey, most Dems too) campaigns are aiming for the dumbed-down vote. And for some damn reason the dumbed-down vote responds in big numbers.

global_nomad's avatar

The Jewish and Israel Lobbies (Heritage Foundation, AIPAC) are very strong forces here in the United States. If Republicans don’t proclaim their outright support for Israel they may lose the vote.

dabbler's avatar

@global_nomad Yep, AIPAC is serious leverage…
My sense among Jewish friends is that it’s a conundrum for them… Jewish culture leans toward populist politics, but they are also very interesting in seeing the state of Israel thrive.
There is just serious disagreement about the best ways to help Israel thrive.

flutherother's avatar

@comity I would agree with hubby, it isn’t the Jewish vote politicians want as Jews make up only 1.7% of the population of the United States but Jewish money and influence. Democracy in America isn’t simply based on one man one vote it is swayed by money and the influence of special interest groups to an unhealthy extent (in my view). I also feel that Jews are drawn to right wing politics because they think it will make Israel more secure, which may or may not be the case. If it were not for the issue of Israel I believe the Jewish vote would tend to move leftwards back towards its traditional liberal values.

comity's avatar

@dabbler I find amongst jews, there’s a fear of Israel being attacked, as they were in the past and being surrounded by those who hate you. “I’ll get you before you get me”, is the mentality in Israel, and, their toughness worked for a time. They survived. But, IMHO it’s time for diplomacy and trying to work things out so that all can live and survive. Otherwise I fear that both sides will lose and die in vain. It’s a sad situation.

Qingu's avatar

It’s not just Jews. There’s also a large segment of conservative Christians who are zealously pro-Israel. The seem to have this position for a combination of reasons: (1) they hate Muslims, and (2) they want Israel to prevail because it will trigger the End Times as prophecied in the Book of Revelation.

But there are a lot of American Jews, even less conservative ones, who equate “supporting Israel no matter what” with “being Jewish.” Which is weird because half of the Jewish population in Israel strongly opposes the arch-conservative foreign policy of Netanyahu and wants to work together with the Palestinians towards peace.

JLeslie's avatar

I was just thinking last night, I could switch my voting card to Repubican, sonce we know Obama will be the nominee for the Democrats, and have some influence in the Republican candidate. Maybe some politicians are thinking like that?

Unrelated to the first paragraph I wrote; but, related to the question, I knew a lot of Jews who voted for Bush the second time because of his support for Israel. It really pissed me off. There are people and some Jewish, who question Obama’s support for Israel, that it is not as strong and one sided as they would like.

I think if there were a moderate Republican who sounded like he had a strong idea for the economy and Jobs Independents and Dems would consider voting for them like any election.

Which brings me to the independent vote, which all politicians are always thinking about.

Also, whoever it was above who said Florida is a big deal is correct.

@thorninmud @comity I don’t think you took @CaptainHarley statement correctly. He is just regurtating some of the bullshit and fear we hear for exaaggeration purposes.

JLeslie's avatar

I just read @Qingu answer, and is that what is actually happening in what you are observing @comity Republican candidates are focusing on Israel and that is what caught your attention? More than any other topic? Absolutely, right wing Christians are hard core supporters of Israel. They are almost mindless about it, religious about it.

Qingu's avatar

@comity, that “siege mentality” you mentioned is something I’ve encountered in my own (Jewish family). My aunt, a card-carrying member of the ACLU and super-liberal, once told me she loves Benjamin Netanyahu and thinks Israel should permanently militarily occupy Gaza and the West Bank.

If it were any (non-Jewish) country that was in a situation similar to Israel’s, even with people as generally savage and ignorant as the Palestinians, my aunt would not hesitate to call them an apartheid state. It really pisses me off.

flutherother's avatar

@Qingu That is what George Orwell called Doublethink

comity's avatar

@CaptainHarley Hyperbole – exaggeration – used in a figurative or non literal state. Ooops! Sorry!

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
JLeslie's avatar

@Qingu He was just repeating what others say. I have Christians all around me here in TN who say Obama is a Muslim. I think @CaptainHarley knows it is a lie amd fear mongering.

Rarebear's avatar

You’re probably talking about the recent presentation in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition. They’re a minority of Jews. Jon Stewart had a hilarious bit on that a couple of nights ago.

Rarebear's avatar

What I don’t get is why candidates care about Jewish vote at all. After all, we only make up something like 2% of the population. If they want votes, they should go after Hispanics.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear The way the electoral vote works it gives the Jewish vote more weight than the statistical reality of our percent of the total population.

I agre with you if the Republicans were talking to the Republican Jewish coalition, they are a minority of Jews, I didn’t see information on it in the news, I have been ignoring political news a lot lately. I do think many Jews would be watching, even if they are Dems, if the politicians are talking to Jewish “organizations.” Even though extremely religious, observant, Jews tend to vote and think like Evangelical Christians.

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comity's avatar

@JLeslie It wasn’t so much their focus on Israel, but the way they criticised Obama in relation to Israel, the hyperbole, that’s what caught my attention! Diane Sawyer, Steffanopolis and a few others were doing the interviewing.

JLeslie's avatar

@comity I see. I think that is the Republicans primarily speaking to the party’s base, the Evangelical Christians.

mazingerz88's avatar

Good question. Most likely it is to raise more funds in case they get the nomination. Real and sincere intentions hardly matter when it comes to the buying or selling of influence, especially in the world of politics.

DrBill's avatar

at this time of the political season, both republicans and democrats are courting everyone they can in hopes of a strategical advantage for the elections.

ETpro's avatar

Because a major voting block that ALWAYS votes Republican, no matte who the candidates or what their position on the issues, is the fundamentalist right-wing Christians. They believe that Jesus is gong to return and catch them up in the air in ecstasy of heaven as soon as they are able to provoke an all out nuclear conflagration in Israel. The war must be over the temple mount. And they (probably rightly) believe that current Republicans are more likely to start that war than are Democrats.

rupert's avatar

Why all the big deal about Israel? Are American Jews Americans first or Jews first? Is Israel more important than other countries?

ETpro's avatar

@rupert I too wonder if we overdo it. Israel is certainly the most US friendly nation in the Middle East. It makes sense to maintain strong ties with them. But we have to keep some balance so as not to do Israle more harm than good with our friendship.

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