Voices from Russia

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Why Jews Will Vote Democrat Again: Preferring Donkeys Because They Have an Elephant’s Memory

00 Coal Picker in Nanty Glo PA 01

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Milton Himmelfarb, essayist and thinker, once famously quipped, “Jews earn like Episcopalians, and vote like Puerto Ricans”. There’s some truth to this, and that’s why it prompts a laugh even from liberals.  However, what is this about? As the midterm elections approach, it’s worth contemplating why a resounding majority of us vote Democrat, almost reflexively. Jewish memory is responsible for the Jewish vote. Jews know what it is to be an outsider, and we know what it means when the town you live in turns on you, and would deprive your children of food or life because of your difference from the majority. We identify not with the overseers but with the slaves, not only because we were once slaves in Egypt, but also because we are, and will remain, a small vulnerable minority.

The explanation for our unseemly voting for the Democratic candidate lies not in our shopping habits or ZIP codes, but rather deep in our culture. We aren’t convinced that the poor deserve their fate. Our tradition teaches us to forgive debts in a scheduled way, and to leave enough at the margins of our fields so those without a harvest of their own can survive. Therefore, it’s hard for Jews to vote for a political party that suggests that if you don’t have medical care, it’s your own fault, and if you don’t have retirement funds, you’ve been guilty of sloth or stupidity and other sins that will do you in just as you deserve.

Many Jews went South in the early days of the civil rights movement, not because they faced lynching or restriction from lunch counters, but because Jews knew about restriction, prejudice, the calumny of the poisoned well, and the blood libels of Easter massacres. When the second or third generation of Jews learned that America accepted them, but rejected others, they understood in their deepest selves the insult and the pain that it brings. It was an old insult echoing the pogroms, yellow stars, and dunce hats of another place, as old as the Vienna ghetto and as recent as the “No Jews Need Apply” sign on the factory door, or the “No Jews” sign on the hotel lawn.

Nevertheless, what is it about Jewish memory that seems so long-lived, so unshakable? Our memory is our survival tool… a parachute that lands us safely on one continent or another. It’s part of all the forms of Judaism, and survives even in secular Jews, vivid, demanding, insisting on connections that go back centuries. You can avoid synagogue all that you like, but you still know the reason for the Seder, you still know that David was King, and that the crusaders murdered Jews along their route to the Holy Land. Jews know that exile, whether from Jerusalem to Babylon, from Madrid to Amsterdam, or England to Vienna, was their fate, and they told all those stories, mystical or factual, painful or shameful, generation to generation… in each telling, these memories carried a message to the future. This message places each Jewish child at some risk of life and limb, but also gives each Jewish child a collective story to carry into his or her own place in the world. That story leads to gratitude for the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, for the (not-so-sincere) pluralism of the founding fathers, whom Jews adopted as their own. Jewish political morals are about community, protection of the vulnerable, and the hardship of being a minority amongst a majority of others.

The differences between Democrats and Republicans lie in their basic assumptions about people. Democrats look at social and economic circumstances and want to improve schools and opportunity and offer child care or food stamps to those in need. Republicans look at those same circumstances and blame the poor; they want to guard the rewards of society for those deemed worthy because they already have these goods. This is the old Protestant ethic that sees proof of God’s love in one’s wealth… damning those who don’t manage to make it in the same way.

The Jewish neoconservatives are as American as hot dogs on the Fourth of July, but they wear shoes that will always pinch like Cinderella’s slipper on the foot of the wicked stepsister. Republicans think of military solutions when threatened. Democrats, at least some of them, think of allies, negotiations, and solutions that might end threats to all. The Democratic idea isn’t to grab your gun, but to sit down and talk (yes, yes, Vietnam, alas). Jews are good at talking. In the great rabbinic battle, Shammai didn’t take a knife and pierce Hillel’s aorta. If he had, we might be more eager to rush to the ramparts and release our drones. Republicans are for manning our borders with militias and for protecting our country from those wandering across deserts, in search of a better life. Jews are on the side of the wanderers.

Hence, of course, most Jews still vote Democratic, and will for the foreseeable future. It isn’t about our private bank accounts or our children who now have legacy admission advantages in the best universities across the land: It’s about the core of the community, the memory of the community, about the deep identification with those without power, those hungry and at the hard edge of American life. We may play golf and drive Mercedes-Benzes, or at least some of us may, but we all know how easy it is for the Jewish family to become the prey in a nasty Hobbesian world where compassion is in short supply. Then, there are the social issues. Jews… we aren’t all the same… aren’t necessarily more tolerant of private sexual behaviours than others are, but we have a stake in protecting the private from government intervention. That doesn’t mean that all Jews are especially pleased with same-sex marriage or abortion rights or the right to die when ill, or to smoke pot, or to have sex outside marriage, but when it comes to private behaviour, they understand that government, with its majority voice, needs to be very cautious when dealing with people’s personal choices… sexual, financial, religious.

There is a levee here that has to hold if Jews can be comfortable in a pluralistic America, and Democrats are ready to pile on the sandbags, whereas Republicans are the river itself coming to drown us in their own vision of the moral life. Consequently, Jews will vote blue again this November and for the foreseeable future. The official mascot of the Democratic Party is the donkey, but Jewish Democrats are more like elephants… we don’t forget.

24 October 2014

Anne Roiphe

The Jewish Daily Forward

http://forward.com/articles/207855/why-jews-will-vote-democrat-again/

Editor:

If you vote Republican, you vote for pigs that kicked Dede and Baba in the face for the sake of profit. If you vote Republican, you vote for pigs who hated and hate our separate culture and civilisation. If you vote Republican, you vote for pigs who believe that Anglo Americans are special, and that everyone else has the duty and obligation to kiss their collective ass constantly and without let-up. If you vote Republican, you repudiate His Holiness and all those who agree with him. If you vote Republican, you repudiate timeless Orthodox Truth and embrace expedient Evangelical heresy for the entire world to see. If you vote Republican, you repudiate Almighty God and bow down before the Almighty Dollar (For no man can have two masters).

Russian Orthodox people are like Jews… we’re a small minority in the USA and Canada, and will remain such. We should remember who and what we are… we are NOT Republican oppressors and aggressors. The konvertsy should take heed of that, change their tune, or leave us… that’s only truthful. The First Century equivalents of Republicans crucified Our Lord Christ… is that what you want? You can stand for Caiaphas or you can stand for Christ… if you vote Republican, you don’t stand for Christ and that’s that. What concord hath Christ with Belial? What concord hath Orthodox Christians with Radical Sectarians?

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition… remember Baba and Dede… don’t vote Republican… it’s the Luciferian choice!

BMD

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