Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

26 Cheshvan 5765 - November 10, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Who Votes Jewishly?

The American Jewish vote in the past election (based on the results of exit polls which may not be fully accurate in characterizing a minority as small as the Jews in a country as big as the USA) can be characterized in many ways. About 25 percent of the Jews voted for President Bush. That means that three-fourths of the Jews voted for Senator Kerry. Four years ago only 19 percent of the Jews voted for Bush. That means that four out of five voted for the Democrat Al Gore four years ago.

You might say that Bush's support among the Jews rose by about a third over four years ago, which is quite a respectable increase even if Ed Koch, the former New York City Democratic mayor who endorsed Bush, was quoted as saying, "I think he deserved much more."

It is a bit simplistic to present the choice between Bush and Kerry as a choice between for-or-against Israel. Kerry was very assertive about his support for Israel and even if there were legitimate doubts that were raised by a few of his statements (which later were retracted) and some of his advisers on the Middle East, there is no doubt that someone who liked Kerry on the basis of the rest of what he stood for would not have had to reject him as being bad for Israel.

On the other hand, there can be no doubt that so far George W. Bush has been very good for Israel. In addition to refusing to push Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians before they at least begin to fight terror, Bush's view of the world and the large role that the threat of terror plays in it has been very close to the Israeli approach that is derived from its bitter experience. Even if there is some uncertainty since, as they always say, past performance is no guarantee for the future, nonetheless, simple gratitude would dictate support of Bush.

In fact, a poll by Frank Lutz as reported by the American Jewish Committee claimed that among Orthodox Jewish voters support for the American president was at 69 percent compared to 23 percent among Conservative Jews and only 15 percent among Reform Jews. He also found that among Jewish voters, the young tended to vote more for Bush, while the trend was the opposite among American voters as a whole. It is likely that this also reflects the youth of the Orthodox voters.

Certainly Bush's support for Israel loomed large in the decision of Jewish voters. Yet it is clear that Bush's religiosity and his stand for morals also played an important role. Voters for Kerry said that the things that mattered the most to them were jobs, the economy, and foreign policy.

Voters for Bush said that what mattered to them were moral issues. Even if they felt that Bush was not doing such a good job on the economy or in foreign affairs, they voted for him nonetheless because they felt that he would better uphold moral values. Kerry and the Democrats were seen as leading an assault on traditional values that has proven too successful for the comfort of many Americans.

This reflects different approaches to the world, and not just policy differences. For Democratic voters moral issues are secondary, and what counts is material issues like jobs and the economy. Even if they agreed with Kerry on both moral and material issues, they placed greater value on the material issues.

For Republican voters material issues are secondary and what counts is a strong position upholding morality. Even if they did not agree with Bush's approach to the material issues of the day, they placed greater weight on his approach to moral issues. Even if they did not agree with each specific position of his, his general stance and the contrast with Kerry was very clear.

In this respect, Orthodox Jews undoubtedly follow the Republican majority. Moral values are very important to them. This is not true of most American Jews, whose values, or lack of them, are much like the Democratic party.

We place our trust in Hashem, but of course we have to vote based on what we see. In voting for Bush, Orthodox American Jewry was certainly looking at his record on Israel, and, even if they may have not agreed with all of his individual positions, they were certainly comfortable with his general position on morality.

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