Blog 5: From the Tea Party Movement to Occupy Wall Street: Jews on the Political Edge

Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

Posted on November 21, 2011 / 24 Heshvan 5772

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.


Over the course of the past several years, a number of counter-cultural movements have entered the political arena. What has become increasingly apparent is the growing presence of Jews as part of these current political expressions. Throughout modern history, one can find Jewish activists engaged with causes designed to challenge the status quo. As the Jewish community increasingly reflects the diversity and complexity of our larger society, we are likely to witness the growing presence of Jews within these alternative political movements.

For some decades there have been pockets of Jewish voters who have expressed their support for less government spending. Clearly, there is a segment of Jewish voters who share the economic philosophies advanced by the Tea Party Movement. A Gallup Study from last year confirmed that some 15% of Jews were connected with the this cause. In my study from last spring (April 2011) of Jewish political behavior, I was able to identify a significant conservative base who shares ideological positions that parallel the viewpoints found within the Tea Party Movement. This group of voters indicated their opposition to the President’s health care package and supported cut backs in government services and programs.

Similarly, there appears to be a significant presence of Jews among the ranks of the Occupied Wall Street demonstrators. Inside the Occupied Wall Street crowd we find threads of different political constituencies. One of the features we find in American protest movements identified with the political left involves the presence of “red diaper babies”. We are reminded that their parents and grandparents were identified with socialist and communist causes in the 1930’s and with the Vietnam anti-war movement thirty years later. Another element found among the Occupied Wall Street participants highlights young Jews who are seeking to align their political activism with their Jewish values and beliefs.

As we acknowledge the multiple political streams and ideologies that are present on the American landscape, we are able to identify the Jewish voices that today help to shape these emerging political messages.

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