2016 Election Blog #6 – Unpacking Political Liberalism: The Jewish Engagement with the Democratic Party

Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

Posted on December 8, 2015

Written by Steven Windmueller, Ph. D.

 
the Wind Report 2016 Elections - Blog Post Six

 

(This is a second article as part of a series that Dr. Windmueller is preparing on Jews and American politics; the initial story, Jewish Political Conservatism: The Emergence of Republican Jews, appeared on these pages on November 24, 2015.)

So, why are Jews primarily “liberal”? This may represent one of the most fascinating and complex questions discussed among political scientists and sociologists, just as it is debated within the Jewish community. By all social science measures, Jews ought to be politically conservative. Based on the voting practices of other ethnic and religious groupings that share similar economic and social standing with the Jewish community, this would suggest a very different political outcome. By such criteria Jewish political behavior ought to naturally fold into the ranks of the GOP. Yet, since the early decades of the 20th century, one finds a reasonably consistent pattern being exhibited by Jewish voters, demonstrating a steadfast loyalty to the Democratic Party.

For Jewish political conservatives this issue has dominated much of their discourse in seeking both to understand this phenomenon and to create the case for why it is in the interests of American Jewry to rethink their political allegiances and priorities.

Contrastingly, a large percentage of American Jews have helped to both frame the progressive agenda in this nation and to support candidates who embrace the policy positions of the Democratic Party. Certainly, over the decades a significant and impressive group of American Jews have held public office, endorsed progressive causes, and engaged in advocacy work on behalf of social change and liberal political interests.

Types of Jewish Democrats:

Indeed, there are many types or “shades” of Jewish political liberalism. Not all Jewish liberals hold to the same core political ideas or values. One need only examine the ideological elements comprising the Democratic Party to realize the diversity of perspectives and interests.

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