Will Orthodox Jews go against their economic interests to vote Republican?

Ha’aretz 06/25/12

Much has been made of the differences between Israel and her Diaspora in the U.S. over the past few years. However, the Jewish Community Study of New York 2011 released earlier this month shows a New York Jewish community that has the same demographic trends as its cousin in Israel.

Orthodox Jews make up around 40 percent of the community, with the Russian Jews making up 10 percent. A staggering 70 percent of children are Orthodox, with the hasidim making up 37 percent of the total of Jewish kids in the New York area.

The Orthodox trends in New York track at even greater rates than in Israel. The Metzilah Center projects that by 2028 a third of all Jewish children in Israel will be haredi; the hasidim have already exceeded that in New York.

There are many different lessons one can take from the 2011 community study. Yet in this crazy election season the question to focus on for now is this: Will the Orthodox Jewish vote go against the community’s economic interests and toward Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney due to his social conservatism?

The famous wealthy Jewish vote, with its unbreakable ties to the Democratic base, has always been an outlier when it came to economic voting. Though higher up in the socio-economic scale, the Jewish vote has been solidly Democratic, even if it would at times ask for them to pay more in tax and redistribute more of their wealth to welfare.

Though much has been made about the “Israel” factor in this election, polling of the Jewish vote shows that the majority of Jews in the U.S. still vote on domestic issues rather than on a single piece of foreign policy. The Orthodox world is no different, with many non- or anti-Zionist voices within it.

Though many of the Orthodox communities feel social affiliates with that of the modern day Republican party, their reliance on community programs that need government grants in order to run puts them at odds with the small government agenda. The Orthodox community has risen to make up 42 percent of the Jewish poor. Poverty has risen 86 percent in Jewish households since the last survey was done. Will they vote Republican even though all economic indicators should place them solidly in the Democratic base?

We will have to wait and see the results of the election. But as the Jewish vote is picked apart, remember not to see Israel as the only dominant factor in a community increasingly diverse in its make up.


140 characters does not make an electoral platform

Progress 6/21/12

With the selection of Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee and the implosion of Americans Elect from the process, unable to find a candidate for their ticket, we know the full set up for the election in November. With the clearing of the field the polls have both candidates jockeying for position, each week being either slightly ahead or behind one another in the national polls. Yet, with what should be a big vision election, with all the economic questions America faces, we are seeing a small idea campaign.

Dominating news cycle after news cycle are the little things, a misspoken phrase in a press briefing, weird facts and conspiracies that will not die.  The speed with which something small can spread through social media and into the news networks is frightening. The pace and fury of this campaign is limiting the ability of the candidates to deal with any of the big policy issues as they bounce from gaffe to gaffe.

America needs to make a decision about its economic future and this election offers them an ability to do this; if the candidates can get past the distractions of dressage horses and celebrity fundraisers.

The lack of vision has been truly extraordinary. A big economic debate that has been playing out in Wisconsin has been seen as a surrogate for the national stage, yet the president chose not to get personally involved.

Unlike elections of the recent past, we are not faced with someone who is aloof vs. a man of the people. Both candidates struggle to connect to the everyman in their own way. There will be no ‘I feel your pain’ moments, nor feel good, beer drinking scenes that don’t smack of political theatre. With two intellectuals in the race one would assume that there would be much to discuss.

The GOP will keep on hoping that creating gridlock in DC and hoping for further economic gloom will be their big win in this race. The Democrats believe that Romney might die a death of a thousand embarrassments.  Neither of these strategies offers anything new to a population that is desperate for new ideas.  The lack of enthusiasm for either of these candidates is palpable despite tremendous efforts to make the campaigns movement-like.

Digital seems to be the great distraction from offering grand visions of what a better America could look like. Is this now the level of politics that we will have to expect in an instant news age?