pageok
pageok
pageok
Where American Jewish Opinon Differs from the National Average:

In my previous post, I argued that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal primarily because of their opposition to the religious right. In 2005, the American Jewish Committee published Jewish Distinctiveness in America, a massive study of the ways in which Jewish political opinion (among other variables) differs from the national average. It turns out that Jews don't differ very much from gentiles on economic policy and government spending issues. But they are vastly more liberal on "social issues" such as abortion, sexual morality, and the role of religion in public life. Table 65 on pg. 269 in the AJC summarizes the extent to which Jewish opinion differs from the national average on a variety of issues (e.g. - if the difference is 5 points, that means that if the national average is 50% support for a given view, the Jewish average is either 45% or 55%). On a variety of questions relating to government spending and taxes, Jews diverge from the national mean by an averageof approximately 7 percent. The difference on "social welfare" policy questions is even smaller (a 4.4% average). And on some of these issues, Jews are actually a bit more conservative than the national average rather than more liberal. For example, only 38% of Jews support government efforts to "reduce income differences," compared to a national average of 43% (Table 42.A), and 70% of Jews believe that their income taxes are too high (compared to 64% of non-Jews). Most strikingly, only 41% of Jews (compared to 52% of gentiles) believe that the government spends "too little" on Social Security, despite the fact that a much higher percentage of Jews than gentiles are senior citizens (Table 38L).

There are, of course, some economic and social welfare issues where Jews are more liberal than the national average (e.g. - education and health care spending), but the differences are relatively small. Moreover, Jewish-gentile differences over economic and social welfare issues have actually narrowed slightly over the last 30 years, as Jews have grown a bit more conservative on these matters (Table 66). The average Jew is hardly a thoroughgoing free market advocate; but his or her views on economic issues are not much different from those of the average gentile.

In sum, if conservatives and the Republican Party were primarily focused on economic and size of government issues [i.e. - if those where the main issues where they differed from the Democrats], they might attract almost as much support from Jews as among gentiles.

By contrast, there are huge gaps between Jewish opinion and the national average on social issues (also from Table 65). In each case, Jews are much more liberal than gentiles (there are virtually no social issue questions where Jewish opinion differs from gentiles in a more conservative direction):

Abortion: 29%

Sexual Morality: 21%

Suicide: 18%

Civil liberties: 13%

Each of these totals averages data from several different questions in the relevant issue area. Some of the results on individual questions are also striking. For example 77% of Jews favor legalized abortion on demand, compared to only 40% of non-Jews (Table 12.G). Similarly, only 18% of Jews believe that homosexual sex is "always wrong" compared to a national average of 59% (Table 16.C). The data also shows that 84% of Jews approve of the Supreme Court's rulings forbidding government-sanctioned prayer in public schools, compared to only 38% of non-Jews (Table 9.C).

Overall, the areas where Jewish opinion differs greatly from the national average are overwhelmingly social issues emphasized by the religious right. As I argued in my last post, it is likely that more Jews would be willing to identify as conservative and/or vote Republican if conservatism and the Republican Party were not so closely identified with right-wing stances on social issues.

The data in the AJC study is derived from General Social Survey questions conducted from 1991 to 2002. I highly doubt that the distribution of Jewish-gentile gap has radically altered over the last few years, but I can't rule out that possibility without analyzing more recent GSS data (which I don't have time to do right now). However, if anyone has done such an analysis, I would be happy to link to it.

For now though, the AJC data strongly support my view that the overwhelming liberalism of American Jews is largely driven by differences with the religious right over social issues. A related factor, of course, is a cultural distaste for the religious right that leads many secular Jews to fear and dislike them over and above the specific details of the disagreements between the two groups.

UPDATE: Some commenters on this and the previous post misinterpret my point, thinking that I am arguing that it would be good political strategy for the Republican Party to give up its ties to the religious right in order to attract more Jewish votes. While I would love to see a more libertarian Republican Party, there is a big difference between my personal preferences and what would be politically wise. There are many more Religious Right voters (perhaps 15-20% of the population) than Jewish ones (about 2%), out there. Alienating the Religious Right in order to increase the party's Jewish vote by 10-20% would be poor strategy. Moreover, Jewish voters are concentrated in states like New York and Massachusetts that would be overwhelmingly Democratic even if the Jews were more evenly divided between the two parties. Even if the percentage of New York Jews who vote Republican doubled, the state would still be heavily blue.

Thus, I don't at all suggest that it would be good political strategy for the Republicans to break with the Religious Right to the extent necessary to attract significantly more Jews. To the contrary, it would probably be a net political loss for them to do so. A more modest downplaying of social conservatism could be politically advantageous, in so far as it might attract more non-Jewish middle class suburbanites without antagonizing the religious right too much. But such incremental moves are unlikely to to make much of a difference with Jews because the latter are so strongly liberal on social issues.

UPDATE #2: Some other commenters misinterpret me as suggesting that Jews have adopted liberal stances on social issues merely because the Religious Right adopts conservative ones. That isn't my argument at all. Rather, I suggest that most Jews strongly dislike the Religious Right because the two groups differ greatly on social issues, as well as because of the massive cultural differences between the two. And they associate conservatism and the Republican Party with the Religious Right. As a result, even many Jews who hold conservative views on economic and foreign policy issues are unwilling to think of themselves as conservatives or to vote Republican, because doing so means supporting a group associated with the Religious Right. The Religious Right did not, in my view, cause Jews to hold liberal views on social issues. But it does explain why so few identify as conservative overall or vote Republican, despite the fact that Jewish and gentile views on many other issues don't differ very much.

Commenter:
Many liberal Jews will reflexively take the opposite position of whatever position is taken by religious-conservatives or "Middle America."

As a result, as the Evangelicals have mellowed, and become less puritanical, some liberal Jews have become more puritanically PC to the point of intolerance in response.

Back in the 1970s, when America still hated porn, liberal Jews seemed to have a much more positive attitude towards it. (Look at Larry Tribe's edition of his constitutional law treatise in that period, which treats porn as liberating).

But by the 1990s, when Middle America became more tolerant of porn (even in places like Utah, which covertly consume a lot of porn videos), Jews became more hostile towards it. (Look at Larry Tribe's later edition of his constitutional law treatise, which depicts porn as a civil rights violation).

Similar observations can be made about family law (where liberal Jews were once more egalitarian than gentiles about gender roles and joint custody, but aren't now, thanks to anti-male feminism being rampant among liberal Jews) and other legal and cultural subjects.

These trends may be more characteristic of liberal Ashkenazi Jews than Sephardic Jews. My wife, who is Sephardic, isn't like this. (She hates the religious right, but also can't stand Obama, and she is not self-hating).
9.16.2009 4:44pm
Bruce Hayden (mail):
As a long time critic of the political views of the Jews in my life who are good friends, this is starting to make sense now. I have always come at it from a point of view of economics and national security, where we don't disagree. But then, they would some times launch into tirades about fundamentalists on the right.

I never thought that the social issues would be so critical to their political beliefs, since they aren't really all that important to me. But this explains a lot of why these friends, whom I always think are voting against their own interests when voting Democratic, are so adamant about their positions.
9.16.2009 4:46pm
richard1 (mail):
I think the differences with the religious right misses the reason Jews are socially liberal (and is somewhat patronizing -it implies Jews don't have their own opinions but take positions in opposition to others).
My grandparents came over from Russia before the Revolution. Initially they were socialists (proud members of the Workman's Circle) but later became stalwart supporters and admirers of FDR. Despite the fact that they eventually joined the middle class, they thought of themselves as members of a minority who had to hide from the Cossacks. They imparted this feeling of an oppressed minority to my mother who imparted it to me and I have imparted it to my children. I haven't experienced any anti-Semitic discrimination in my life but fully believe it could happen again, even in this country. Most of my friends have a similar family history.
Our cultural heritage has tought us to value civil liberties, to encourage vigorous discussion and dissent, to be sceptical of authority,to empathize with other minorities (we were all fervert supporters of Dr. King and the civil rights movement), to value less governmental intrusion in our private lives. My mother and grandparents had these views way before there ever was a religious right as did I.
9.16.2009 4:52pm
InsertGenericID:

In sum, if conservatives and the Republican Party were primarily focused on economic and size of government issues, they might attract almost as much support from Jews as among gentiles.


It seems to me that this change in focus would mean the Republican Party would attract more support overall. But this might be projection on my part, since I would go head over heels if such a trend emerged.
9.16.2009 4:55pm
You won't outsmart Podhoretz:
"if conservatives and the Republican Party were primarily focused on economic and size of government issues, they might attract almost as much support from Jews as among gentiles."

The only thing that it would definetly do is make Ilya Somin more happy about the focus of the Republican Party.

Podhoretz is completley right that for many Jews being a liberal/Democrat is a substitute for real religious convictions. I have heard variations of the following too many times to count: "HOW CAN YOU BE Jewish and not be a Democrat?" from countless Jews.

Although, Ilya might be onto something regarding Jews' automotic distate/reflex against the Religious Right. It seems that this religion of liberal Jews leads them to also be exttremly close-minded and hateful.
9.16.2009 5:09pm
Ilya Somin:
Podhoretz is completley right that for many Jews being a liberal/Democrat is a substitute for real religious convictions. I have heard variations of the following too many times to count: "HOW CAN YOU BE Jewish and not be a Democrat?" from countless Jews.

The fact that they think that you can't be Jewish without being a Democrat doesn't prove that they think so because liberalism is a subsitute for religion. If that were the cause, secular British and Australian Jews would be just as liberal as American ones, and Russian immigrant Jews (who are more secular on average than native-born ones) would be the most liberal of all.
9.16.2009 5:14pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
In my GSS post I mentioned previously, I used data up through 2008 and got similar results. A lot of that could be due to old data, I have not looked at newer data by itself.

If the Republicans merely remain silent on social issues, I think Jews will still lean Democratic because social liberalism (rather than merely warding off social conservatism) is an animating principle for many. I presume the pollsters advising the Republicans have already made calculations over how many votes they will win vs lose by changing their stance on social issues.

I have heard the stereotype that oldsters (particularly ones retired in Florida) are disproportionately Jewish. I found it odd since the Holocaust would have been expected to reduce the size of that age cohort (admittedly being displaced by boomers now), though on reflection it probably also spurred more immigration to the U.S. So are they more likely be seniors because they live longer (I'm recalling Bush's gaffe when he said social security is bad for blacks, particularly males, because they have shorter average lifespans) or have low birth-rates and so are underrepresented among younger generations?
9.16.2009 5:15pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
GenericID &You won't outsmart, the phenomena has already been given a name: "Dougherty doctrine".
9.16.2009 5:19pm
zuch (mail) (www):
Commenter:
Many liberal Jews will reflexively take the opposite position of whatever position is taken by religious-conservatives or "Middle America."
You evidence for this is? _______
Back in the 1970s, when America still hated porn, ...
... unlike, say RW dahling Newt Gingrich? The hypocrisy of "conservatives" worldwide (Saudi princes, Republican legislators, CRW preachers, you name it) WRT drinking, sex, and other carnal pleasures is legend.

Cheers,
9.16.2009 5:21pm
yankev (mail):

The fact that they think that you can't be Jewish without being a Democrat doesn't prove that they think so because liberalism is a subsitute for religion.
No, but it suggests that liberalism may be THEIR subsitute for religion. There is no reason I know to assume that the same would hold true across all societies. And in many ways Jews born in the FSU do form a separate society, or at least a separate social group, than Jews born in the US. As far as Australia or even Canada, the similarities of those societies with the US does not mean they are identical.
9.16.2009 5:22pm
T in TX:
I haven't read the study, but this post seems to assume a lot of things. Most striking is the statement that the differences in views on issues is "driven by differences with the religious right over social issues," which to me seems to suggest that the Jewish views are a reaction to what the religious right does. Second, there's the statement: "if conservatives and the Republican Party were primarily focused on economic and size of government issues, they might attract almost as much support from Jews as among gentiles." That assumes that Jews view economic/government size issues as of equal salience with social issues. The study might say that (as I said, I haven't read it), but the post doesn't say so, which leads me to think that there's a potentially flawed assumption here too.
9.16.2009 5:23pm
ba2 (mail):
I think Prof Somin has some good points but I think if I were Jewish I might be a little offended that someone is saying my beliefs are largely based on a reaction.

Most Mormons vote with the religious right most of the time despite the fact the religious right is always throwing rocks at them.
9.16.2009 5:28pm
Ilya Somin:
I think Prof Somin has some good points but I think if I were Jewish I might be a little offended that someone is saying my beliefs are largely based on a reaction.

Except that I didn't say any such thing. Rather, I said that they oppose conservatism and the Republican Party because they are liberal on social issues and dislike the religious right for various reasons. I didn't say that they were liberal on social issues merely because the religious right is conservative.
9.16.2009 5:31pm
Ilya Somin:
I haven't read the study, but this post seems to assume a lot of things. Most striking is the statement that the differences in views on issues is "driven by differences with the religious right over social issues," which to me seems to suggest that the Jewish views are a reaction to what the religious right does.

Again, I said no such thing. Having a difference with a group doesn't mean that you adopted your own position merely because that group took the opposite view. Rather, I said that Jews dislike conservatism generally because conservatism is associated with a group (the religious right) that they oppose on social issues and and also often dislike for cultural reasons.
9.16.2009 5:32pm
Ilya Somin:
I have heard the stereotype that oldsters (particularly ones retired in Florida) are disproportionately Jewish. I found it odd since the Holocaust would have been expected to reduce the size of that age cohort (admittedly being displaced by boomers now), though on reflection it probably also spurred more immigration to the U.S. So are they more likely be seniors because they live longer (I'm recalling Bush's gaffe when he said social security is bad for blacks, particularly males, because they have shorter average lifespans) or have low birth-rates and so are underrepresented among younger generations?

Most American Jews are descendants of immigrants who came in the late 19th and early 20th century, long before the Holocaust. So that event had little impact on their age structure (which today is the result of both a low birth rate and a high life expectancy).
9.16.2009 5:34pm
sputnik (mail):
nope,Ilya
Like I said before- the after the collapse of USSR Jewish immigration is more liberal and more democratic now then the generation of the 70th-80th arrival, who came right out of the country of dying socialism.
Besides, one has to have just a half a brain to see that the republican party of late is a disgusting abomination to the humanity.
Rush and Beck rule them now.
Moderate republicans are almost extinct.
Why would Jews associate themselves with extremists?
Also, I think nobody mentioned so far here that Jews having behind them centuries of persecutions, pogroms , ghetto etc... are predisposed to the social justice more then any other ethnic group.
9.16.2009 5:48pm
Jozxyqk:

@Ilya Somin: I didn't say that [American Jews] were liberal on social issues merely because the religious right is conservative.



@OP: I argued that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal primarily because of their opposition to the religious right.


?
9.16.2009 5:49pm
Ilya Somin:
@Ilya Somin: I didn't say that [American Jews] were liberal on social issues merely because the religious right is conservative.




@OP: I argued that American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal primarily because of their opposition to the religious right.


These two statements are perfectly consistent. One refers to liberal views on one subset of issues. The other to overall identification as liberal, even in cases where the person in question actually agrees with conservatives more on many non-social issues.
9.16.2009 5:55pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Illya: Could you define "liberal" as relates to "civil liberties?" What does that mean in terms of positions?
9.16.2009 5:55pm
Ilya Somin:
Illya: Could you define "liberal" as relates to "civil liberties?" What does that mean in terms of positions?

In common parlance, it generally means supporting greater rights for criminal defendants, terrorism suspects, and others relative to law enforcement, and also greater support for freedom of speech. I recognize that this usage is imprecise and subject to criticism (I don't like it much myself). But it's the way the term is commonly used.
9.16.2009 6:15pm
Ilya Somin:
I think nobody mentioned so far here that Jews having behind them centuries of persecutions, pogroms , ghetto etc... are predisposed to the social justice more then any other ethnic group.

That would apply just as much to British Jews, Russian immigrant Jews, Orthodox Jews, Australian Jews, and so on, just as much as native-born American secular Jews. Yet none of these other groups are anywhere near as liberal as the latter.
9.16.2009 6:17pm
geokstr (mail):

zuch:
The hypocrisy of "conservatives" worldwide (Saudi princes, Republican legislators, CRW preachers, you name it) WRT drinking, sex, and other carnal pleasures is legend.

Why thank you sir. I finally realized why charges of hypocrisy never seem to stick to liberals. It's because they have no standards whatsoever of any kind to be held up to, so they can never possibly be human like the rest of us and fail to meet them.

And "Saudi princes" are now to be lumped in with "conservatives" too? I love how the definition of "conservative" changes to include every bogeyman someone on the left is against.

It reminds me of when the generals in the USSR were attempting a coup against Boris Yeltsin in 1993. It was hilarious how the media were calling the communist generals "conservatives" too. Imagine that - "rightwing communists". If that cognitive dissonance doesn't make your head explode, nothing will.

Cheers to you too.
9.16.2009 6:17pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Illya:


In common parlance, it generally means supporting greater rights for criminal defendants, terrorism suspects, and others relative to law enforcement, and also greater support for freedom of speech. I recognize that this usage is imprecise and subject to criticism (I don't like it much myself). But it's the way the term is commonly used.


So presumably "conservative" approach to civil liberties would mean more support for the RKBA and maybe the 3rd Amendment too?

I.e. if the ACLU is a "liberal" civil liberties organization, does that make the NRA a "conservative" one?
9.16.2009 6:21pm
zuch (mail) (www):
geokstr:
I finally realized why charges of hypocrisy never seem to stick to liberals. It's because they have no standards whatsoever of any kind to be held up to, so they can never possibly be human like the rest of us and fail to meet them.
"[B]e human like the rest of us"? No, thanks. I think I'll stick to my principles. As for why I should hold to your peculiar 'standards' WRT living my life, no one has explained why that is a good idea. I have my own standards (despite your false claim to the contrary), and lying and hypocrisy are high up on the list of mortal sins.

Cheers,
9.16.2009 6:41pm
Angus:
Rightly or wrongly, 2nd amendment issues are usually considered separate from "civil liberties" issues. The conservative position usually entails a narrower view of what constitutes speech, greater support for obscenity content regulations, etc. in terms of free speech. It also usually means greater latitude for law enforcement in searches, reduced warrant requirements, higher sentences, limits on defense arguments and appeals, etc.
9.16.2009 6:53pm
sputnik (mail):
is that the fact, Ilya, that American Jews are more liberal(or more to the left in established parlance for the word liberal here) then Canadian or British or French Jews?
Not sure.
But let's say that this is so, the majority of American Jews are decendants of Russian or Eastern European immigration, those who cam before the Bolshevik revolution -and that is million and most of Jews here, were more to the left and social justice.
Like you mentioned the 70-80th generation of immgrants came right out of the hellhole of socialsim and their embracing of something as far away as what they experienced understandable, the newer immigrants or more worldly and more informed and many are like me European/Classical liberals , who can not stand what have become of GOP.
9.16.2009 7:05pm
William L:
Has the study corrected for location? What if it's just that Jews mostly live in urban areas in New York, California, Chicago, and Miami, and tend to be white, upper-middle class? Does the average Jew differ greatly, even on social issues, from the average white, upper-middle class New Yorker?
9.16.2009 7:10pm
Respondent:
There are very significant differences between the typical secular American Jew and the typical British or Australian secular Jew. In short, the liberal/reform/conservative Jewish movements are much less strong in those countries than in the United States, and the strong (politically) liberal leanings of American Jews is largely do to the non-Orthodox Jewish movements having largely adopted various Jewish ideas of social justice as the main calling of religion. There is also much more anti-Semitism (even if not overt)in Britian and Australia than in the United States. For instance you will never see a Jew in Britian or Australia attending a sporting event wearing any kind of Jewish symbols, which American Jews are much more comfortable doing. And Russian Jews or their parents have experiences a lot more anti-Semitism than any fully acculturated American Jew. I agree that the Religious Right plays some role in explaining the overwhelming liberal leanings of American Jews, but I think these two other differences I mentioned are also quite significant
9.16.2009 7:27pm
wm13:
Does the average Jew differ greatly, even on social issues, from the average white, upper-middle class New Yorker?

I don't have any hard data, but I am a white, upper-middle class [non-Jewish] New Yorker, and I would say that Jews in my milieu are more liberal and more likely to vote Democratic that Christians. Also they are less religiously observant (or more secular, if you prefer).
9.16.2009 7:31pm
ArthurKirkland:
I am content simply to congratulate Jewish Americans who support liberal and Democratic candidates and causes.

I do not know whether this occurs because they distrust people who claim to believe Jews are going to hell for failure to believe a particular supernatural story.

Or, perhaps because of dislike of social policies Republicans have bolted to their platform in an effort to lash together a politically effective coalition.

Or, perhaps because of dislike of the strident nature (no moderates welcome) of current Republican candidates and policies.

Or, perhaps because they are offended by "support" by people who provide temporary help because of a belief it will hasten an end times in which Jews are to be damned forever.

Or, perhaps because they find Republican economic policies unattractive.

My hunch: It is because they are smart. But it's just a hunch.
9.16.2009 7:41pm
mikelivingston (mail) (www):
I think a lot of this traces back to Jewish denominations, especially Reform, which tend to take liberal social positions as a matter of religious dogma. There are also "fundamentalist" denominations, i.e. Orthodox and the right wing of Conservative, but they tend to be much smaller. If you imagine Protestant America with the overwhelming majority belonging to liberal, social action churches--or none at all--you begin to get an idea of American Jewry.
9.16.2009 8:26pm
Frank Drackman (mail):
Or maybe they're dumb as F***
9.16.2009 8:43pm
Frank Drackman (mail):
I'm Jewish BTW
9.16.2009 8:43pm
Oren:
Hit the nail on the head Ilya.
9.16.2009 8:52pm
HoyaBlue:
Have you considered that the redistribution opposition and tax opinions are merely byproducts of the Jews in America having, on average, higher incomes?

You know who opposes taxes and redistributing money? Those who currently have a fair amount of money.
9.16.2009 9:55pm
NorthernDave (mail):
Just a question to clarify. The Jewish group in question is specifically the "secular" branch? I'm guessing this doesn't include the Orthodox and if so do they vote differently (do they vote?).

I guess a further question would be what is the birth-rate differential between the Orthodox and Secular (including all those not-male rabbis.......).


The question of Jewish voting patterns might reference a totally different result in a generation......
9.16.2009 9:58pm
Frank Drackman (mail):
59% of the nation believes Homosexual Sex is "Always Wrong"???
Explains the Presidents stand on SSM.

Frank
9.16.2009 11:13pm
Frank Drackman (mail):
Its only "Always Wrong" when its 2 GUYS...
9.16.2009 11:14pm
Hubert the Infact:
One thing that has bothered me more and more as I have aged is the conflation of one's belief in social justice and one's self-identification as a Liberal Democrat. I think that the presumption is that Liberal Democrats believe in helping people while Conservative Republicans do not. Therefore, since American Jews are particularly concerned about raising up the downtrodden, then of course most American Jews are Liberal Democrats. Besides being somewhat offensive, this view of the world is pretty unsophisticated.

It does not seem to occur to such people that social justice might be a goal shared by non-Liberal Democrats, but that how to accomplish that is where the differences lie.
9.16.2009 11:39pm
eyesay:
The great Jewish event that Jews all love going to is . . . the Seder. And what is Seder about? Liberation. Not for Jews individually, and not for our ancestors but for all the Jewish people for all time. And not just for the Jewish people, but for all the world's peoples.

At the Seder, Jews spill drops of wine to remember the Ten Plagues, because the joy of liberation is diminished by the suffering of the Egyptians.

The Seder -- the central Jewish family-social-cultural event of the Jewish Calendar -- is a celebration of liberal values.
9.17.2009 2:32am
Mark N. (www):
I wonder how many of these differences in opinion between Jews and gentiles are actually related to Jewishness at all, as opposed to other correlated demographic factors. For example, Jews are more educated than gentiles on average, and more educated people tend to have the socially liberal views discussed here (e.g. college graduates think abortion should be legal at much higher rates than non-graduates). After controlling for level of education, income, and urban vs. rural place of residence, do Jews' views still differ from those of gentiles? I suspect they wouldn't differ nearly as much.
9.17.2009 2:53am
eyesay:
Hubert the Infact,

You are right. It is sometimes a conceit of liberals to believe that conservatives lack compassion and charity toward the poor. Many conservatives are generous in their charity and volunteer for programs that help feed, house, or educate the poor.

But, I also know conservatives who say that they care about poverty, and say that they believe that private charity and not "forced charity" in the form of taxpayer dollars is what is required, but whose charitable and volunteer contributions are minimal. Of course, charity is voluntary, but it's insincere to (a) say that one cares about poverty (b) assert that helping the poor is an individual and not a collective responsibility and (c) not offer much help.

There is also that nasty habit of some affluent conservatives to believe that government benefits they receive (quality public education, functioning legal system, police protection, relative police deference to the affluent) are just normal, but the benefits that help the poor are subsidies, income redistribution, and class warfare. Liberals are justified when they see through this hypocrisy and and say that the conservatives in question don't really care about the poor.
9.17.2009 2:57am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The Seder -- the central Jewish family-social-cultural event of the Jewish Calendar -- is a celebration of liberal values.
Classical liberal values, sure. Not modern liberal values, which were represented by the Egyptians, who were jealous of how successful the Israelites were, ignored their contributions to Egypt, and decided to appropriate the fruits of their labors.
9.17.2009 5:28am
eyesay:
Niep, it's not liberal to enslave people. American liberals are not jealous of the affluent and do not ignore their contributions.

Liberals do notice, though, that due largely to circumstances of the lack of affluence of their parents, and the schools that were available to them as children, about 25 percent of Americans have no employment options available other than hard, tedious, unpleasant work that doesn't pay very well, but makes it possible for the other 75% of us to enjoy comfortable lives. Most of us would not be willing to harvest celery, collect garbage, mop kitchens, or clean hotel rooms, even if paid our current salaries, and most of us make many times as much as those who perform these miserable jobs. Liberals notice that, and liberals know that these arrangements are a result of choices we make as a society, and as a society it is moral and just to ameliorate this inequality through programs such as minimum wage laws, Head Start, low-income tax credits, national health insurance, and other provisions to lift up the hard-working people at the bottom, and assure that their children have a chance to reach their potential.

But conservatives pretend that success is entirely attributable to hard work, brains and personality. To this I can only say: George W. Bush.
9.17.2009 5:48am
neurodoc:
mikelivingston: If you imagine Protestant America with the overwhelming majority belonging to liberal, social action churches--or none at all--you begin to get an idea of American Jewry.
Yes and no. Yes, because of many shared values, e.g., "social justice;" No, because within some of those "liberal, social action churches" there are very animated anti-Israel forces.

Those who push the divestment initiatives, boycotts, and other anti-Israel undertakings, may not be representative of the laity at large, but they are certainly influential within these churches at a national level. It would make sense for Jews generally and liberal ones in particular to abreact much more strongly to these "liberal, social action churches" and their the anti-Israel positions and much less so to the Religious Right with their generally pro-Israel positions.
9.17.2009 9:44am
Whadonna More:

richard1 (mail):
My grandparents came over from Russia before the Revolution. Initially they were socialists (proud members of the Workman's Circle) but later became stalwart supporters and admirers of FDR. Despite the fact that they eventually joined the middle class, they thought of themselves as members of a minority who had to hide from the Cossacks. They imparted this feeling of an oppressed minority to my mother who imparted it to me and I have imparted it to my children. I haven't experienced any anti-Semitic discrimination in my life but fully believe it could happen again, even in this country. Most of my friends have a similar family history.

I think richard1 points out another theory - Jews are not so much liberal as anti-populist. When you've been a persecuted minority for much of recorded history, that seems rational. Given the lack of a clear populist party, different groups of Jews identify the populist elements of concern differently. The Russian Jews' recent history is one of economic oppression, rather than civil rights oppression, so they align against government control of the economy. The Commonwealth country Jews simply have better anti-populist options.
9.17.2009 9:56am
Anonymous Cow:
I think it simpler than you're all making it out to be.

In general it would appear that the jewish groups with the more assimilationist tendancies would tend to also be amongst the more liberal.

As jews tend to live in areas that are generally more liberal, there liberalness could just be indicative of their undelying desire to assimilate.

this is not exactly the same thing as saying "liberalism" has become their religion, as it could just as easily be conservatism if they lived in conservative areas (as some seem to occurs to jews who live in areas that are generally more conservative)
9.17.2009 9:58am
hymie (mail):
I'm one of those liberal New York Jews. My contention has always been that both Democrats and Republicans will take away my money, but Republicans will take away my freedoms as well. (That's "my" collectively, of course.) Notice the post on the blog objecting to canceling the Poland missile defense project - just because Republicans don't want to spend money to help the disadvantaged doesn't mean that they won't throw it down the rat hole on useless garbage.

I would love to have a socially liberal and compassionately economically conservative government in place, but since I'm not going to have that, I will keep voting for Democrats. (A c.e.c.g., in my sense, helps those who need help but makes sure that all its programs are properly paid for, and that it is not redistributing money to people who do not need it.)
9.17.2009 11:09am
JoshL (mail):
Eyesay commented:


The great Jewish event that Jews all love going to is . . . the Seder. And what is Seder about? Liberation. Not for Jews individually, and not for our ancestors but for all the Jewish people for all time. And not just for the Jewish people, but for all the world's peoples.


Seriously? Are we talking about the same seder? Because at my seder, when I go past birkat hamazon and the third cup of wine, and get to the part about opening the door for Elijah, I get to "Shfoch Hamatcha" ("Pour out your wrath upon the nations that do not know You, and upon the kingdoms that do not call your name, because they have devoured Jacob....")

There is a text ("Shfoch Ahavatcha" or "Pour out your love") which has been added to some Haggadot (and which actually dates from at least the 16th century), but even that one specifies nations which have been good to the descendants of Jacob.

Viewing Passover as a liberation for all peoples follow the same trend as view Hanukah as a celebration of religious freedom (which it's not- remember, the rebellion starts when the Hasmoneans kill a Jew who is worshiping the Greek gods!). It's a decision to look for universal liberal messages withing Jewish sources and themes, rather than actually looking at how the holiday has been celebrated for thousands of years.
9.17.2009 11:20am
Rich Rostrom (mail):
Ilya: "greater rights for criminal defendants, terrorism suspects, and others relative to law enforcement..."

I have never heard of law-enforcement and judicial procedural controls (habeas corpus, say, or the right to counsel) being considered part of "civil liberties".

Freedom of expression (speaking, writing, publishing, broadcasting), freedom of religion, freedom of association, yes.
9.18.2009 4:32am

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.