by Jonathan Singer, Wed May 30, 2007 at 08:33:47 PM EDT
I've done quite a bit of research and writing on the Jewish vote in America in the past few years, both here on MyDD and for academic purposes. The one underlying theme of this research is that American Jews, who have voted for every Democratic presidential nominee in the last 70-plus years and who backed Democratic congressional candidates by about a 7-to-1 margin in 2006, aren't soon going to abandon the Democratic coaltion -- regardless of the entreaties of the Republicans. Yet that hasn't stopped Republican candidates and leaders from trying to court this Democratic constituency. Take a look, for instance, at this article from Sam Stein in The Politico:
In April Mitt Romney delivered a noteworthy but largely ignored campaign speech in midtown Manhattan.
Instead of addressing a group of Republican activists or high-end fundraisers, the presidential hopeful spoke to approximately 570 Jewish students, alumni and teachers at the graduation dinner for Yeshiva University's Sy Syms School of Business.
Romney emphasized his support for Israel. He accidentally, though to hoots and applause, called ex-President Jimmy Carter -- a critic of Israel's policies toward Palestinians -- "Jimmy Kidder." He even tried his hand at Yiddish.
"It takes chutzpah, I believe, to buy a company from somebody else," Romney said of his background in business as the sound of clanging silverware filled the room.
One might note that Orthodox Jews are more likely than others of the faith to vote Republican, which is probably true (though there isn't a whole lot of data to support this contention). As such, Romney's play for this group might have quite the potential for upside, right? Perhaps not. Back in February Ryan Grim reported, also for The Politico, that Romney was getting hit for having vetoed funding for kosher meals for Jewish Medicaid recipients while Governor of Massachusetts. Such a position certainly would not endear him to the Orthodox community, even if he was willing to deign one of the sect's places of higher learning recently.
But even getting beyond some of the admittedly less salient issues Jewish voters might have with one Republican presidential candidate, who may or may not receive his party's nomination next year, the fact still remains that American Jews aren't going to leave the Democratic coalition any time soon. It's just not going to happen, regardless of Republicans' positions on Israel. Back in October, for instance, a new survey showed that the gap between Democratic and Republican registration among American Jews was growing, and more recent polling has shown that American Jews, along with African-Americans, are about the most liberal and most allied with the Democratic Party on issues of any ethnic, racial or religious group.
I certainly don't begrudge Romney -- or other Republicans, for that matter -- trying to reach out to Jewish voters. I might correct reporters who swallow GOP spin about Republican outreach to American Jews, but I won't attack Republicans for their futile efforts. I would, however, like to end this post with a quick anecdote that I think ties in with what I have been writing here.
This month I attended an event honoring the reopening of the Jewish Community Center here in Portland. Some of the biggest names in the Jewish community were in attendence, a number of whom are quite wealthy and often back Republican candidates because of their position on Israel. Our Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, who is Jewish, delivered a speech and was greeted by strong applause. A letter from our Democratic Governor Ted Kulongoski, who is not Jewish, was read and was greeted by strong applause. But when a letter from our Republican Senator Gordon Smith, who is also not Jewish, was read not a single person in the audience clapped, as best I could tell.