(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/06/obama-08-yarmulke.gif)The latest numbers show that Obama’s national support among Jews is down to 64 percent. That puts Obama in line with stalwart vote-getters like Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis. More significantly a Siena College poll shows that Jewish support for Obama in New York City has fallen to 51 percent.
Those numbers might seem strange until you read the latest study on the Jewish population in the city which finds that 40 percent of the city’s Jews are Orthodox—up from a third, ten years ago.
74 percent of all Jewish children in the city are Orthodox, a baby boom that will completely transform the city’s Jewish population. And that means the transformation of the Jewish vote. Within another decade, New York City will have an Orthodox majority; within a generation that majority will be so decisive as to define its political orientation. The end of the New York Jewish liberal is here.
As the New York Times disdainfully puts it, “Members of these Orthodox groups also have been known to be far more likely to adopt more conservative positions on matters like abortion, same-sex marriage and the Israeli approach to the Palestinians.”
The Siena College survey gives us a preview of what the new American Jewish vote will look like by studying the changing Jewish political attitudes of New York City today.
62 percent of New York City Jews believe that America is headed in the wrong direction. 34 percent rate Obama’s job performance as poor, tying for the number that rate him as good, while only 7 percent rate him as excellent.
46 percent would prefer to vote for someone other than Obama. 42 percent have a favorable view of Mitt Romney. 43 percent are planning to vote for Mitt Romney. 48 percent think that Romney would be better at addressing the deficit. 45 percent think that Romney would be better at improving the economy (versus 43 percent for Barack Obama).
New York City Jews are suddenly polling as more conservative than Protestants and only moderately more liberal than Catholics. There is no doubt that Obama’s poor performance has played its part, but the most significant element is simple demographics.
These numbers may seem strange to some, but they are why Congressman Bob Turner won the battle for Anthony Weiner’s Congressional seat and why Republican Russian-Jewish candidate Storobin defeated his Democratic challenger for a state senate seat. Democrats have responded by using gerrymandered districts to destroy as much of the Orthodox vote as possible, with the district juggling efforts of Judge Roanne Mann, a slimy Clinton appointee. But the temporary disenfranchisement of voters is not going to win them over. It is only going to further alienate them.
Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in New York City are routinely divided into three or five districts, set aside for minority politicians who will reliably vote the Democratic Party line. When no amount of redistricting will do, then they are piled into a Super-Orthodox district. If any other group were subjected to a similar pattern of targeted disenfranchisement, it would be grounds for a Voting Rights action by the Justice Department. But these bigoted tactics can only slow down the inevitable transformation of New York City’s political landscape. They can’t stop it.
The Jewish Population Study records nearly 500,000 Orthodox Jews in the area and another 220,000 Russian Jews, groups that share conservative beliefs and values. While Russian Jews have been wedged into the district that is likely to be won by Charles Barron, a radical Democratic Party bigot who has made his feelings about Jews clear, many Orthodox Jews have been wedged into the district of Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who is not as vocal in her hostility, but who has also made her opposition to the Jewish State clear.
However, as the Orthodox Jewish population continues its dramatic increase, it will become impossible to turn them into uncounted votes imprisoned in districts set aside for African-American and Puerto Rican Democrats. And the day will come when not even the most aggressive gerrymandering schemes will prevent their votes from being counted.
The majority of Orthodox Jews in America live in the New York area and the transformation is being felt most keenly here. But in the long term it will be a national transformation that will fundamentally change what people regard as the political affiliation of Jewish voters.
Orthodox Jews have a birth rate that is three times higher than that of other Jews, Haredi and Hassidic Jews (often wrongly referred to as ultra-Orthodox), have 12 times as many children per household, and Modern Orthodox (who tend to be strongly pro-Israel) have 4 times as many children per household as Non-Orthodox households do. And so given time the American Jewish vote will start looking like the New York Jewish vote. And for the first time in a long time, that will be a good thing.
There are of course plenty of non-Orthodox Jewish conservatives. And there are Orthodox Jews who are not conservative. But the liberal establishment has been able to use the tilt of the Jewish vote to cement a politically liberal identity. That identity will become much harder to sustain with growing numbers of Jewish Republicans on the scene. It will lead to a political transformation for the Jewish community by removing the sense that voting Republican is a betrayal of a liberal communal identity.
Orthodox Jews will provide cover for Non-Orthodox Jews, who are hesitant about walking away from a communal identification with the Democratic Party, to switch their vote. And their pro-Israel positions (more than double that of the non-Orthodox) will end any hopes that J Street or Peter Beinart have of representing a Jewish anti-Israel majority.
Liberals have dramatically scaled up their attacks on Orthodox Jews, from a barrage of hostile media articles to attempts at infiltration by groups such as Uri L’Tzedek, but persecution has never been a match for the raw force of demographics. Smear campaigns, abuse articles and elitist sneering will not keep Orthodox children from being born, marrying and rejecting Democratic dogma.
These shifts will not happen overnight. The demographic trends will take a while to kick in, but they are already having an impact. The New York Jewish vote is a bellwether for the national Jewish vote. And the New York Jewish vote has made a difference before.
In 1946, Jewish voters shook the political landscape by electing Senator Jacob Javitz, the first Republican Senator from New York in 30 years. In 2046, a Republican Jewish base in New York may be capable of doing much more than that.
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