It wasn’t long ago that the words “Jewish vote” meant something different than they do today. Jews in their small numbers were regular voters and concentrated in areas that were electorally important. High voting rates and geographical concentration combined to make Jewish voters a powerful constituency that resonated on every step of the political ladder. Jews also knew, as they do now, how to open their check books for candidates, parties and causes, and most Jewish votes went to Democrats.
Today, the monolithic “Jewish vote” is no more. Jews not only increasingly give their votes to both parties, but they do it a bit less regularly. They, like the rest of America, have spread out and no longer cluster in enclaves. Jews are still big-time contributors, but one party doesn’t get all of the gelt ó money flows to both parties.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that most political campaigns, Republican or Democrat, do their early fundraising in their Jewish communities.
Unlike other minority voters, Jews have never automatically given their votes to their own people. A Jewish Republican rarely takes votes from a non-Jewish Democrat, and it is not a given any more that a Jewish Democrat gets all the Jewish votes in an election. In the 2000 presidential race, the Republicans got more Jewish votes than they normally did even though Sen. Joe Lieberman was the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate. Every election brings more erosion in the traditional “Jewish vote,” but even in the face of this decrease, a new “Jewish vote” is being forged and it’s liable to be bigger than the old one. What is most surprising is that much of this new electoral power comes from people who aren’t even Jewish.
While measuring voters’ intent is always imprecise, some professionals feel that Ned Lamont got more than a third of the “Jewish vote” in this week’s primary. For Lamont’s Jewish voters, the war was the issue, while Lieberman’s Jewish supporters felt his important advocacy for Israel mattered most. But Jewish voters are not the only group that key in on issues pertaining to Israel.
Israel is no longer just a Jewish issue. For many Americans, Israel represents the war against Islamist terror and is seen as our most reliable ally in the fight against the perpetrators of 9/11 and other terrorist acts against Americans. Israel not only confronts the same enemies as we do, but Israeli values, principles and strong belief in democracy and freedom brings Israel close to us. Joe Lieberman understands this.
Lieberman was on the national ballot six years ago in no small part because he was a man of faith. Not coincidentally, many of those attracted to him because of that quality also pray for and support Israel in its time of trouble. They make up a sizable portion of the great majority of Americans who strongly support Israel in her time of danger.
There is also a growing number of people who share the culture of their Jewish friends and neighbors and feel that they too stand on common ground with Israel and the Jewish people. This pro-Israel block of voters says that support for Israel is not limited to just a faith- based voter. These voters feel that Israel and the United States face the same enemy in Iraq and around the world.
Jews, once a monolithic and highly concentrated political force, are now politically much more like everyone else. Lieberman, a man of faith, a friend of Israel and a Jew, has just come through a difficult primary where he has seen a new “Jewish vote” coalescing around him. It has come from a segment of his party that was always known as its strong center, but in November, it will be joined by Independents and Republicans, a voting-block of Jews and non-Jews, who share a love of Israel and who look at a vote for Joe Lieberman as a vote for the security and safety of America and support for our ally Israel as one and the same.