The odds are that you have wondered at one time or another why
the great majority of Jews and nearly all blacks vote Democrat. There are,
after all, no other ethnic or racial groups that so overwhelmingly and
consistently vote either Republican or Democrat.
Moreover, given Jewish values and given blacks' views on a host
of important social issues, there is really no compelling reason for blacks
and Jews to vote Democrat.
Let us begin with the Jews. Judaism, like every great religion,
is essentially conservative: Judaism demands obedience to a judging God and
to a moral code set forth thousands of years ago. That is why the more
orthodox a Jew is religiously, the less likely he is to be a liberal
politically; and the more likely he is to vote Republican. Furthermore, the
dominant Jewish issue, the security and survival of the Jewish state, is
also unlikely to orient a Jew politically leftward. Even sociologically,
Jews voting instinctively Democratic makes little sense. Jews, more than
many, consider it shameful to rely on others for welfare, raise their
children to believe in hard work, and benefit from a merit-based society.
Indeed, even those Jews who vote Democratic usually lead rather conservative
As for blacks, their virtually unanimous voting for the
Democratic Party makes even less sense. For one thing, most blacks tend to
have socially conservative views (considerably more so than their fellow
Democrats). Blacks tend to be religious, have traditional views on
homosexuality and abortion, and believe in school vouchers, a policy
strongly opposed by the party nearly all of them vote for. Moreover, while
the Democratic Party has brilliantly portrayed itself as the party that made
civil rights possible, a greater percentage of Republicans voted for the
landmark civil rights bills than Democrats.
None of this is meant to suggest that there are no Democratic
Party positions that appeal to blacks and Jews. The great majority of blacks
apparently do support affirmative action, a position entirely identified
with the Democratic Party. And the majority of Jews do support larger
government and higher tax rates, fundamental Democratic positions.
But if each party's policy positions were the sole determinants
of Jews' and blacks' voting habits, the two groups should evenly divide
their votes between the two parties.
Clearly then, it is not Democratic Party positions that explain
why so many Jews and blacks vote Democrat. Something deeper must be at work.
That something is fear in the case of Jews and anger in the case
of blacks. And both the Jews' fears and the blacks' anger are a result of
their respective collective memories.
The Jewish memory in question is of Christian anti-Semitism and
the Nazi Holocaust. Even Jews who know little about either Jewish or
Christian history know by high school age that for nearly 2,000 years,
Jewish communities suffered from anti-Semitic persecution at the hands of
Christians, that Christians massacred Jews during the Crusades, that there
was a Spanish Inquisition, and that the Holocaust came from Nazism, a
Because of this deeply ingrained memory associating Jewish
suffering with Christianity and the far right, most Jews have a primal fear
of Christianity (and even of religion generally, including Judaism) and of
conservatives. Jews therefore vote for the party that opposes the party
associated with anything even remotely connected with public religion or the
The black memory in question is of white racism. It seems
obvious that many African-Americans carry a residual anger against whites
and against America as a result of centuries of slavery and racism. They
therefore vote for the party most associated with policies (such as
affirmative action) ostensibly designed to fight racism (meaning, always,
white racism), and which frequently condemns alleged ongoing white racism.
And blacks vote against the party they perceive as denying that America
continues to be racist, the party that opposes race-based policies, and the
party that celebrates America as if it isn't a racist country.
The problem with these memories is not that they are inaccurate;
it is that they are no longer accurate. And they therefore paralyze the two
groups who hold onto these memories, Jews and blacks.
In Part II, we will explain why these memories and perceptions
are no longer accurate (and therefore paralyze blacks and Jews from clearly
perceiving the present white, Christian and conservative realities), and
what, if anything, Republicans, whites and Christians can do about these
unfortunate perceptions. For these perceptions are ultimately bad for Jews,
bad for blacks, and bad for America.