In the May issue of Commentary magazine, Michael Medved, a nationally syndicated talk show host and writer wonders whether many Jewish voters will cast their ballot for the liberal President Barack Obama, with whom they are deeply disappointed, or “overcome their own discomfort with Christian evangelicals and vote for the Republican candidate.” See the article at What the Evangelicals Give the Jews. Many American Jews realize and argue that the evangelicals are indispensable source of support for Israel, without whom U.S. policy in the Middle East could easily tilt toward the Palestinians and Arab nations. Others insist that the “ardent evangelical embrace of the Zionist project only encourages the most intransigent and fanatical elements in Israel, thereby undermining chances for a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians.” The latter group also fears that the evangelicals are motivated by apocalyptic vison of a mass conversion of the Jews, and the establishment of a Christian theocracy in the United States.
It is a commonplace that Jews in America generally tend to be left of center in their politics. There are a lot of historical reasons for that, not the least that many are descended from Russian Jews who emigrated from late 19th Century Russia as an alternative to being murdered in frequent pogroms tolerated, and even sponsored by the conservative regime and Orthodox Christian establishment. It also goes without saying that the Nazi Holocaust has been ensconced in Jewish consciousness as a product of right-wing fascism. As to the latter, though, it seems to me as a result of my study of history that the German “National Socialism” had more in common with the left than with the right, as it is understood today.
Norman Podheretz, in his 2009 book Why Are Jews Liberals? answers that Jews have adopted that he calls the “‘torah’ of liberalism” which essentially means that leftist ideology has become central to Jewish identity. This identification persists even in the face of unrefutable evidence that free market capitalism and the reverence for the primacy of the individual enabled so many hardworking Jewish immigrants and their progeny to prosper in the United States.
This may be changing. Medved, who remains an observant Orthodox Jew, is an admitted convert to the political right. Podheretz, Bill Kristol, and quite a few other Jews have come over to the right, if they weren’t there all along. In a recent post on his blog in The American Interest, Peter Berger writes of the “The Relocation of Anti-Semitism” to the left wing of American politics. Support for the State of Israel is widespread among American Christians, no matter their denomination, Catholic or Protestant. One reason is that the story of modern Israel has much in common with the story of America, especially the frontier.
There might not be a sea-change this election – old ways die hard. Most humans tend cling to our cherished beliefs long past the time that their validity or usefulness is over. But it will come. In another generation, I dare to predict, an American Jewish liberal will be a black swan.