Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Orthodox Jews and the GOP (or OJs and Obedience)

According to Republican pollster/analyst Frank Luntz:

69% of Orthodox Jews voted for Bush, compared with just
23% of Conservative Jews and 15% of Reform Jews.

(Direct link to pdf.)

According to Luntz, Jews who voted for Bush mostly did so because of his "strong leadership after 9/11" (24%) and "his strong national security and anti-terrorist efforts." (23%) Only 20% of Jewish voters mentioned Bush's relationship to Israel.

This is all old news. However, I think it's indicative of a deeper and widening schism between Orthodox Jews and non-Orthodox Jews.

Fighting terrorism isn't a religious issue! Why then did Orthodox Jews believe that Bush was better on terrorism than did non-Orthodox Jews? I'm not aware of any halakhic or hashkakhic issues which would favor Bush in this arena. I don't think that Reform or Conservative Jews are in favor of international terrorism.

I think the answer lies in the difference between the methods that the disparate Jews gather information about the world and make decisions.

Orthodox Jews typically base their beliefs and decisions on authority, while non-Orthodox Jews believe more strongly in personal autonomy. This is indisputable. Orthodox Judaism is intensely concerned with aligning actions and behaviors with the Torah, the Talmud, and the opinions of respected Rabbis. As you move toward Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, people believe that "tradition gets a vote, not a veto" and that ultimately, decisions are up to the layperson. An Orthodox person is likely to go to a Rabbi to see what he must do; a Reform one might go to his Rabbi for advice. Reform Rabbis are permitted to decide for themselves whether they wish to perform intermarriages; Orthodox Rabbis aren't permitted to decide anything of consequence for themselves.

Bush provides "moral clarity." He speaks in certain terms. His administration is possibly the most tightly-on-message ever. He says, "this is right, and that is wrong, and that's all there is to it." Non-Orthodox Jews, being less authoritarian, gathered as much information as they could before deciding that Bush's certainty didn't make him correct. They saw that the argument for going to Iraq was a sham. Orthodox Jews, instead of searching for facts, went to Rabbis who decreed that they should vote for Bush or else listened to authority figures like Hannity and Limbaugh who decreed that they should vote for Bush. These Orthodox Jews wanted a president who seems Omniscient or is at least as infallible as a gadol. Non-Orthodox Jews wanted a president who carefully thought things through and made pragmatic, reasoned decisions.



(Disclaimer: Of course reasonable people can disagree. I'm not saying that there aren't intelligent people who made informed decisions and voted for Bush. I'm speaking in generalities, which is the only way to discuss broad groups of people, especially Jews, who, as the saying goes, have three opinions for every two people.)

8 comments:

Chana said...

At the time in which I still attended my former disturbed institution-like school, my history teacher screamed at me than anyone who does not vote for Bush is a Kofer. She also claimed, however, that anyone who went to see Mel Gibson's "Passion," even to refute it, was evil, because they would be giving him the money it cost to buy a ticket.

Why did she claim any Democrat was evil? God knows. I think she stated Kerry didn't support Israel. I disproved her with regard to that issue- he had the official USA stance, as always. While I don't think there's anything wrong with voting for Bush, I heartily dislike it when my History teacher makes it her life's work to cover the election from an awfully biased point of view. And bash anyone who doesn't think like her.

My friend's father asked about Nader and the Green Party...the history teacher dismissed it as being unimportant...she didn't know who she was dealing with. Twasn't good.

You are right on the money about OJ Jews living under authority. The majority of OJ Jews live under the shadow of the Gedolim. I laughed out loud at some of the questions I was asked- "did you get a heter to switch into a Non-Jewish private school? No? Oy vey," and then one extremely Orthodox/ frum/ ultra-confused child called me up and informed me she was praying for my soul! (This was, of course, after she realized Rabbis had not sancitioned my switching schools...because I did not ask them. How would a Rabbi know better than myself and my parents what school is correct for me?)

It's a disturbed society...so how do we change it?

Anonymous said...

Talk about turning the truth on its head... non-Orthodox Jews are more likely to pray at the church of liberalism, where to be Jewish and to vote democratic are intertwined in an ancient and holy tradition which cannot be questioned.

It is the Orthodox who are Republican, and not because anyone told them so, but because Republicans believe in personal responsibility -- which the Torah does as well -- not to mention much more interest in the promotion of solid moral values.

Ed said...

I remember one day in high school (a black-hat yeshiva in Brooklyn) when our social studies teacher was running late, and the menahel (=religion studies principal) came in started talking to use about politics. The teacher, a non-religious liberal Jew, walked right in as the rabbi said something like "We have to make good Republicans out of you guys!" Awkward silence...

For him, it was all about the "homosexual agenda" and gay rights. I guess the Democrats were a little too close to being gay-friendly for his comfort. Oh, well, what do you expect from a school where the two things that get you expelled are going to movies and talking to girls?

ADDeRabbi said...

what can I say. this post is simply bizarre, and after reading it, I'm not convinced that we occupy the same universe.

Jeez, I mean, are you assuming that 31% of OJs who voted said 'screw the Rabbis', and that most who did were simply toeing the line?

Did Jews get the reputation that they dogmatically vote democrat from the Orthodox?

Clinton drew a much higher percentage of the OJ vote than Kerry. What happened there? The Rabbis changed that much in 8 years?

One of my High School Rabbis said something similar to what Chana's Rabbi said about not voting Bush = Kofer, but about the 1st Bush's re-election. Yet, Clinton gets more of the OJ vote.

Bizarre.

Jewish Atheist said...

Hmm. I didn't do a very good job on this post. I guess I was trying to say that I believe that more Orthodox Jews prefer an authoritarian leader than do non-Orthodox Jews. I didn't mean to say that OJs voted Bush because they were ordered to (although that happens.) I was using that as an example of the OJ's valuation of authority.

I'd be interested in hearing some alternative explanations for why more Orthodox Jews believed that Bush was better against terrorism than did non-Orthodox. I understand the moral affinity, but I can't figure out why else the terrorism issue should be divided along denominational lines.

DarkBlueHat said...

Read Thomas Sowell on that point...

Conservative Apikoris said...

a Reform one might go to his Rabbi for advice.

You're being a bit optimistic with that statemnent. :)

Conservative Apikoris said...

Republicans believe in personal responsibility

So do Democrats. I recommend rading someof Senator Barack Obama's speeches to help rid oneself of this Republican disinformation.