The Pragmatism of America

I watched the Obama victory last night from the perspective of someone who follows Jewish voting patterns. His success at … Continued

I watched the Obama victory last night from the perspective of someone who follows Jewish voting patterns. His success at winning over the Jewish community – exit polls report that as many as 77% of all Jews voted for him – says much about what made his victory possible.

For months, large numbers of Jews felt ambivalent about Obama. He had defeated one of the Jewish community’s favorite politicians, Hillary Clinton, in a bruising primary. His experience was limited. His Middle East policies were a question mark. He had associated himself with individuals, like Rev. Wright, whom the Jewish community distrusted. And he had a racial background — African-American, the product of a mixed family, a Muslim middle name — that some Jews found troubling.

At one time, upwards of 40 percent of American Jews leaned Republican in this election. That was a problem for Senator Obama. Historically, for Democratic candidates, a Jewish vote of 75% or more is necessary – not sufficient, but necessary – to win the Presidency. Democrats who could not cross that 75% threshold, such as Adlai Stevenson, George McGovern, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, and Jimmy Carter in 1980, lost their presidential bids. In key swing states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida, strong Jewish support can make all the difference for a Democratic candidate.

Senator Obama worked hard to turn Jewish voters around. He courted them, he reassured them, and he recruited people whom the Jewish community trusted and loved to campaign on his behalf. Over the last two months, as Senator McCain stumbled, the economy tumbled, and Gov Palin bungled, Obama’s perseverance paid off. Many Jews swung back to his side, attracted to his message of change.

Of course, the Jewish community did not speak with one voice in this election. American Jews living in Israel voted overwhelmingly for McCain, and an unscientific poll of students at the Orthodox-leaning Yeshiva University found that two-thirds of the students there supported McCain too. But elsewhere, even in places like Florida where pundits predicted that older Jews would be unable to bring themselves to vote for Black man with the middle name “Hussein,” the pundits proved wrong. Counties with big Jewish populations in Florida went for Obama in a big way.

Ultimately, most Jews voted for Obama, quite simply, because they found him to be the better candidate. Tallying up the qualities of the two sides, they searched their consciences, and picked the person whom they thought best qualified for the job. Discounting race, religion, color, and scarifying rumors, they voted according to the only standard that really matters in the end: merit.

Obama, they concluded, is smarter, more articulate, and better equipped to handle the difficult challenges of our time.

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  • CCNL

    So what since the Jewish population in the USA is only 1.5% vs ” Most U.S. adult citizens identify themselves as Christians (76.5 – 78.5%).[2][3] A 2001 survey[2] found 15% of the adult population to have no religious affiliation.” i.e. Christian and atheists/secularists voters put President-elect Obama in the White House!!!

  • Farnaz2

    So what since the Jewish population in the USA is only 1.5% vs ” Most U.S. adult citizens identify themselves as Christians (76.5 – 78.5%).[2][3] A 2001 survey[2] found 15% of the adult population to have no religious affiliation.”i.e. Christian and atheists/secularists voters put President-elect Obama in the White House!!!Kindly inform your fellow anti-Jewish racists that as I have posted all along it is the christians, generically speaking, who have the power in this country. They elect presidents, own the House, own the Senate, own the Supreme Court, own the presidency, own AIG, own all the corps. we are bailing out via our new National Socialism, own the oil companies, partner with the oil-exporting nations, own the media, etc., etc., etc. Supported the christian-loving Shah, kept khomeini safe in catholic france, etc., etc..

  • Farnaz2

    Dr. Sarna,Needless to say, your scholarly work is fine, indeed. It is possible to address the readers of this blog at a slightly higher discourse level. See Prof. Stevens-Arroyo’s blog for a hint of how this may be achieved. I understand that it is difficult for scholars to gauge a “general readership,” hence my suggestion.

  • Farnaz2

    One of the most important things Pres. Obama must do is end the anti-Jewish racism that Muslim Middle Eastern and other nations use to distract their populous from the poverty brought on by dictatorships and feudal economies.Pres. Obama whose country, ours, maintains connections with such entities as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the Emirates, etc., which fund and promote anti-Jewish racism must make clear that if it continues, we will end relations with them, withdraw funds to nations such as Egypt which gives our tax dollars to the Mubarak family, other wealthy fiefdoms, and terrorists, anyway.Next would be the restoration of property, full rights of citizenship to the THREE MILLION EXILED MIDDLE EASTERN JEWS, SUCH AS I, some sort of justice for tortured and murdered Jews.JUSTICE and FULL PROTECTION FOR THE BAHAI, the few Christians and Jews remaining in those lands.

  • 771979

    USA is in such a massive economic quagmire that it presumptuous to give a green signal to Barack Obama to achieve his economics, financial and fiscal goals in his first term. He must save every cent that is wasted fighting illegal wars around the world and supporting Zionist Israel aggression in Palestine. First of all, Obama has to withdraw from Iraq much sooner than later and save over 12-15 billion dollars a month American Tax-payers money wasted in Iraq as well as giving Israel over twenty billion dollars as free handout and further ten billion dollars in military aid. He must also tell the American Jews that they are American citizen and not Israel’s and that US cannot economically afford to fight proxy wars for Israel and wreck its diplomatic relations with the Arabs for long. American Jews will not be able to control or direct US foreign policy in favour of Israel as in the past and that it will be based on justice and fairness to all sides. Israel has to stop building illegal settlements on Palestinians land and bomb them with smart and missiles by F16s’as and when they wished. He must tell the Palestinians to achieve peace with Israel and stop violence against its innocent people. USA is in such a massive economic quagmire that it presumptuous to give a green signal. First of all, Obama has to withdraw from Iraq much sooner than later and save over 12-15 billion dollars a month American Tax-payers money wasted in Iraq; he has to abandon US philosophy of law of jungle propagated by the incumbent G W Bush, “ Kill your enemy before he hits you”, and find a new direction of negotiation to fight terrorism in the world; and stop imposing American values on others as President G W Bush tried to do; and stop hitting the Muslims over the head with claw hammer as G W Bush has done for the last eight years; and finally he must tell the Zionist Israelis to try living in peace with the Arabs and with hatred for ever. Israel must stop behaving like a proxy state of USA in the Middle East and stop bullying its neighbour with bombs, bullets, missiles and F16s’ to dictate its term.