They're Just Not That into You

I'd like to pre-predict something about the 2016 presidential race. During that race, there will be an article or two in Politico interviewing a few grumpy alter kockers in Palm Beach who say that this time, they've really had it with those Democrats. Republican politicians will assure reporters that the GOP's unswerving Likudnik loyalties are finally winning American Jews around. And then the Democratic nominee, whomever he or she may be, will get the overwhelming majority of the Jewish vote, somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. How do I know this? Because that's what always happens. John Sides at the Monkey Cage alerts us to a new paper by political scientist Eric Uslander explaning how once again GOP hopes were dashed in 2012:

The realignment of the Jewish vote didn't happen. To be sure, Obama lost some support among Jews compared to 2008, but he lost votes among most groups in an election that was closer than four years ago. The story of Jewish voting in 2012 is straightforward even if unanticipated by some: The historic loyalties of Jews to the Democratic party remained intact. Republicans were not able to use Israel as an issue against Obama for two reasons. First, Israel did not rank highly as a voting issue for Jews. Second, most Jews strongly support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem and see their positions on the Middle East as closer to Obama's than to Romney's.

Yeah, big surprise. Let me refer you to something I wrote back in June 2011 upon reading one of those "Will the Jews Abandon Obama?" stories:

We've been hearing this ever since Obama became the Democratic nominee in 2008. Jews don't trust him! He had Palestinian friends! There's that Reverend Wright! Here's an article from May 2008: ". And guess what: Obama won 78 percent of Jewish votes anyway. John Kerry got 74 percent in 2004, and Al Gore got 79 percent in 2000. In other words, Obama did pretty much exactly as well as other Democrats.

It's never hard to write this article. Just ask around, and you can find Jews to grumble about this or that. You don't exactly have to be Nellie Bly to get Jews to complain. It's kind of what we do.

And in the end, Obama will have no trouble raising money, and getting votes, from Jews. It's mostly ideological (most Jews are very progressive), but perhaps just as important, it's cultural. All the time Republicans spend talking about who's "one of us" resonates strongly with Jews. When they talk about how small towns are superior to cities, and the "heartland" is the "real" America while the coasts are fake, and how book learnin' is for elitists, and how important it is that politicians be religious (read: Christian), Jews hear it loud and clear. That message of cultural affinity with a certain kind of person sends a simultaneous message to Jews: This party is not for you and your kind. Sarah Palin can put on a Star of David necklace, but that's never going to convince Jews that they're part of the Republican family. GOP candidates can talk about their love of Israel all they want, but it won't be enough.

But here's a question: Why do Republicans care about the Jewish vote? After all, Jews are only about 2 percent of the American population, and they're disproportionately concentrated in states Democrats will inevitably win, especially New York. Why do they seem to want Jews' votes so badly? I guess it has something to do with the Judeophilia that has washed over American evangelicals in the past few years (which, just so you know, actual Jews find incredibly weird and creepy). But Republicans need to accept that getting significant numbers of Jewish votes just isn't going to happen.

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