The American Jewish vote in the past election (based on the
results of exit polls which may not be fully accurate in
characterizing a minority as small as the Jews in a country
as big as the USA) can be characterized in many ways. About
25 percent of the Jews voted for President Bush. That means
that three-fourths of the Jews voted for Senator Kerry. Four
years ago only 19 percent of the Jews voted for Bush. That
means that four out of five voted for the Democrat Al Gore
four years ago.
You might say that Bush's support among the Jews rose by
about a third over four years ago, which is quite a
respectable increase even if Ed Koch, the former New York
City Democratic mayor who endorsed Bush, was quoted as
saying, "I think he deserved much more."
It is a bit simplistic to present the choice between Bush and
Kerry as a choice between for-or-against Israel. Kerry was
very assertive about his support for Israel and even if there
were legitimate doubts that were raised by a few of his
statements (which later were retracted) and some of his
advisers on the Middle East, there is no doubt that someone
who liked Kerry on the basis of the rest of what he stood for
would not have had to reject him as being bad for Israel.
On the other hand, there can be no doubt that so far George
W. Bush has been very good for Israel. In addition to
refusing to push Israel into making concessions to the
Palestinians before they at least begin to fight terror,
Bush's view of the world and the large role that the threat
of terror plays in it has been very close to the Israeli
approach that is derived from its bitter experience. Even if
there is some uncertainty since, as they always say, past
performance is no guarantee for the future, nonetheless,
simple gratitude would dictate support of Bush.
In fact, a poll by Frank Lutz as reported by the American
Jewish Committee claimed that among Orthodox Jewish voters
support for the American president was at 69 percent compared
to 23 percent among Conservative Jews and only 15 percent
among Reform Jews. He also found that among Jewish voters,
the young tended to vote more for Bush, while the trend was
the opposite among American voters as a whole. It is likely
that this also reflects the youth of the Orthodox voters.
Certainly Bush's support for Israel loomed large in the
decision of Jewish voters. Yet it is clear that Bush's
religiosity and his stand for morals also played an important
role. Voters for Kerry said that the things that mattered the
most to them were jobs, the economy, and foreign policy.
Voters for Bush said that what mattered to them were moral
issues. Even if they felt that Bush was not doing such a good
job on the economy or in foreign affairs, they voted for him
nonetheless because they felt that he would better uphold
moral values. Kerry and the Democrats were seen as leading an
assault on traditional values that has proven too successful
for the comfort of many Americans.
This reflects different approaches to the world, and not just
policy differences. For Democratic voters moral issues are
secondary, and what counts is material issues like jobs and
the economy. Even if they agreed with Kerry on both moral and
material issues, they placed greater value on the material
For Republican voters material issues are secondary and what
counts is a strong position upholding morality. Even if they
did not agree with Bush's approach to the material
issues of the day, they placed greater weight on his approach
to moral issues. Even if they did not agree with each
specific position of his, his general stance and the contrast
with Kerry was very clear.
In this respect, Orthodox Jews undoubtedly follow the
Republican majority. Moral values are very important to them.
This is not true of most American Jews, whose values, or lack
of them, are much like the Democratic party.
We place our trust in Hashem, but of course we have to vote
based on what we see. In voting for Bush, Orthodox American
Jewry was certainly looking at his record on Israel, and,
even if they may have not agreed with all of his individual
positions, they were certainly comfortable with his general
position on morality.