Mande Wilkes | The Real Reason Jews Are Liberals
"They tried to kill us. We won. Let's eat."
If most Jewish holidays can be so summarized, that begs the question: Who is the “they” who kept trying, for millennia, to kill the Jews? Coming off of the high holy season, the history is fresh in my mind. “They” -- all of them -- came wearing the costume of government.
Don't believe me? Think that seems purposefully inflammatory?
Consider the history: Egypt's Pharaoh; Nazi Germany; Greece's Antiochus; Russian pogroms; Iraq; Iran; the entire Middle East. From all over the world governments have conspired against Jews.
It's no wonder, then, that Jews are suspicious of government -- so suspicious that, taking to heart Thomas Jefferson's warning that "there's no security without a free press," they've come to dominate American news media and Hollywood. And it's no wonder that such a suspicion leads to overwhelming embrace of the political left -- a party which, for all its many faults, is harmless when it comes to social issues.
As a Jew living in the Republican Bible Belt, let me tell you that it scares me to hear conservatives preach about "Judeo-Christian values," whatever those might be. The ultimate Judeo value is survival, and threats to Jewish survival have historically come from governments that are overly concerned with preserving some social status quo -- often those same "Judeo-Christian values" that I mentioned before.
That explains why Jews not only overlook but prefer Barack Obama’s walk-softly-and-carry-a-big-stick approach to Iran’s nuclear program. (The president is set to get about 70 perceny of the Jewish vote next month, for what it’s worth, according to recent polls.) Sure Israel’s security is a priority to Jews, but in the end, lines on a map are an unaffordable luxury for a people who have met tyranny in every nook of the planet.
That is, by the way, why Obama’s approval among actual Israelis has remained steady even as U.S. conservatives have escalated tensions with Iran. History has taught Jews that government can be as much sword as shield, and that a government muscular enough to protect you is muscular enough to persecute you.
So it is also with the subject of money. Often it's asked why Jews so readily vote against their own interests - one of those interests being Israel, of course, and the other being, presumably, money.
Turns out there's a lot of money to be made in media and in Hollywood, so the Jews I mentioned dominating those fields probably are, mathematically speaking, indeed voting against their own tax interests when they vote Democrat. But the government they're funding with those tax dollars isn't a government that seeks to promote any particular social protocol. Absent from the liberal platform is the focus on "Judeo-Christian values" - the likes of which have little actual basis in Judaism, which is a remarkably live-and-let-live religion.
I promised to explain in a single column a question to which whole books have been dedicated. So, here I am, keeping my promise. But I don't even need the whole column, all I need is a sentence or two:
The reason that Jews identify as liberals is because they fear government itself -- a fear that's by now almost instinctive, inherited from history. Ironically that fear of government leads to an embrace of the party of "big government." Which really just goes to show that both parties are into big government, just in very different ways. . . and that's a problem for Jews and for everybody else too.
Contact Mande Wilkes, a local cultural commentator and new mother, at firstname.lastname@example.org.