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The Choosing People: The Puzzling Politics of American Jews Kenneth D. Wald University of Florida.

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Presentation on theme: "The Choosing People: The Puzzling Politics of American Jews Kenneth D. Wald University of Florida."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Choosing People: The Puzzling Politics of American Jews Kenneth D. Wald University of Florida

2 Why study Jewish political behavior? Not because of size Not because it hasn’t been done Not because of biography

3 Three central puzzles #1: The Himmelfarb problem – why? #2: The comparative problem – where? #3: The temporal problem – when? Thesis Puzzles have a common root in the uniquely American “regime” of religion and state that incorporates a distinctive and classically liberal model of citizenship.

4 Puzzle #1 Self-reported Presidential Vote of Jews & the Entire Electorate, 1948-2008 Source: Forman 2001 Puzzle 3 X=74% X=47%

5 Explaining Puzzle #1? Violates core assumptions of voting theory Judaic explanations Jewish values Jewish history Minority consciousness Even if true, fail because they are universal (Puzzle #2) and static (Puzzle #3)

6 Puzzle #2 Largely an American phenomenon US ≠ Britain, France, Canada, Australia, S. Africa, or Israel Sometimes centrist, divided, indistinguishable Puzzle #3 Varies across time – back to Puzzle #1Puzzle #1 No persuasive explanation

7 A “situational” theory Draws on strands of previous research but combines differently Jews are attracted to the classically liberal polity of the United States because they believe that its disregard of religion as a basis for citizenship/legal status has permitted them—more wholeheartedly and consistently than elsewhere—to participate fully in society. Hence, Jewish self-interest not simply economic (Fein) Jews value unique secular character of state Jews respond to threats to liberal regime

8 Liberal regime Madison rejects Republican/ethnocultural models of citizenship: “... in matters of Religion, no man's right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and... Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance.” Article VI, Sec. 3: “... no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Conferred “full immunities of citizenship” Benjamin Nones: “Among the nations of Europe we are inhabitants everywhere—but Citizens no where [sic] unless in Republics” [emphasis in original].

9 Defense became priority Initial attempt to secure equal status with Christianity Eliminate state establishments, oaths & disabilities Gradually broadened to secular strategy via law Provided a stake in liberal regime: “Had he lived in Europe, he would have been very content to receive the rights enjoyed by American Jews. Not so here;... He was not satisfied with a partial liberty; he wanted it whole” (Marcus quoted in Chyet 1958, 20).

10 Response to threats During 60s, threat from the left From 80s onward, threat from the right Source: Pew Center 2007

11 Implications Exceptions – Orthodox/Ultraorthodox & Russians Need to factor in context, regime & political opportunity structure Potential model for other world religions in US?

12 For more information... Paper is available at: Wald, Kenneth D. 2011. “The Puzzling Politics of American Jewry.” Guiding Papers Series, The American Religion Data Archives, http://www.thearda.com/rrh/papers/guidingpapers/wald.asp http://www.thearda.com/rrh/papers/guidingpapers/wald.asp


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