Monday, October 25, 2004

Kerry and the Jewish Vote: a response to the responses

Daniel Moore has responded to my post about why Kerry's Jewish ancestry might be a factor in his getting the "Jewish" vote:

"I suspect that close to 99% of all Jews in American have no idea that Kerry has a 'vaguely Jewish background.' (I certainly didn't) It's hard to imagine that Kerry's ancestral background even enters in to Jewish voter's decisions about voting for or against him."

In the comments to Daniel's post, someone has written: "I would hope that most politically aware Jews understand that voting for Kerry because he has a Jew in his tree is just as wrong as voting against Kerry because he has a Jew in his tree. You are right on in refuting this overly- simplistic view."

Let me make the following clear: I'm not suggesting people should vote based on race, religion, ancestry, or what have you, but I do think that voting based on perceived shared background is a phenomenon that does occur and thus cannot be discounted if one is to try to explain why people vote as they do. As for how many Jews know about Kerry's ancestry, I'm guessing more do than Daniel imagines, but I don't have the numbers on this, if such numbers exist.

Also, in response to the anonymous commentor who wrote that 1/4 black is black, while 1/4 Jewish is not, I'm not so sure it works that way. I mean, sure, Judaism is a religion, not a race...but why, then why did Kerry's grandfather change his name from Kohn to Kerry? In my opinion, he says he's Catholic, he's Catholic, regardless of his ancestry, but many people, for many different reasons, some more sinister than others, don't see things that way.

While voting based on a candidate's ancestry may be "simplistic," any analysis of voting patterns would have to take into account both the intelligent and the less-than-intelligent reasoning behind the way people vote.


Molly said...

Actually I am just reading a paper about this right now. It's actually about the 1960 election and how different groups of Christians reacted to Kennedy's Catholicism. The general conclusion of the study, by Philip E. Converse, was that "Protestant Democrats were more likely to behave as Democrats that Protestants and that Catholic Republicans were more liely to behave as Republicans than as Catholics." So yeah, Kerry's grandfather might not matter to Jews. But they'll be voting for him anyway. And also: I hear Kerry has two Jewish grandfathers? Crazy. What do you think the chances are that Karl Rove can dig up a Muslim grandfather for Bush in the next week or so?

Daniel said...

The reason I say that not that many Jews know about Kerry's background is because I don't think that it has been mentioned in the course of the campaign. The latest news that mentioned it (on a quick Google search - I could be wrong) was over a year ago and wasn't carried, it seems, by any major news organization. Kerry's own website doesn't mention it (side note - he needs to update his Jewish-American page. It refers to something that "will" happen on Oct. 3) and I don't think he's ever brought it up in a speech.

Now, more interestingly, John Kerry's brother Cam converted to Judaism 20 years ago (see here). That I would believe would have an impact, except that no one talks about it. When Lieberman was running for VP, a lot of Jews voted for him because he was Jewish (and a Democrat - that made it easier, I think). But everyone knows Lieberman is Jewish. I still think it's under 1% of Jews that know that Kerry has Jewish roots.

Alex B. said...

1/4 Black is Black; 1/4 Jewish isn't Jewish; but 1/4 Canadian is certainly enough to be Canadian...