Why do American Jews vote as they do?
Why do American Jews vote as they do? I believe it is a reflexive fear of Nationalism. Having never been a majority in any nation, Jews prospered (relatively) in the large Multicultural Empires of Central and Eastern Europe. Nationalistic impulses inevitably targeted the everywhere-a-minority Jews. At the time this deep suspicion of Nationalism was adaptive. But with the complete freedom to assimilate or isolate in the US, and the option to make Aliya to Israel, this suspicion is now maladaptive.
There has also been a connection with labor movements. Why? Perhaps, until recently Jews were more likely to be the middleclass skilled laborers, say in the Garment district, than the capitalist boss. Or, at least that would have been the case in Europe where the political loyalties were set. And Socialism was the Utopian brand that strove for International Labor Unions, and earned Jews the name of Cosmopolitans. In the 20th century, Laissez Faire was discounted by the intillectchuooals of the time, as it remains so today. This left only two flavors of Utopianism: Internationalist and Nationalist, Commie or Fascist. Too many Jews emigrated here at the time when the uniqueness and fragility of Constitutional Republicanism was unappreciated. It had been so successful in the creation of America, that ironically, America’s content masses were not much interested in political utopianism. When America was still predominantly rural, the urban issues of unions, and strikes were all somewhat remote and noisome to the folks back home. Jews tend to congregate in cities.
The Jewish religion required a small and condensed population within waking distance of the synagogue. The right to landownership was precarious in Europe, and Jewish farmers did not tend to leave Eastern Europe before it was too late.
So, Jews were urban, labor inclined, and not nationalistic. What remained? Socialism was for the secular, and the non-secular, the Orthodox, were apolitical.
The Civil Rights Movement also cemented this knee jerk leftist Jewish political tendency. Once again, despite altruism being an actual motive, the standing up for minority rights in the nation definitely was in the interest of the Jewish minority as well.
Tolerance, (because Jews wanted to be tolerated), Labor, (because Jews were not capitalists nor farmers), Secular (because a secular commons scrubbed of all religion, is reassuring to those who have spent generations ducking and running from claims of Deicide!), all describe the Jewish vote. But what was once adaptive has become maladaptive.