Members of the new 112th Congress are being sworn in today and tomorrow. What’s the Jewish situation look like? This website lists the 39 Jewish Congresspersons (27 in the House and 12 in the Senate), and the below table from the American Jewish Committee shows how Jewish candidates fared in the November elections.
A few things of note:
1) There will (again) be a lot of Jews in Congress. Yay us! 39 is a bit down from the last Congress, but 7 percent of Congress is still a good deal above our percentage in the American electorate.
2) Why did the number of Jews in Congress go down? Simply because it was a bad year for Democrats. I don’t think people like Russ Feingold could have been defeated otherwise.
3) Which of course begs the question, why is “Democrat” nearly (save Eric Cantor) implicit in “Jewish Congressperson”?
The ratio of Jewish Democratic Representatives and Jewish Republican Representatives (38:1) is significantly greater than the percentage of Jewish Democratic voters and Jewish Republican voters. But this ratio is also substantial. In the 2008 presidential election, 78 percent of Jews voted for President Obama; 76 percent voted for Kerry in 2004, and 79 percent voted for Gore/Lieberman in 2000 (this website shows the Jewish vote in presidential elections back to 1916).
Is this lopsided partisanship reasonable? Does it make sense that Jews overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party?
If you know me at all, you know that I think the answer is “no” – right now, it is the Republican Party that better serves Jewish interests and the Jewish people.
But I’m just one opinion, so as the new Congress settles in over the next few weeks, GTJ is opening up this debate: Which political party is better for the Jewish people and Jewish interests, and why? We’ve already recruited a few authors to write on this topic, but if you’d like to contribute, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can tackle a particular topic (like healthcare or foreign policy), or you can speak to the broad debate.