Why Religion Can be A Source Of Influence for Latinos, Too.

By Alex Gonzalez

There is a new Study by the Solomon Institute regarding Jewish voters in the US.  The study overwhelmingly shows that Jewish-Americans are Liberal and vote Democrat. However, why is it then that Republicans (especially Evangelicals) are so concerned with issues affecting Israel?   The answer  is  clear and deals more with religion than anything else.  America is a very religious nation; and Jewish-Americans–just like any other protestant group in the past as well as Irish-American Catholics–have learned to use religion to advance their religious causes by combining religion and politics.

The study by the Solomon Institute shows that plurality among Jewish voters is consistently liberal and about 75% have voted Democrat since the 1970s.  American Jews number about 5.5-6.5 million in the U.S. making up less than 2% of the U.S. population — certainly not one of the biggest voting blocs in the American electorate.  Yet, since the middle of the twentieth century, American Jews have played an outsized role in all aspects of modern American politics.  For this and other reasons, commentators seem fascinated by the Jewish vote, devoting inordinate attention to the way in which the community has cast it ballots in presidential elections.

A large plurality of Jewish voters identify themselves as liberals, and these numbers too have been relatively stable over time.   For example, in 2008, 45% of Jewish voters called themselves liberals compared to 12% who labeled themselves conservatives.  Between 1976 and 2008, 36%-46% of Jewish voters identified themselves as liberals and 10%-21% identified as conservatives.

Since 1992, Jewish support for Democratic presidential candidates has increased compared to prior decades, with no evidence of significant or lasting gains for Republicans. As in the rest of the electorate, female Jews and more highly educated Jews vote Democratic in higher numbers. These subgroups are also more liberal and are more likely to identify with the Democratic Party. Unlike the electorate at large, young Jews are not more likely than their elders to vote Democratic, though their support for Democrats has increased such that more than three-quarters of Jews under 30 supported the Democratic presidential candidates in the years 2000-2008. The Jewish vote for congressional Democrats has never dropped below 70%.

But it was only until elite Jewish religious leaders fully embraced their identity that they were able to create a link between the U.S.  and the  biblical connection between Evangelicals and  Israel.

According to John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M’s book The Israel Lobby and the U.S. Foreign Policy, it took political maturity and sophistication for the Jews to garners power in the political process. The Jewish-American and the Israeli Lobby are among the most influential and successful political ethnic group that has been able to push for economic, cultural, and regional  political clout.  This means that Jewish Americans are working together with other religious conservative groups to guarantee the economic and military strength of Israel. As a result, religious Israeli groups in America also connect conservatives religious groups to Israel  by turning the Jewish state into the land of biblical proportions.

John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt point out, in the books, that our Pluralist Democracy allows for different groups to compete for power and influence, which is as old as American democracy itself. And, the Jewish-American religious and elites just happen to be the most successful.  Therefore,  religion is another part of  Jewish/Israeli cultural influence in U.S.  Many U.S Christians wield unconditional support to Israel in response to the biblical divine plan

Some Republicans argue that another reason why Republicans woo Jewish voters is for financial gain. Many wealthy Jewish liberal businesses and Jewish-Americans tend to be very philanthropic, and thus, donate to Republican politicians and candidates who will promote the security of Israel.  Liberal Jewish money, therefore, ends up in Republican campaign coffers, and  is the means by which even Liberal Jewish voters, or philanthropists, also seek to preserve the security of Israel, even if they are non religious or vote for Republican candidates. In other words, Liberal Jewish-Americans often will often align themselves with Republicans when they do not find a cohesive US-Israel agenda in democratic circles.

Thus, there are fundamental factors by which Jewish-Americans maneuver their power within Republican and conservative circles, even when 80% of Jewish Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat. First, elites (intellectual) and religious leaders have built an important “biblical” connection with the Evangelical base of Republican Party.  Additionally,  Jewish Liberals who are wealthy tend to be philanthropic and donate any politician promoting the welfare of Jewish states.

And there is no other way to rationally explain why the GOP caters to Jewish conservative other than religion and money. Latinos, proportionally vote Republicans in greater numbers than Jewish Americans do. For example, in 2004, 44% of Latinos voter for Bush while only 21% of the Jewish vote went to Bush. Additionally, in 2008 29% of Latinos voted for McCain while only 23% of Jews voted for McCain.   Moreover, the US and Mexico alone have $470 billion trade while trade between the US and Israel is only $17 billion. And as the Solomon Institute points out, there are only about 5.6 million  Jewish-Americans while the population of Latinos in the US is about 52 million.   Thus, signifying that religion does play a great role in the connection between Republican Evangelicals, Jewish-Americans and Israel.

This religious path  can be vital for other groups in the U.S. Jewish ascendency to power can also be a path for Latinos who as they become became more affluent,  can be more confident and culturally assertive; thereby more cohesive, and more aware of their numbers.  This will help them to become more astute in the game of Plural Democracy.  Latinos can utilize their money and large number of  voters  to further their conservative cultural and religions causes, even if some self-identify themselves as Liberals. And this can be surprisingly easy to achieve for Latino elites and religious leaders since there is strong Catholic movement within the Republican Party.  Additionally, Latino conservative intellectuals should seek to draw the connection between the Religious needs of the GOP and the natural Catholic inclination of Latinos the same way Jewish conservatives linked the interests of the evangelical to the Holy land. After all, it is just a matter of time until the Jewish-Americans can also begin to look into supporting Latino politicians to find more support for Israel and the religious Judeo-Christian culture.

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Jewish-Americans had Israel to build religious resilience and political clout within conservative circles in the US. Irish-Americans had Ireland and Catholicism to build political power in the Democrat Party.  Cuban-Americans had Cuba as the motivation to align themselves with the Republican Party. What Latinos need is to utilize use their religions to align their Catholicism to the long-term interests of the Republican Party.

Religion is a powerful force in politics.  In the years to come,  Jewish-Americans and Latinos in the US will need each other.  There are about 52 million Latinos–compared to only 6 million Jewish-Americans–who can learn from the Jewish community. And if the  Hispanic elites and religious leaders want to achieve the same level of success that Jewish-Americans have obtained, Latinos need to learn about culture resilience and intellect, as opposed to a culture of silence and redress.

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