An abridged version of this post appeared in FrumForum. Stephen Richer is a co-founder and director of Gather the Jews. The opinion expressed below belongs solely to Stephen Richer — not to Gather the Jews.
As noted in a FrumForum post by Fred Messner, the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) insists that Israel remain a topic of debate. After all, given the President’s recent “67 borders speech,” and opinion articles like Charles Krauthammer’s “What Obama Did to Israel,” Israel might put a few American Jews into the Republican camp. (Also see, e.g. Alan Dershowitz, “Obama Explains – And Makes It Worse,” Brett Stephens, “An Anti-Israel President,” Robert Satloff, “Obama Walking a Fine Line on Borders Issue.”)
But though Israel will undoubtedly be the centerpiece of the Republican strategy for winning American Jews, Israel is by no means the only card in the Republican Jewish hand. Judged by traditional Jewish values and interests, the Republican Party does quite well across the board, from foreign to domestic.
The kind editors of FrumForum permitting, I will address one issue each Friday (posted before Shabbos of course!) on which the Republican Party has a strong claim to being the better Jewish pick.
Today, consider quotas, taking higher education as the example.
Prior to the 1920s, Ivy League schools admitted students through a simple exam – if you passed, you were admitted. Jews excelled, and by 1925, Jews accounted for 28 percent of Harvard and 14 percent of Yale, despite being only two to three percent of the general population. Years, later Harvard imposed a quota limiting the number of Jewish students to 15 percent, and Yale put its limitations at 10 percent.
In today’s educational world, no quotas limit Jewish enrollment per se. However, by mandating a (unjustifiably large) percentage of other racial and ethnic groups – a quota – Jews (and Asians) are squeezed out of spots they would get if admissions were based solely on merit – scores and grades. Regarding the Michigan affirmative action case of the early 2000s, Judge Danny Boggs, “noted that ‘a significant proportion’ of the Michigan law school applicants who lose out because of ‘diversity’ preferences are Jewish. Though the plan is pro-minority, not anti-Semitic, it reduced the number of Jews much the same way anti-Semitic Ivy League admissions policies did the in 1930s.”
Judge Boggs further claimed that, “the law school and the court will certainly deny this, but that is where the figures unavoidably lead us” because Jews now represent two percent of the population and 23 percent of the Ivy League and other competitive institutions (including University of Michigan).
In short, in a racially blind system that judged solely on merit as measured by test scores and GPAs, Jews would rise above even 23 percent. But in a society with quotas, high-scoring Jews get squeezed out by lower-scoring students from racially preferred backgrounds. Though this phenomenon is perhaps most apparent in higher education, it affects Jews in other competitive environments that use quota systems – be it in the corporate board room or in racially redrawn electoral districts.
And who supports such quota systems? Many people; but Democrats do to a far greater extent than Republicans. In the 5-4 Michigan affirmative action ruling, all four justices opposing racial preferences were Republican appointees. Chief Justice Rehnquist’s quote from the case accurately reflects the sentiment of many conservatives: “Stripped of its ‘critical mass’ veil, the law school’s program is revealed as a naked effort to achieve racial balancing.”
By contrast, liberal democrats such as Nancy Pelosi fight to keep quotas in school and seek to put quotas in new domains such as financial provisions of Dodd Frank.
As noted by Earl Raab, Jews have always latched onto the American ideal that “all ethnic groups have the right to be rewarded on individual merit, regardless of ethnicity.” The Republican Party embodies this meritocratic model more than Democrats do.