Posts

Does the Jewish vote even matter?

In celebration of the upcoming Presidential election, GTJ is featuring a weekly column on Jewish voters, and something to do with the local Jewish community.   See below for this week’s column, and click here to take a survey so that we can learn more about the politics of our community.

If you have interest in writing this column in coming weeks, please email noa@gatherdc.org

See week 1 of this feature.

……….

Stephen Richer is the President of Gather the Jews.

……….

Does the American Jewish vote even matter in United States Presidential Elections?

As with many Jewish questions, the answer is “maybe.”

The most obvious factor working against the importance of the Jewish vote is simply the small size of the American Jewish population.  Jews account for only 2 percent of the total population of the United States and approximately 3 to 4 percent of the electorate (Haaretz).  Comparatively, the victory margins in presidential elections since 1980 have been 10 percent, 19, 8, 5, 8, 0, 3, and 7 percent (The New York Times).  This means that even if the Jews voted as one block – 100% for one candidate – they could have tipped the popular vote in only potentially 2 of the past 8 elections.

But American elections are not determined by popular vote.  Instead, electoral votes are distributed to each of the states, and the states give the entirety (in almost all cases) of their votes to the candidate that wins the most votes in the state.

This bears on the importance of the Jewish vote.  In New York and New Jersey – the states with the two proportionally largest Jewish populations – the Jewish vote likely doesn’t matter because both states are Democratic bastions where a slight change in a small segment of the population has no chance of tipping the vote.  But in swing states – states that could be won by either the Republican or Democratic candidate – where the Jewish population is particularly large, the Jewish vote could be a deciding factor.

Consider the famous case of Florida in the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore.  In that election, 35 percent of Floridian Jews voted for Bush.  Had the Florida Jewish vote reflected the national Jewish vote – in which only 21 percent of Jews voted for Bush – then Bush would have lost Florida and, accordingly, Al Gore would have been the 43rd President of The United States.

This phenomenon is not specific to Florida in 2000.  Jews make up approximately 3 percent of the voting population of Pennsylvania, a state that John Kerry won in 2004 by fewer than 200,000 votes.  The Jewish population of Philadelphia alone is approximately 254,000.   A third state that makes the Jewish vote interesting is Ohio; celebrated Jewish-politics commentator Nathan Guttman agrees by noting in Moment Magazine that, “Ohio is also a state where Jewish voters could play a role in a close race.”

With only 6.5 million Jews in the United States, the Jewish vote is hardly a dominant factor in U.S. Presidential Elections (perhaps in contrast to Jewish money – see next month’s column!).  But in certain closely contested states, the Jewish vote could be the deciding factor.  I’m certainly not the only one who thinks so – look at this recent campaign launched by the Republican Jewish Coalition centered on Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.  You can be sure President Obama and the Democrats have something similar planned for these critical, and Jewish-heavy, states!

….  Chart below from the Jewish Virtual Library (December, 2011) ….

State

Estimated Jewish Population

Total Population

Jewish Percentage

Alabama

8,850

4,779,736

0.2%

Alaska

6,150

710,231

0.9%

Arizona

106,400

6,392,017

1.7%

Arkansas

1,725

2,915,918

0.1%

California

1,219,740

37,253,956

3.3%

Colorado

91,070

5,029,196

1.8%

Connecticut

116,050

3,574,097

3.2%

Delaware

15,100

897,934

1.7%

District   of Columbia

28,000

601,723

4.7%

Florida

638,635

18,801,310

3.4%

Georgia

127,670

9,687,653

1.3%

Hawaii

7,280

1,360,301

0.5%

Idaho

1,525

1,567,582

0.1%

Illinois

297,935

12,830,632

2.3%

Indiana

17,470

6,483,802

0.3%

Iowa

6,240

3,046,355

0.2%

Kansas

17,775

2,853,118

0.6%

Kentucky

11,300

4,339,367

0.3%

Louisiana

10,675

4,533,372

0.2%

Maine

13,890

1,328,361

1.0%

Maryland

238,000

5,773,552

4.1%

Massachusetts

277,980

6,547,629

4.2%

Michigan

82,270

9,883,640

0.8%

Minnesota

45,635

5,303,925

0.9%

Mississippi

1,575

2,967,297

0.1%

Missouri

59,175

5,988,927

1.0%

Montana

1,350

989,415

0.1%

Nebraska

6,100

1,826,341

0.3%

Nevada

74,400

2,700,551

2.8%

New   Hampshire

10,120

1,316,470

0.8%

New   Jersey

504,450

8,791,894

5.7%

New   Mexico

12,175

2,059,179

0.6%

New York

1,635,020

19,378,102

8.4%

North   Carolina

30,675

9,535,483

0.3%

North   Dakota

400

672,591

0.1%

Ohio

148,380

11,536,504

1.3%

Oklahoma

4,700

3,751,351

0.1%

Oregon

40,650

3,831,074

1.1%

Pennsylvania

294,925

12,702,379

2.3%

Rhode Island

18,750

1,052,567

1.8%

South   Carolina

12,545

4,625,364

0.3%

Goodbye DC

GTJ’s President Stephen Richer, Guy of the Year Uri Manor, and Vice President Aaron Wolff

The famous Twelfth Century Spanish Jewish poet, philosopher, and statesman Judah Halevi once wrote, “My heart is in the East, but I am in the West.”

Though I’ve only been west of DC for four days, Halevi’s words have already come to my mind.  No city has been better to me than DC, and the excellence of these past four years is due in no small part to the city’s young adult Jewish community.

…..

Four years ago I was a bit lost.  I had just deferred the continuation of my political science studies, and I chose almost carelessly between two destinations that could provide one year for me to collect my thoughts:  Washington, DC or Bogota, Colombia.  The scale eventually tipped in favor of DC, not because of any visit that proved the city’s merit, but simply because an attractive girl who routinely kicked my butt in Scrabble, and who was my superior in policy debates, had told me she would spend the summer in DC.

The courtship amounted to very little (not surprising for those of you who know my ideas of appropriate dress and what constitutes an ideal date).  So within three weeks of moving to DC, I was friendless.

George Washington University had lots of Jews.  I knew that because my Dad routinely informed me about Jewish populations of different campuses.  So seeing as how I was Jewish and 22, I didn’t think it would be too outlandish to hang out on the campus and attend undergraduate events (including debate club!) Oddly enough, this strategy worked, and it especially worked with the Jewish community.  GWU’s Jew world eventually led me to Mesorah DC, which led me to Sixth & I, which soon opened my eyes to the enormous tapestry of Jewish life in Washington, DC.

And the Jewish community, more than any other community, made me immediately and routinely feel like I was valued, that my company was wanted, and that I had a place where I could make good friends who would grow in DC with me.

Before I knew it, I was a Jewish Jockey or “Super Jew.”  On a bad week, I hit three Jewish events.  Good weeks had upper limits of seven or eight.

I developed a reputation among my friends as the person who knew the Jewish scene, so I – without too much prompting from my friends (you guys know I love writing emails) – started sending a weekly email to friends that listed the week’s best Jewish events.  So was born my version of Gather the Jews.

Fast forward to two weeks ago:  I’d just sent out the 130th Gather the Jews newsletter, and I’d logged what was probably my 2,000th hour on the Gather the Jews project.  Total dollars earned = $0.

So why’d I do it?  Because the Jewish community of Washington, DC, never lost the feel it had during my first months in DC.  It still was my home; it still was the place where I could be with tons of my friends; it still was the place where I could learn; it still was the place where I could laugh and be goofy; it still was the place I could go for support; it still was the place where I knew that I could out-dance almost every male (maybe not Josh Stevens!).

That’s why I did it, and that’s why, even after the time spent on GTJ, I owe the DC Jewish community so much.

I promise to continue making this payment from afar, and to the greatest extent that I can, while in law school.  But the day-to-day show will no longer be the Stephen Richer show.  This is my last newsletter (hopefully!); I’ll appear on the blog less frequently; and you won’t see me at Jewish events until winter and summer breaks.

But GTJ is in good hands:  co-founder and vice president Aaron Wolff will still be in town; Rachel G. is starting as our first true staff member next week; and volunteer stalwarts such as Mike W., Jodi T., Noa L., and Sara S. are still putting in hours on the website late at night.

As confident as I am in their abilities, if I could make one request of you the Jewish young adult community of DC, it’s this:  Help us keep making GTJ better.  It’s a true labor of love, but the project is supposed to be an awesome resource for the community, so if we ever cease be this, kindly let us know, and we’ll try to fix it.

It’s been a real pleasure.  See you over Winter Break (and Summer Break… and once I’ve graduated…)

Stephen

 

P.S.  Starships were meant to fly.

P.P.S.  If you’re bizarrely saddened by the fact that you’ll be hearing less from me on this blog and you want to subscribe to my non-GTJ writings listserve, let me know (stephen@gatherdc.org)

AIPAC Policy Conference: Four years, four conferences

From "The Times of Israel" ... yes, the same one that I mention in point 11

Stephen Richer is President of Gather the Jews.  To see two other pieces on AIPAC Policy Conference — on President Obama’s Speech — please click here.

………………………….

Since moving to DC, I’m 4/4 on AIPAC Policy Conference.  That adds up to 12 days, approximately 40,000 Israel supporters, 5,000 media members, 20,000 Ivy League degrees, and 50,000 Prada bags.  It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’ve done my best to do it all:

  1. I’ve heard Obama speak;
  2. I’ve heard Netanyahu speak (twice);
  3. I’ve heard over 25 members of Congress speak;
  4. I’ve gone to breakout sessions on China  led by Marvin Feuer (father of Danny, The Hero);
  5. I’ve scored a record-setting 12 points on my self-invented “Iran Game” (Game rules:  go to a breakout session, stay until one speaker says Iran.  Then can go to another breakout session.  Repeat.  Try to get to as many sessions as you can in one hour);
  6. I’ve gone to at least five speeches by three Makovskys (David) (Michael) (Alan);
  7. I’ve discussed Israel with the outside protesters;
  8. I’ve sung Hebrew songs loudly at the outside protesters;
  9. I’ve run through big groups of protesters and been punched at while stealing their biggest “Israeli Apartheid” flags… only to feel bad later about property theft (asinine protesters have property rights too!  My apologies.)
  10. I’ve been the guy who tried to ask speakers “the question” in breakout sessions;
  11. I’ve sat in the media section and pretended that not only did I know The Times of Israel existed, but that I read it on a regular basis;
  12. I’ve tried to look “unassailably qualified” when checking into the media registration without a pen or laptop;
  13. I’ve learned what a hashtag is and used it (#IAmProIsrael this year);
  14. I’ve live-tweeted speeches to keep me awake (e.g. Harry Reid);
  15. I’ve sat through the abysmally long “roll call” just to cheer for Utah’s congressmen (there are no female Representatives or Senators from Utah);
  16. I’ve paid $5 for a bagel.
  17. I’ve eaten six sumptuous free banquet dinners (AIPAC served dinners in 2009, 2010, and 2011 …  It got too crowded in 2012 … But at each of the three previous dinners there was always somebody at my table who didn’t feel like eating, and the food eventually made its way to me).
  18. I’ve gone to receptions meant for Floridians and Californians, two states I’ve never lived in;
  19. I’ve gone to college parties and told people I was still a student at University of Chicago (but haven’t done since I was 23!);
  20. I’ve seen the Maccabeats perform live at AIPAC twice, but I’m still looking for the guys that sang this Candelight song – they can’t be the same Maccabeats;
  21. I’ve sparked an AIPAC romance;
  22. I’ve made up with an ex-girlfriend over pro-Israel stuff;
  23. I’ve outdanced 90% of a bar’s attendants… At an AIPAC young professional after party (Park, 2010);
  24. I’ve counted out the 5:1 male/female ratio at the Lux afterparty the past two years;
  25. I’ve said “Oh hey man!  How’s it going?” only to walk past somebody at least 100 times;
  26. Etc.

Seeming chaos. But brilliantly ordered actually.

Have I done it all?  No.  Of course not.   AIPAC is so huge and it’s such a flurry of activity that it’s impossible to capture its entirety in 26 simple bullet points (and that’s about all my brain can manage).

But that’s why you have to go.  At least once.  No matter what you think of AIPAC’s policies.   It will maybe be the largest Gathering of Jews under one roof that you ever witness (13,000 attendees this year, probably at least 9,000 Jews), and AIPAC does such a phenomenal job creating its own world inside the Convention Center that by the time you leave hours later, you feel like you’ve just left a casino or opium den, and you have to, disappointingly, step back into reality.

If you missed this year’s event, then check out any major newspaper.  Or check out the writings of community members such as Adam Kredo, Alana Goodman, Phil Klein, etc.  But like I said, you can’t really be told what Policy Conference is – you have to see it for yourself.

This may be my last Policy Conference for a while — leaving DC 🙁 — but it’s been a wonderful run.  Exhausting, certainly, but well worth it.  Thanks to the good people at AIPAC for strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship; thanks to Lynn Schusterman for paying for some of my conferences; and thanks to Gather the Jews and Forbes for giving me the media gravitas needed to get me in at later conferences.

Haters gonna hate.