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How memories paralyze: Why Jews and blacks vote Democrat, cont’d

Jewish World Review January 28, 2003

In Part I, I argued that it is not
Democratic positions that most entice nearly all blacks and the great
majority of Jews to vote Democrat. Rather this lopsided voting is more a
function of the two groups’ respective memories.

As a result of millennia of Christian oppression of them, many Jews still
fear religion, particularly Christians and Christianity, even though all the
Christian anti-Semitism was European; and as a result of the Nazis, many Jews
fear anything labeled “right wing.” As for blacks, because of centuries of
slavery and racism, many black Americans continue to harbor great anger at
whites and at America.

If these memories accurately assessed today’s white, Christian and right-wing
Americans, Jews’ and blacks’ overwhelming support for the Democrats would
surely make sense. Indeed, they would mandate such voting.

But these memories do not apply today, and therefore they are having a
paralyzing effect on America’s Jews and blacks.

The fact is that most white Americans have changed; most are no longer
racist. Regarding race, most white Americans would probably like nothing more
than to forget about race, as they no longer deem either their own whiteness
or blacks’ blackness to be of particular significance. I know from years of sp
eaking to black callers to my radio show, however, that this is almost
impossible for many of them to believe. They ask, in effect, “Are we blacks
really supposed to believe that in the course of one generation an entire
mindset — that of white racial superiority — has simply disappeared?”

The answer is largely, though of course not universally, yes. One reason is
that most Americans are decent people, another is the non-racist education
they have received. A third is the unprecedented personal and media exposure
to blacks that this generation of whites has received. And a fourth reason is
that in order to believe that skin color determines a person’s traits or
worth, you have to be not only evil, you have to be an ignoramus; and
regarding race, most Americans are no longer ignoramuses. They know too many
wonderful people of all races.

As for Jews’ fears of American Christians, they are even less fact-based than
blacks’ continuing anger at whites. American Christians were never the
anti-Semites of Jewish memory. Those were European Christians who persecuted
Jews for all those years, precisely the Christians that America’s (Christian)
founders fled to establish this different society. American Jews’ fears of
American Christians are therefore simply irrational, especially now when
Christian Americans (outside of the National Council of Churches) are the
Jews’ and Israel’s most loyal friends.

Memory also explains American Jews’ irrational fears of the right. Because
the Nazis are widely deemed far rightists (yes, Nazism stood for National
Socialism, but no leftists or socialists considered it an ideological ally),
Jews continuing to only look rightward for anti-Semitic threats is both silly
and dangerous. It is silly because it is like looking only to the right when
you cross a two-way street because your grandfather was killed by a car
coming from the right. And it is dangerous because since World War II, and at
this very moment, the greatest anti-Semitism has come from the left.

The result of all these misperceptions on the part of blacks and Jews is that
the Democratic Party understands that in order to maintain its overwhelming
black and Jewish support, it must abet black anger at whites and abet Jews’
fears of Christians and conservatives. And this they do well, to the great
detriment of the country.

There are signs, however, that this strategy, at least vis-a-vis the Jews, is
beginning to fail. Many Jewish Democrats are thanking God that Christian
conservative Republicans (George W. Bush and Dick Cheney) rather than
Democrats (Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman) are in the White House. And as they
look around, they find that in a world that once again has a cold spot in its
heart for the Jews, virtually all their allies are conservatives.

As for blacks, I am less sanguine about the immediate future. A generation of
blacks has been repeatedly told by their leaders, by liberal educators,
liberal media, and by the Democratic Party that America and whites are
racist. They have also been told that the only way out of the social problems
that plague parts of black life is through the Democratic Party.

What then should Republicans do? Talk to and especially listen to blacks.
Most blacks want, more than anything else, to know that they are being heard.
We can ask blacks not to allow their memories of centuries of racism to cloud
their views of America today, but they can ask the rest of us not to forget
those centuries. We therefore have to say sincerely to blacks, “We will not
forget what this country did to you.” Only when blacks know that we remember,
will they allow themselves to stop being preoccupied with remembering.

With Christians speaking up for Jews and conservatives hearing blacks’
memories, the Democrats will no longer be able to win elections by appealing
to black anger and Jewish fear. What a better America that will be.

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