The political behavior of the preponderance of Jewish Americans is in no way substantively different than that of secular liberals of any other religious background. Reform Judaism has been called “the Democratic party platform with holidays thrown in,” and the services in a Reform temple have been described as “the Democratic Party at prayer.”
Nor is the association between Jews and the Democratic Party a new phenomenon. Since exit polling began in 1972, Democratic presidential candidates have received on average 70% of the Jewish vote. In fact, according to several scholars, the 1920 presidential election was the last contest for the White House in which the Republican candidate bested the Democratic candidate among Jewish voters. And that was because the Socialist candidate, Eugene V. Debs, siphoned support from the Democratic candidate, Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, capturing 38% of the Jewish electorate.
Personally, I’ve grown accustomed to Reform and even Conservative rabbis using — and arguably exploiting — the pulpit, especially during the High Holidays, to advocate for public policies virtually unilaterally endorsed by the Democratic Party (e.g., universal healthcare and gun control). Still, I was taken aback this year when a rabbi in my hometown used her sermon to preach the benefits and necessity of electing America’s first female president. I’m no constitutional scholar, but that action would seem to be a violation of her institution’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit status.
The “Jewish vote” matters, but most Jewish Americans don’t vote as Jews; they vote as liberals.