The complaint of the Jewish Republican is a small but hardy feature of our political discourse. The complaint runs as follows: Jews are foolishly ignoring their self-interest by voting for Democrats on the basis of sentimental concerns (secularism, concern for the poor) rather than pursuing their true self interest (maximal hawkishness on the Middle East, low tax rates on the rich) as represented by the GOP. Occasionally these arguments take the form of gloating predictions that Jews will soon join other white ethnics in abandoning their hoary Democratic loyalties. But the glorious Jewish Republican realignment invariably comes to tears, and the predominant emotion of the right-wing Jew is bitter recrimination toward his stubborn co-religionists.
In the new issue of Commentary, Jennifer Rubin has an article (subscription required) entitled "Why Jews Hate Palin." One might suppose it's yet another example of the classic form. In fact, it's a curious inversion.
Rubin begins by trying to establish that Jews harbor an unusually strong distaste for Palin. I happen to agree, but she strangely fails to establish the premise:
In a September 2008 poll by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Jews disapproved of Palin as the pick for McCain’s vice-presidential running mate by a 54 to 37 percent margin. … Naomi Wolf, the feminist writer, sputtered that Palin was the “FrankenBarbie of the Rove-Cheney cabal,” articulating the mixture of contempt and fear that seemed to grip many Jewish women. The disdain is palpable and largely emotional. While 78 percent of American Jews voted for the Obama-Biden ticket, it is fair to say that most did not harbor animosity toward or contempt for Senator John McCain; the same cannot be said of their view of Palin. Prominent Jews like Reagan-era-arms-control official Kenneth Adelman, who expressed great admiration for McCain, proclaimed that the selection of Palin was beyond reason: ‘Not only is Sarah Palin not close to being acceptable in high office, I would not have hired her for even a mid-level post in the arms-control agency.’
Huh. So we have a couple quotes by Jews criticizing Palin, which tells us nothing, because numerous non-Jews (including Republicans) have said the same or much worse. As for as non-anecdotal data, we have the fact that 54% of Jews disapproved of Palin's selection. But Rubin proceeds to tell us that 78% of Jews voted for Obama! In other words, Palin's selection was more popular among Jews than the McCain-Palin ticket. Now, this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. And, like I said, I believe that Jews disproportionately hate Palin. I just find it odd that Rubin does such a poor job proving such an intuitive premise.
Anyway, the bulk of the article is devoted to castigating Jews for their irrational hostility to the brilliant, maligned almost-one term Alaska governor. On top of the usual targeted plea (Palin loves Israel! It's not true that she voted for Pat Buchanan, she just wore his button to be polite!), Rubin does something unusual. Rather than argue that Jews should move beyond their traditional values, she argues that those values are wrong:
American Jews are largely urban, clustered in Blue States, culturally sophisticated...
Jews who have excelled at intellectual pursuits, understandably are swayed by the notion that the presidency is a knowledge-based position requiring a background in the examination of detailed data and sophisticated analysis. They assume that such knowledge is the special preserve of a certain type of credentialed thinker …
Her personal life made her even more alien to American Jews. She comes from the wilderness, brags about hunting and eating native animals, and is a proud gun owner. Then there is the matter of the composition of her family. Outside the Orthodox community, where large families are increasingly the norm, having five children, as Palin does, is aberrant to American Jews. According to Smith’s study, Jews ‘fewer brothers and sisters than any other ethnic/racial or religious group (2.4 vs. an average of 3.8)” and “the smallest current household seize of any ethnic/racial or religious group (2.5 vs. an average of 2.9.”
Palin’s oldest, Track, has joined the military, while many Jews lack a family military tradition.
As she recounts in Going Rogue, Palin and her husband had labored at jobs most professional and upper-middle-class Jews would never dream of holding…
So, in summary, Jews are snobs. They're hung up on academic credentials, biased against rural Americans, gun owners, the military, and the working class. This, of course, is a classic Bush-era trope against liberals. (It's actually a trope that opponents of liberalism everywhere have employed, from the Czars to Mao to Stalin.) The liberal as a cosmopolitan, effete, disdainful of regular people, not a real American (or Russian, or Chinese, whichever the country in question may be.)
But it's also a classic anti-Semitic trope. Indeed, in Europe, anti-liberals traditionally incorporated anti-Semitism into this line of attack, using the disproportionate presence of Jews among the liberal intelligentsia to help give weight to this attack. When American conservatives revived this trope during the Bush era, they scrubbed it of all anti-Semitic content. The target was Blue State America, the tiny, unrepresentative cloisters of educated secular snobbery where real America was totally foreign.
It's beyond strange to see this argument explicitly targeted at Jews, in a Jewish publication of all places. Rubin cannot hide her contempt at the snobbery of her co-religionists. "Jews are not about to cast aside their preference for those leaders whom they perceive as intellectually worthy—and socially compatible," she concludes. Jews hate Palin because they distrust Real Americans. Fortunately, we have a few enlightened souls at Commentary able to rise above such petty prejudice.