The Jewish Vote

Seeking the party of the outs.

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However, throughout most decades, Democrats seemed the most welcoming of po­litical institutions for Jews. Jeffersonian Democrats opposed the Alien and Sedition Acts and welcomed Jews into their institutions, such as Tammany Hall. Jacksonian Demo­crats welcomed the Irish, the Germans, and the German Jews, while prejudice against immigrants within the Whig Party often plagued more tolerant Whigs, such as New York's Governor Seward. Upstate New York Republican legislators refused for years to pass legislation protecting Jews from discriminatory practices at resorts and hotels, but the Tammany-dominated Democratic Party passed such legislation as soon as it took control of the New York state legislature in 1913.

Democrat Woodrow Wilson vetoed re­strictions on immigration. Republican Warren Harding signed into law legislation all but ending Eastern European immigration. Democrats Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt ap­pointed many more Jews to prominent federal office than their GOP predecessors. By the 1960s, the Democrats were the party of civil rights, and that policy matched the pre­vailing sentiments within the Jewish community.

The Jewish historian Arthur Hertzberg has written profoundly of the peculiarly sec­ular, nonreligious nature of American Jewish culture throughout American history. This secularism, he claims, combined with a stubborn loyalty to Jewish outsider status, has worked to shape the Jewish community's political behavior--most often, but not always, pushing the community into the Democratic Party coalition.

Perhaps the recent trend to­ward increased religious observance and an ethnic pride among the segment of Jewry that is least likely to assimilate will change this political dynamic--at the same time less­ening the support for church-state separation and lessening the need to cling to the party of the "outs." But until such change or some other unforeseen dramatic change manifests itself, American Jewry will remain an integral part of the Democratic Party coalition.

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Ira N. Forman

Ira N. Forman is the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council and the research director of the Solomon Project.