Wake Up and Smell the Kugel

Cleaning my desk at the end of the year, I found one unfinished story in the pile of numbers I analyzed from November’s elections. I’m not sure anyone cares anymore, even though there are a few lessons to be learned here, so I post it mostly for the record.

Shortly before the election, GOP Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino hooked up with an ultra-Orthodox Rabbi named Yehuda Levin, a man considered to be a dangerous eccentric and fanatic even by the community’s most far right wing elements.

Nonetheless, Paladino took Levin’s advice and undertook a much criticized  effort to win over at least some of the Orthodox vote by the means of extreme gay bashing and making insulting statement denouncing Rabbis he’d never even heard of.

At the time, Carl and Yehuda’s excellent adventure attracted almost universal derision, and was widely considered a failure.

But was it?

New York City has 65 Assembly Districts. In the entire City, Paladino carried two; Staten Island’s ultra-conservative 62nd and Brooklyn’s heavily Orthodox 48th, the home base of the infamous Dov Hikind, who, as per usual, failed to deliver for his endorsed candidate, in this case, Andrew Cuomo.

Paladino carried the 48th 8,009 (50.04%) to 7,553 (47.88%).

Surprisingly, the most striking thing about Paladino’s numbers in the 48th is how low they were. In the context of all the other Republican totals in Brooklyn’s two most Orthodox dominated Assembly Districts (the other being the 45th), Paladino’s showing was a poor one. The Levin strategy therefore must be deemed a failure.

Let’s put things in perspective. In the same area where Paladino was winning 50.04%, Joe DioGuardi was taking 58.93%, Harry Wilson 61.54% and Dan Donovan 64.73%.

The Republican/Conservative candidate for Civil Court, who did not campaign or spend any money got 65.92%. Paladino, who did campaign in Borough Park and spent lots of money there, trailed him by over 15 points. In the 45th, which was also carried by DioGuardi, Wilson, Donovan and the Republican Civil Court candidate (who outpaced Paladino by 16 points), Cuomo joined Chuck Schumer as the only winning statewide Democrat.

The key point to be drawn here was
made in my post-election analysis of the Jewish vote:

“The spectacular failure of Carl Paladino showed that targeting Orthodox Jews by emphasizing social conservatism was not necessarily a vote getter. In fact, too much loud and public talk about homosexuality and masturbation is probably a turnoff among many Orthodox voters. However, it cannot be gainsaid that while social conservatism is often a deal breaker among non-Orthodox Jews who might otherwise consider voting for a Republican, such positions do not disqualify a candidate among the Orthodox.”

Aside from the Paladino/Levin factor there is a larger message to be gleaned from the Orthodox Jewish vote.

My study of it here is limited, as the Election District by Election District results are not posted on the web, and I’m not sure I’d have time to do them justice if they were. But there is a lot here to be gleaned just from looking at the numbers in Brooklyn’s two predominately Orthodox ADs, as well as from the votes for Congress and State Senate in portions of those local districts which are predominately Orthodox.

First some general observations from my Jewish vote piece posted after the election:

ORTHODOXY: Four years ago I observed:

“Jews are hailed by liberals for voting their values as opposed to their interests (something they fail to salute when done by church-going blue collars workers who like to hunt). Orthodox Jews have different values. Once there was rough consensus in the Jewish community on certain issues which served to hold it together politically. Now, that consensus exists less and less. Even among Jews who proudly call themselves pro-Israel, the disagreements concerning which policies would best advance that cause are often so grave as to be insurmountable. ”

According To J Street, Democrats took the votes of Reform Jews 72% to 24%, Conservative Jews by 58% to 39%, and unaffiliated Jews 70% to 25%. The vote among all non-Orthodox Jews was 68% to 22% in favor of the Democrats.

But Democrats lost the Orthodox community 44% to 53%.

And in the thisclose race for senate in Pennsylvania, Democrats won the Jewish vote 71% to 23%, but lost the Orthodox vote by a margin of 36% to 54%.

In the RJC’s survey of selected local races, we find that Long Island Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy beat her Republican opponent by about two to one amongst Jewish voters, but lost the Orthodox vote by a margin of 15% to 64% (most of the others did not admit to a preference). According to Goldberg, similar ratios emerged in races surveyed in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Closer to home, Congressman Anthony Weiner, whose district includes a high Jewish population, an increasing percentage of which are Orthodox in 2010 got 59% of the vote; the last time Weiner had a Republican opponent, in the not particularly Democratic year of 2004 (when John Kerry got only 56% in his district), Weiner got 71%. In Brooklyn’s overwhelmingly Jewish and increasingly Orthodox or Russian 45th Assembly District, incumbent Steven Cymbrowitz, was held to 57% by Joseph Hayon, a Sephardic Jew active in the Brooklyn Tea Party, who spent $615 on his campaign…

Why is any of this important?

Orthodox Jews have larger families than others in the Jewish community. Further, they are far less subject to the attrition of assimilation and intermarriage. Aggressive recruitment of other Jews by Chabad has not hurt their numbers either. These factors are contributing to what Goldberg calls a “slow but steady rise of Orthodox Jews as a proportion of American Jewry.” Also rising over the years has been an increasing militancy in Orthodox religious practice, which has contributed to a concomitant increase in political conservatism.

Meanwhile, the end of the consensus among Jews over what is “good for Israel,“ and indeed a rising number of Jews who no longer even care much about what is “good for Israel,” has made the communal divide in Jewish politics more and more significant with each passing year, and the community less and less liberal as a whole.”

So what did this mean in New York?

It meant that, to a large extent, Orthodox Jew repudiated the Democratic Party lock, stock and pickle barrel.

As noted, the 48th AD backed Paladino, DioGuardi, Wilson, Donovan and the Republican candidate for Civil Court. Chuck Schumer took his Senate race by a not too impressive 53.36% to 45.89%. I would also cite Assemblyman Dov Hikind relative unimpressive (for him) victory with 65.20%, except that his opponent seems to have been strongest in the White Christian Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights portions of the district.

As noted, the 45th AD backed DioGuardi, Wilson, Donovan and the Republican candidate for Civil Court. Cuomo did break 55% here, but while the 48th is overwhelming ultra-Orthodox, the 45th also includes various more modern groups, as well as Syrians and other Sephardim, and less religious, but often politically similar Russian Jews, all of whom were even more likely to be put off by the Paladino/Levin circus. Still, this area, which Chuck Schumer once represented in the Assembly, managed to yield its former homeboy a hardly resounding 57.60% victory in his re-election.

More importantly, Joe Hayon’s 42.16% to incumbent Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz’s 57.80% might be called the $615 wake up call. One can bet that next time, there will be a Republican willing to increase that cash by more than 100-fold in a year when the Democrat will be running on a ticket with a President slightly less popular here than pork bellies.

Some of the results for State Senate and Congress are even more striking.

Eric Adams and Kevin Parker faced only token opposition, yet in his somewhat Orthodox portion of the 48th Adams lost 52.74% to 47.26%. In Parker’s predominately Orthodox portion of the 48th he took 38.17% to the Republican’s 55.61% and the Conservative’s 6.17%. In his virtually all-Orthodox portion of the 49th, Parker took 23.74% to the Republican’s 70.78% and the Conservative’s 5.48%. This is especially striking, because these same voters backed Parker overwhelmingly in his primary just two months before.

Anyone who wants to attribute this to Parker’s legal troubles must deal not only with the fact that Parker won his primary here big, but also the fact that the District’s other predominately White AD, the cosmopolitan 44th, gave Parker an overwhelming general election victory.

Then there is Carl Kruger’s race. Kruger’s only opponent was a Conservative. While in the 45th, Kruger beat him by a pretty handy 70.55% to 29.41% (still lower than his district wide average), he won his portion of the 48th by only 59.37% to 40.60% , and lost his Ultra-Orthodox dominated portion of the 49th by 55.78% to 44.22%.

We turn now to Congress.

Ed Towns lost his portion of the 45th with 36.61% to 57.92% for a Republican candidate who was little more than a placeholder (a Conservative took 5.46%), even though these same voters had helped Towns pound Kevin Powell just two months before.

Similarly, Yvette Clarke lost the 45th to a placeholder Republican by a vote of 38.50% to 61.04%. In the 48th, Clarke took 32.30% to the Republican’s 67.30%.

But, you might say, those were black candidates. Surely, popular Jewish incumbents did better.

But it was not really so.

In Jerry Nadler’s race, the Republican, Susan Kone, was slightly better than a placeholder, but not that much more. Yet Nadler lost his predominately Sephardic portion of the 45th 44.65% to 55.30%. And, in the 48th, which for nearly two decades Nadler has catered to like a proud papa does with a spoiled child, Yeshiva-boy Nadler was beaten 39.42% to 60.56%.

Whatever ever happened to hakoras ha tov?

In Anthony Weiner’s race, his opponent, Robert Turner, actually ran a race, which was largely ignored by the press. Turner took 39.14%. Now, I am not going to claim that Turner got all those votes from Orthodox Jews; he clearly targeted conservative White Christian areas and rampaged through communities like Marine Park and Gerritsen Beach.

But Turner targeted the Orthodox as well, and it worked.

In the 48th, Turner beat Weiner 50.90% to 49.10% and in the 45th, he won 50.15% to 49.81%.

This is jaw dropping.

Weiner is a Citywide figure who these voters once backed for Mayor. Unlike Nadler, who is at the right end of left Zionism, Weiner’s buff card could accurately read “Likud.” If there was ever a member of Congress to have taken the necessary steps to insulate himself from an Orthodox revolt, it was Tony Weiner.

But, it is more than that.

Not only has Weiner represented most of these voters in Congress for nearly a decade and a half, but these voters largely track the original district that elected Anthony Weiner to the New York City Council in 1991.

In other words, Anthony Weiner was this year rejected by the voters who know him the best and for the longest.

That is a pretty profound message.

I found only one real exception to the Congressional repudiation of Democrats by Orthodox Jews in my limited study. In the District shortly to be relinquished by Mike McMahon, I did not bother with the 48th, because the portion of it in that district is mostly White Christian, but there is a mostly Sephardic portion of the 45th. In 2008, McMahon took only 49.37% there, but in 2010, it was the only AD in his District where McMahon improved his showing, earning him 57.73% to Michael Grimm’s 42.74%. It’s a small area, but such an anomaly that I have to guess that the credit goes to McMahon’s Campaign Manager, Jonathan Yedin, who happen to be Sephardic.

But that result is an outlier.

The real lesson is clear. This year, being a Democrat running among Orthodox Jews was an obstacle to be overcome. The once sacred Orthodox pattern of holding down-ballot Democrats harmless for perceived transgressions at the top of their ticket has finally come to an end. This year, the  default vote was Republican, and it was the GOP who was held harmless down-ballot for transgressions at the top of their ticket.

Further, these trends have been building over time . In 2008, 45th AD voters given a choice of voting for Steve Cymbrowitz on the Democrat, WFP or GOP lines, gave him 47.18% as a Republican. The same year, 48th AD voters, given a choice of voting for Dov Hikind as a Democrat or Republican, gave him 52.44% on the Republican line (with another 5.68% of the vote going to the Conservative).

Am I saying Orthodox voters are permanently lost to the Republicans?

Not yet. Factors like the GOP running a boob for Governor do have an impact and can help the Dems.

What I am saying is that Orthodox Jews hate Barack Obama and the Republican are poised to take advantage of it down ballot in a big way.