Election 2008: Jews part of dramatic political realignment

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, possibly the most quoted political scientist on Planet Earth and maybe beyond,  has published a new book on the 2008 election, which he sees as one of a rare species:  transformational elections that change the landscape of American politics for years to come.

In “The Year of Obama: How Barack Obama Won the White House,” Sabato includes the perspectives of a number of analysts, looking at every aspect of year’s contests.  One conclusion:  the 2008 elections represented a fundamental realignment in American politics, like 1932, when Franklin Roosevelt began a long period of Democratic dominance and 1980, when Ronald Reagan did the same for the Republicans.

Sabato’s analysis suggests that the shift to the Democratic side that Obama triggered is likely to last for a long time. One reason: the dramatic surge of younger voters to the Democratic side, a shift that may continue to impact U.S. politics for years to come.  Ditto the overwhelmingly Democratic vote by important minority groups, including a fast-growing Hispanic community.

Demographic shifts in the country, he said, are changing American politics — and it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans, who are the beneficiaries.

The overwhelming Jewish vote for Obama despite widespread predictions Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, would do better than his GOP predecessors reflected the tectonic shift.

“Obama received 83 percent of the Jewish vote – a  considerable improvement over John Kerry, who received 74 percent,” Sabato  told the Jewish Week.

Those results “completely contradicted the  pre-election media and pundit commentary that had suggested Obama was somehow ‘in trouble’ with Jewish voters. I lost count of the segments on cable news channels about that canard. It’s a good reminder to all of us to question the pundits’ conventional wisdom during election seasons.”

The numerically small Jewish vote isn’t what propelled Obama into the White House, but the strength of that vote despite an email rumor campaign, McCain’s pro-Israel record and fears by some pro-Israel leaders of a dramatic shift in U.S. Mideast policy if Obama won reflected the strength of a national political paradigm shift that Sabato says could keep Congress and the White House in Democratic hands for some time to come.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.