Unpacking the Political Worlds of “Tribal Jews” and “Global Jews”
By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.
Americans in general find themselves living in distinctive political communities, and so do America’s Jews. These political divides today are seen as deep, reflective of two fundamentally different views about how America should be in the world.
These generic divisions find for example “Rust Belt Americans” in disagreement with the views of “Liberal Universalists.” By every standard, class-economics-religion-geography and culture, these groupings of Americans hold profoundly different perspectives about what it means to “be an American.” The former hold an “American First” orientation with its emphasis on nationalistic policies and a rural-small city focus concerning this country’s direction and destiny. Lacking in trust of government and other civic institutions, these voters in the fall of 2016 embraced the counter-establishment message of Donald Trump.
By contrast, the urban-orientated, big-city voters, comprising this second voter cohort, embraced the social-liberal and globalist policies of Hilary Clinton. Drawing on David Goodhart’s analysis of the American political scene, The Road to Somewhere, we find two totally divergent worldviews emerging among this nation’s electorate. Those folks who relish the return to “the good old days” where people felt rooted in their communities, jobs and lives (i.e. somewhere) are seen embattled against the globalists who focus on the future with its emphasis on “anywhere” affording them the opportunity to reimagine the world.
Today, we can observe similar patterns among Jewish Americans. In 2018 we find Jewish behavior being expressed in specific and distinctive political pods. For this purpose we are employing the following terms to express this Jewish divide: Tribal Jews vs. Global Jews.
Just as Americans in general appear to have limited points of connection and agreement with their fellow citizens who hold contrary political views, the Jewish political divisions reflect a similar disconnect between these two competing camps. In previous articles I have shared various observations of the social and political separations that describe the American Jewish scene. The chart below seeks to offer some generalized perspectives about the “characteristics” associated with each camp as well as their respective beliefs.
|Categories and Perspectives||“Tribal Jews”||“Global Jews”|
|Political Orientation||“Identity” Politics: Focus on the Jewish political universe (“Is it good for the Jews?”). Trump is seen as good for Jews and America.||Universal/HumanitarianPerspective: Endorse policies that advance the general welfare of the society. Trump is viewed as problematic, even dangerous by some.|
|Party Affiliation(s)||Republicans-Disaffected Democrats||Democrats & Independents|
|Policies||Welcome Trump’s positions on Israel, Iran, the Palestinians and the UN||Oppose many of the President’s policies on immigration, UN and international cooperation, and the environment, etc.|
|Messages of this Administration||The President speaks for these constituencies who have felt that Washington has not reflected their interests.||This President does not represent their priorities or values.|
|On Anti-Semitism||Worry about left-wing anti-Israel actions and political perspectives; less concerned about Alt-Right, in light of (Steve) Bannon and other’s support for Israel.||Have concerns about extremist positions on the far left and right within American politics. Worry about the Alt-Right and other extremist groups’ ties to Trump.|
|Neighborhood/Community||Religious communities; new American populations (Iranian-Russian-Israeli).||Coastal city Jews and other major urban Jewish population centers.|
|Perceptions of the Other||Liberal Jews seen by this sector as undermining core Jewish interests and values: J Street-NIF-Reform Movement among others seen as problematic.||Trump Jews are accused of only focusing on narrow Jewish interests, demonstrating minimal support for broader social and humanitarian concerns.|
|Religious Orientation||Significant numbers of Orthodox Jews.||Secular & Reform Jews, along with a majority of Conservative Jews.|
|Political Allies||Evangelical Christians and conservative political organizations.||Hispanic, African American, civil liberties & immigration advocacy groups.|
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Steven Windmueller Ph. D. on behalf of the Wind Group, Consulting for the Jewish Future. Dr. Windmueller’s collection of articles can be found on his website: www.thewindreport.com.