Since the middle of the last century, blacks in the U.S. have been consistently loyal in their support of the Democratic party—loyalty that, as the recent study Steadfast Democrats shows—cuts across economic, religious, and even political divides. Michael Weingrad notes that many of the book’s observations can be applied to the political lives of American Jews:
What I find most intriguing about Steadfast Democrats and . . . why I think it is a book with relevance for observers of Jewish political behavior, is that the authors recognize that politics can become a key component of group identity. It is not that black political solidarity has not historically had crucial benefits for black Americans but that, whether or not those benefits still exist or are cost-effective today, they have become associated over time with black identity itself.
Although Steadfast Democrats mentions Jews but once in passing, they are second only to blacks in the extent to which they similarly defy factors that would in most cases tilt their political identification away from the Democratic party.
Also, as with blacks, explanations for Jewish political behavior are plentiful if not terribly convincing. Liberal Jews are frequently wont to cite religious tradition to explain their politics, as in the catchphrase tikkun olam (about which I have written). Some Jewish progressives do engage seriously with Jewish tradition as they articulate their social-justice politics, yet many invocations of religious tradition by Jewish liberals tend to be misinformed and opportunistic.
Other analyses of American Jewish political behavior, Weingrad argues, are more convincing—but fail “to explain either Jewish identification with the Democratic party today or why Jews in other Western countries today do not have the same loyalty to their liberal and left-wing parties as American Jews do for the Democrats.” The simple truth is that American Jewish group identity has come to include an enduring loyalty to the Democratic party.