Last month Commentary published a piece called "Why Jews Hate Palin" that I greatly appreciated. Written by Jennifer Rubin, the piece directly addressed sociological issues that I often raise about my tribe: we’re incredibly privileged, and not very humble, and our political values tend to be circumscribed geographically and class-wise. Rubin was even more unsparing than I am, for she described Jews as rich elitists, stuffy snobs: "those for whom an Ivy League education is the essential calling card for leadership," as she wrote with good acid.
Rubin’s a neocon (I’m guessing; she writes for Commentariat) and so she presumably sees a political value in offering this criticism. I see one, too: Rubin’s assertions help dislodge the Jewish vanity that we are outsiders. No: we’re winners; and we should acknowledge our incredible luck, and show greater respect for those with different socio-cultural attributes. I will be hitting these points often in weeks to come, even though they are uncomfortable-making, because I heard so many Palestinians making these points in the Middle East, more crudely, even anti-Semitically, and I think the answer to intellectual crudeness on important questions is to try and be honest and precise.
Here are the key moments in Rubin’s analysis:
As [Matthew] Continetti observes with savage irony, “The American meritocratic elite places a high priority on verbal felicity and the attitudes, practices and jargon that one picks up during graduate seminars in nonprofit management, government accounting and the semiotics of Percy Shelley’s ‘To a Skylark.’” Given that Jews are overrepresented in these sorts of professions, it is not surprising that they would be among those most put off by Palin…
Palin’s intellectual unfitness in the eyes of Jews was exaggerated during the course of the campaign…
But in affluent communities with large Jewish populations, Down-syndrome children are now largely absent due to the widespread use of diagnostic testing and “genetics counseling.” Trig was not a selling point with many Jewish women who couldn’t imagine making a similar choice—indeed, many have, in fact, made the opposite one….
Palin and her husband had labored at jobs most professional and upper-middle-class Jews would never dream of holding—waitressing, picking “strawberries in the mud and mosquitoes . . . for five cents flat,” sweeping parking lots, and many “messy, obscure seafood jobs, including long shifts on a stinky shore-based crab-processing vessel.” Her populist appeal and identification with working-class voters are rooted in a life experience that is removed by one or two generations from the lives of most American Jews….
In a real sense, by the way she lives and the style she has adopted, Sarah Palin is the precise reverse image of an American Jewish professional woman. The two are polar opposites. The repulsion is almost magnetic in nature….
Palin’s anti-elitism and her embrace of social conservatism, which are now integral to her persona, will in all likelihood continue to make her unpopular with the great majority of Jews. She is not about to change her appearance, her stance on abortion, or her disdain for media elites. And Jews are not about to cast aside their preference for those leaders whom they perceive as intellectually worthy—and socially compatible.