Jewish Members of Congress: A Shrinking Demographic
I was just re-reading an article from The New Yorker that was linked to in lawhawk’s promoted Page, Eric Cantor’s Disingenuous Sequester Talk, and this jumped out at me regarding the yearly Republican retreat that was held this past January:
On the second day, after a 7 A.M. choice of Catholic Mass or Bible study…
My first thought was, “What about the non-Christian members? I know the GOP doesn’t have any Muslim, Hindu, etc. members, but what about the Jewish members, like Cantor?” So I decided to try to find out how many Jewish Republicans there are in the 113th Congress. The answer? One—Eric Cantor is it.
As a matter of fact, Cantor has been the sole Jewish Republican since the 110th Congress, when there were 2 others in the Senate: Norm Coleman and Arlen Specter.
I have no love whatsoever for Rep. Cantor, but it does make me wonder if he feels like an outsider and/or faces much bigotry, even if it’s subtle.
Anyway, the list below shows the total number of Jewish members of Congress from all parties over the past 16 years, followed by a breakdown of the numbers of Jewish Republicans in each house (source):
- 113th Congress (2013-2015) - 32 total; GOP 1 House/0 Senate
- 112th Congress (2011-2013) - 39 total, GOP 1 House/0 Senate
- 111th Congress (2009-2011) - 44 total; GOP 1 House/0 Senate
- 110th Congress (2007-2009) - 43 total; GOP 1 House/2 Senate
- 109th Congress (2005-2007) - 37 total; GOP 1 House/2 Senate
- 108th Congress (2003-2005) - 37 total; GOP 1 House/2 Senate
- 107th Congress (2001-2003) - 37 total; GOP 2 House/1 Senate
- 106th Congress (1999-2001) - 34 total; GOP 1 House/1 Senate
- 105th Congress (1997-1999) - 35 total; GOP 3 House/1 Senate
With the exception of the 106th Congress, it appears the total numbers of Jewish legislators had been steadily growing, then there was a sudden about-face around the time the Tea Party people came crashing in.
I’m aware that correlation doesn’t imply causation, but still…it’s quite a coincidence that Jewish members have shrunk to almost nothing in the GOP and are at their lowest total number in both houses of the legislature in nearly 20 years. The last time there were only 32 Jewish members was in the 104th Congress (1995-1997).
For a party that supposedly cares deeply about the Jewish people, and by extension Israel, the numbers would seem to indicate… well, I won’t speculate on exactly what it might indicate as there’s no way to be sure, so I’ll just say that it strikes me as rather odd and leave it at that.
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has an interesting & detailed report available on religious diversity in the current Congress: Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 113th Congress