Kings County may be Barack-lyn now, but the President-elect’s unorthodox candidacy turned many Democratic south Williamsburg voters into McCainiacs.
While Barack Obama won the vast majority of Brooklyn votes in the Nov. 4 election, McCain drew more than five times as many votes as Obama in the largely Hasidic neighborhood between Flushing Avenue and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — even though registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one in the area.
In the area’s three election districts, McCain gave Obama an 84-percent-to-16-percent thrashing. Those numbers stand in stark contrast to the overall Brooklyn vote, which went 79–20 in Obama’s favor.
Then again, south Williamsburg is unique. Census data show that more than half of the population is not in the labor force and 75 percent of residents speak Yiddish in the home.
And it’s not as if the McCain supporters flaunted their love of the Arizona senator. McCain buttons and “Country first” signs are rare — and flashy “Republican red” is never the color of the day in a Satmar Hasidic neighborhood dominated by black hats, coats and side-curls.
Obama won 77 percent of Jewish votes nationally, according to exit polls, but Williamsburgers didn’t like the first-term senator’s temperament. That’s ironic, given that some McCain supporters derided Obama as the candidate who would undermine Israel — something Satmars believe must happen for the Messiah to come.
But on the streets, “Israel wasn’t a big issue,” said McCain supporter Shlomo Friedman, 50, the owner of Meyr Auto Center on Flushing Avenue. “It’s more people here are not going to go with someone [Obama] who’s not so stable.”
Even younger voters were looking for a steady hand. Saul, a 28-year old restaurant manager and self-described liberal, voted Republican because he was “more comfortable with McCain running the economy.”
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) visited the neighborhood to stump for Obama, but Satmar leaders made no endorsement.
Still, several residents said that Rabbi David Niederman, the director of United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, made his influence felt.
“Hasidic people don’t care who the president [of the United States] is, they just ask somebody who knows something — like people at UJO,” claimed a bearded fishmonger, who refused to share his name, as a co-worker nodded.
There could be a simpler reason for McCain’s overwhelming support — his age.
“My wife and I were for McCain,” said Shlomo, a 25-year-old teacher. “The Jewish religion says we have to give respect to the elderly and listen to what they have to say.”
©2008 Community News Group
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