Choosing Sides: The Search for Perfection in Politics

We are, thank God, drawing closer to that glorious day when this election campaign will be over. It has been the longest and most intensive battering of our collective consciousnesses that I can recall, and if I feel this way, I can’t even begin to imagine how the candidates must feel. Surely we have enough information with which to make an informed decision.

Most of the people whom I know made up their minds a long time ago whom to vote for; relatively few are undecided. But those who are- at least from my perspective- are looking for the perfect candidate. They want someone who represents their views on just about everything. It seems as if they want some idealized, air-brushed version of a candidate, and reminds me of the comedy piece that makes the rounds among rabbis from time to time about the “perfect rabbi.” He/she gives all his money to charity, but wears Armani suits, gives all his time to the synagogue and community, but is a great family person.

If the perfect paradigm of a candidate is our goal, we might as well give up now, because said person does not exist. Yes, it would be nice to have someone who had the wisdom and experience of advanced years and the freshness and creativity of youth, but these kinds of syntheses are fantasy constructs that we make up to describe what we would want in a president. I, personally, am still waiting to find out that Jed Bartlett really is the president, and his cast of amazing support personnel is hard at work in the West Wing. But alas…

Funny to be reading about Noah this week… he whom God chooses to be the progenitor of the world’s population, take two. Noah is not a paradigm of perfection. He is flawed. And God chooses him anyway. Dare we speculate that, in recognition of a flawed world and a flawed humanity, God picks the best person available? Genesis is replete with flawed characters, most of whom- the men and the women- are those whose names we invoke constantly in our prayers. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah… No angels are they. And yet we revere them in all of their messiness and imperfection.

My own opinions aside, the one choice that we can all make and feel good about is to vote. With all the chaos in the world, and all the repression, our very flawed country is still one heck of a great place to live. There is no better way to honor that recognition than to exercise our right to help steer it in the direction of our choosing.

About the Author
Rabbi Gerald C. Skolnik is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Forest Hills Jewish Center in Queens.