Richard Chasman

Don Giovanni and Donald Trump

I thought to write a parody of the presidential campaign but the reality is beyond parody. This is an election season like no other in my memory. It started out as a discussion on the proper distribution of wealth in our society. It has morphed into a discussion of sexism and the treatment of women as objects rather than as people.

It’s easy to see Donald Trump as an incarnation of Don Giovanni (one of my two favorite operas).The opera ‘Don Giovanni’ opens with Giovanni’s attempted rape of Donna Anna. Don Giovanni keeps a score book of his seductions which number in the thousands. His sense of worth comes from his score book. But now he is over the hill — no longer able to seduce women with his charm — and resorts to attacking them. In the course of the opera, he uses his status as a nobleman to impress and attack the peasant woman Zerlina.

In his own words, as captured on tape, Donald Trump has made it clear that he sees women as objects of gratification to be used freely and then discarded like a used kleenex. As David Farenthold reports in the Washington Post, ‘Donald Trump bragged in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women during a 2005 conversation caught on a hot microphone, saying that “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” according to a video obtained by The Washington Post.

As of October 23, there are 11 claims by women of being improperly treated by Donald Trump. It is not the Mexican rapists invoked by Trump that present a danger women. Rather the threat of molestation is more likely from Donald Trump, his media advisor Roger Ailes (recently removed from Fox News following reports of forcing his attentions on unwilling women), and copycats influenced by them.

After the third debate, Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the presidency, thanks to the 19th amendment which gave women the vote. They are not taken in by Trump’s protestations and are furious with his degradation of women. Clinton now leads Trump among women by 15 percent, according to recent polls.

At the end of the opera, Don Giovanni descends into the flames of hell. Donald Trump will descend into his personal hell after the election. In the Trump lexicon, there is no word worse than ‘loser’ and he will be tagged as a big-time loser. That’s why he is claiming that the election is rigged and refuses to state that he will accept the election results.

How does the Clinton victory affect us as Jews and supporters of Israel? A Clinton victory means that there will be someone in the White House — the first husband — who understands the problems of the Middle East in depth. If there is any hope for real peace in the Middle East (and the odds are not high), Bill Clinton could be the one to close a deal. Hopefully he will play an important role formulating Mideast policy. A Clinton victory also means a repudiation of the alt-right filth with its anti-Semitism and xenophobia. Whenever any group is singled out, be it Mexicans or Muslims, we know who else is on the list.

In a poll of Jewish voters taken in August (the latest that I could find), the JTA reports that Clinton is demolishing Trump 61% to 19%. However, Democratic candidates for president usually do better — usually 75-80% of the Jewish vote. It’s nice to see that only 50% of the Orthodox community favors Trump. This poll was taken before Trump’s denigrating comments on women were widely publicized. Presumably, Clinton will gain several percentage points among Jewish voters by election day.

No matter what the margin of victory may be, the fact remains that both Trump and Clinton are very unpopular, with the Jewish community and with the general population. Although we will be past the elections in a couple of weeks (thank G-d), the issues remain. The successes of the Sanders and Trump candidacies show a dissatisfaction with the status quo by a large fraction, perhaps a majority, of US citizens.

In an article that appeared in the October 21 issue of the Washington Post, Paul Kane writes of Joe Biden, ‘In St. Louis this month, Biden began his day at Launchcode, a nonprofit trying to help underprivileged workers become technology code writers. Biden belittled having “a lot of economists work for me, Rhodes scholars” who calculate the middle class by salary. “

“The middle class is not a number; it’s a value set. It’s being able to own your house and not have to rent it; it’s being able to send your kid to the local park and know they’ll come home safely,” he said. “It’s about being able to send your kid to the local high school and if they do well they can get to college, and if they get to college, you can figure out how to [pay to] get them there, and when your mom or dad passes away, you can take care of the other who is in need and hope your kids never have to take care of you.” That’s Joe Biden’s definition of the middle class, and the middle class has been clobbered.”’

If it were Joe Biden running against Trump, we might see a 50 state sweep.

We can only hope and pray that the President and Congress will work together to restore the middle class.

About the Author
Richard Chasman, 1934-2018, was a member of the Modern Orthodox community in Chicago. Professionally, he was a theoretical nuclear physicist. Richard, who described his perspective as "centrist," wrote a newsletter for more than 20 years called "Chovevai Tsion of Chicago," on subjects of interest to the Modern Orthodox community.