I am a liberal Democrat. In the American Orthodox community nowadays, that is not the most comfortable thing to be.
My political defect is congenital. I once asked my grandfather, “Zeyde, whom are you going to vote for?” He looked at me with disdain. In his Yiddish accent, he said, “I am a Democrat,” as though I were silly to think he was anything else.
I usually avoid discussing politics, for two reasons. First of all, I live in dark-blue Massachusetts, so my vote doesn’t matter.
Second, talking politics often offends, and I don’t like insulting people. These days, however, many other people say things, clearly assuming I agree with them, that offend me. Why not return the favor?
As you may have noticed, the tone of the current American presidential campaign, already nasty, is likely to get worse. And the stakes — for America, for Israel, for the world — are high.
Never known for its nuance, political discourse has gotten even coarser.
Last month, I was visiting a shul in a neighboring town and met a man who had just come back from Cancun. “Better go back soon,” I suggested, “before Trump builds that wall.”
“Obama is worse,” he replied. He then explained why, at some length, not omitting the current president’s alien origins and religious inclinations.
In segments of today’s Orthodox world here in the States, it is not enough to be disappointed in Obama, to find his achievements meager, his foreign policy flaccid, his rehabilitation of Iran a dangerous outrage.
Nope, not good enough. He has to be a Kenyan Muslim. Yessir.
Also, he pushed through national health insurance. Formerly uninsured people (I meet them in my office every day) can now see doctors. The horror! Obamacare (Quick: name another piece of legislation known exclusively as an insult) is not just flawed, rife with complexity and unintended consequences. No — it is the worst thing that has ever happened since the founding of the Republic. The worst!
And who was his Secretary of State? Hillary!
“I don’t trust Hillary,” is the most common objection one hears about her. She is said to be dishonest, out for herself.
Wow, a politician accused of dishonesty and self-interest. Never heard that one before. Israelis would know nothing about it.
What intrigues me about this charge — everybody knows it’s true because everybody says so — is that when it comes to Hillary, nothing is ever forgiven or forgotten.
Take Joe Biden. People think of him as an amiable bumbler. In a 1988 speech, Biden lifted his whole autobiography from Britain’s Labor leader Neil Kinnock. Are you with me here? He stole somebody else’s life story. Does that speak to character, honesty, anything?
Nah, it’s just one of those things nobody remembers. But with Hillary, everybody remembers. Whitewater. Vince Foster. Everything, forever.
Also, Hillary is said to be “extremely unlikeable.” I will remember that when I invite her to tea. We’re having Dick Cheney over, along with Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, and Andrew Jackson. Should be quite a delightful afternoon.
In March, my wife and I went to the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington. We wanted to hear people say nice things about Israel. We wanted in particular to hear people say nice things about Israel who don’t spout social views we find repellent, such as attitudes towards immigrants that are rather like the ones the real, genuine Americans had toward our own grandparents when they showed up here a century ago. You know: they were all dirty, lazy, criminal freeloaders. And they had so many children.
So look at us real Americans now. Great-Uncle Yankel was first mate on the Mayflower, didn’t you know? We’ve clambered up on deck, so let’s pull up the ladder. Such an old story.
Joe Biden gave a very nice speech at AIPAC. So did Hillary. It was inspiring and well-received. (We left before Trump and the other Republicans arrived.)
Bernie the freeze-dried socialist couldn’t be bothered to show.
On the way home, an acquaintance shared his thoughts. “Hillary said nice things, but then she’s a politician,” he said. “And of course she’s a felon.”
A felon? This was news to me, but I don’t travel in the right circles. When my legal friends failed to enlighten, I searched that font of all wisdom, the internet, and soon found out:
Hillary’s private e-mail server. She purloined classified documents. Of course! Jail her at once.
The felony charge turns out to turn on subtle legal points about which subtle legal minds differ, but never mind. We Orthodox Jews know all about subtle legal points, but not this one. Hillary’s private e-mail server wasn’t poor judgment. It wasn’t stupid. No, it was a felony, nothing less. Case closed. Put her away.
Besides, Hillary worked for Obama, and Obama foisted Obamacare on us. Did I mention that Obamacare is the worst thing ever? The worst!
In my opinion, Hillary Clinton is a highly intelligent, thoughtful, vastly experienced, pragmatic, incredibly hard-working woman with significant flaws. Yatz’ah hefesdah bis’charah, her merits far outweigh her defects. I would support her even had her presumptive opponent not announced that if Ivanka weren’t his daughter, he would date her. He’s said a lot of other things too, but you will forgive me for not repeating them. I just ate.
I met another man in a different shul who, like me, identifies as an Orthodox Democrat.
“I’m going to have trouble in the next election,” he said. “I cannot vote for that woman. She is bad for Israel.”
“That woman” was a nice touch. I thought her middle name was “Rodham.” I didn’t realize it was “Amalek.”
“Worse for Israel than Trump?” I asked him, and walked away.
Trump is, of course, good for Israel. Except last week, when he wasn’t. Anyhow, Sheldon Adelson says he is. And Adelson, like Trump, is rich, so he must really know.
Some conversations are not worth having. When conversations are political, probably most of them.
President Hillary Clinton? President Donald Trump?
Such bad choices, people say. So hard to decide, people say.
No, it’s not. It’s really easy to decide.
I like Hillary.
Ah, but perhaps I offend.