Ever since that day in 1960 when I watched a handsome, charismatic young senator from Massachusetts win the West Virginia primary – and then go on to win the Presidency and infuse his youthful enthusiasm into the country – I have had a love affair with American politics.
As an elementary school student, I could define all the “isms” and name all the players. In college I majored in political science. From then until now, I have served in numerous campaigns, walking the streets, standing in front of stores, writing the campaign literature, working in “war rooms” to determine the strategy and celebrating or crying – way too much – into the wee hours of election night. In fact, I am so enamored of the process that I have spent 16-hour days as an election official – and come back for more.
Then there is 2016. As Ron Kampeas of JTA put it, “Hillary vs. Donald is sucking all the air out of the room.” Just when we think we have heard everything, and we believe the election saga could not get any uglier, another sickening news bite rears its ugly head. We want to avoid it, we want to tune it out and we just want it to be November 9 – or better yet, 2020, when we can hope for a Presidential election without this kind of drama.
Still…we are Jews, and we vote. We take it seriously, no matter who the candidates or what the issues are. We may not all vote in lockstep, and we may engage in healthy – or otherwise – debates, but nothing can keep us from discharging our civic duty. We feel lucky enough to have that right and proud that our vote matters. While our numbers are relatively small, our impact is felt.
As the people of the book, we educate ourselves as much as possible about the candidates and the issues. We go to the polls or fill out our absentee ballots. “As Jonathan Woocher observed, ‘Politics is the civil religion of American Jewry,’” as reflected by Dr. Steven Windmueller in “The 2016 Election: Jews and Their Politics,” an article in the February 1 issue of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs.
Windmueller observed that Jews financially support both political parties and many candidates, Jewish voters have a broad range of interests and every Presidential candidate has mentioned his or her special connection to Israel. Further, he said that “in a close election the Jewish vote becomes significantly more important,” especially in such key “swing” states as Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. The Jewish vote is also important in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Illinois, New Jersey, California and Connecticut. While overall voter turnout in the 2012 election was only 54 percent, the turnout of the Jewish vote was 85 percent.
We hope you can tune out the negatives of this election and simply make the best choices of candidates and issues. Voting is a privilege, an obligation and simply the right thing to do.