I tend to think that when Jews (or blacks, or gays) stop voting it a bloc, it's a sign of progress. It means that we've come far enough and been sufficiently integrated into society not to have to subordinate whatever individual views we might have to our group identity.
Still, for many Jews, there's one issue that trumps all others: Israel.
It may be true that our continued existence as a people depends on the continued existence of the State of Israel. I would certainly never vote for a candidate who I believed would threaten Israel's continued existence. I'd even go so far as to say that I'd subordinate most, if not all, of my other views to this one issue if such an individual were running for office.
But that isn't the situation we're in right now.
For all intents and purposes, only two men are running for president: George Bush and John Kerry. I wish there were someone else running, but there isn't. We have to deal with what we've got.
Bush alone of the two candidates is a clear supporter of Israel. He may have some nutty fundie reasons for this, but who cares. I appreciate the support. I even called the White House a few years back to thank the president for supporting Israel. I may even call and politely thank him again, before politely voting him out of office.
I realize that this requires some explanation. Let's be candid: Bush has said a number of very nice things about Israel. But what has he done? Absolutely nothing. Now, that may be the best thing an American president can do for Israel -- stay out of its business -- but you have to admit, it hasn't improved the situation any.
Now let's take a look at John Kerry. The best piece I've seen on Kerry's relationship with Israel is this article by Lawrence Kaplan for the New Republic. (Unfortunately, it's only available to New Republic subscribers, but the bulk of it is preserved by Kesher Talk's William Leon in his May 3rd post.) The article essentially indicates that Kerry doesn't give a damn about Israel, one way or the other. He does, however, give a damn about the voters -- those who support Israel as well as those who don't. This isn't terribly inspiring, but it isn't terribly threatening, either. We can expect Kerry to say things about Israel that are displeasing to both sides. We can expect him to do as little as possible, for fear of incurring the wrath of voters.
Worst-case scenario? Kerry tries to pressure Israel into making concessions that compromise her security. The pressure can only be verbal, since the threat of economic sanctions would lose him a sizeable number of voters. Israel will resist the pressure, the American Jewish community will be up in arms, and Kerry will back down.
Wouldn't I rather vote for an ideologue than a political whore? Certainly, if that ideologue didn't hold positions with which I disagreed on just about every other issue.
It's become popular among neocons to assert that domestic policy doesn't matter much when you're at war. But I live here. I'd like it if we didn't let the place go totally to hell.
One of the things I like about this country is the separation of church and state. So what am I supposed to think when the government uses taxpayer money to support missionary work? Or opposes abortions and equal rights for gays for the sake of religious principles? Or interferes with scientific research because the data doesn't line up with fundamentalist Christian doctrine? I'm not exaggerating. Stem cell research is one thing Â it's a complex issue, although I know where I stand. But what about insisting that there may be a correlation between abortion and breast cancer, contrary to all evidence? Or refusing to fund research into GBLT communities? If there's anything that should be free from religious influence, it's scientific inquiry.
Another thing I kind of like about this country is democracy. Sure, the American people act like idiots most of the time. But on the whole, it's better that let the idiots get involved than rely on the government to make decisions without our knowledge. The degree of secrecy that this administration has introduced to American government is really quite astounding. The best treatment of this subject that I've seen comes from Matt Welsch's column in the National Post. The gold medal quote:
Is the Bush administration... uniquely venal in its manipulation of information...? I'd wager probably not ...But that's all the more reason for vigilance today. If the next president turns out to be the Antichrist, then the Antichrist will take the reins of a government that has greatly expanded its ability to conduct affairs under the cover of secrecy, and set a tone where public scrutiny and insider criticism is distinctly unwelcome.
I'm sorry this rant has gone on so long. But this is really just the tip of icebergburg for me. There's so much that this administration has done that's upset me -- suppressing evidence of environmental damage by industry, promoabstinencenance-based sex education,
curtailing Medicareicare, cutting veterans' benefits in wartime -- looking back, I can't think of one domestic policy decision they've made that hasn't turned my stomach. And, frankly, I'm not sure they're handling this war thing very well, either.
I love Israel. But I also love the United States. And, in the end, actions speak louder than words. Saying nice things about Israel isn't enough to win my vote at this point.