Personal Invitation to an Orthodox Community Bloc Party
by Shlomie Boehm
Our community is being invited to a party. Valuable party favors will be distributed. There is just one caveat — the community must show up en masse, for ten to fifteen minutes per person. I am talking about the November 6 elections.
Just a few days remain until the 2012 elections, and political fever has gripped the country in a manner unprecedented since perhaps the Civil War. Everywhere you turn people are debating the pros and cons of candidates, frequently with passionate views on both sides of the debate. The presidential race is currently viewed as a dead heat, and many local New York elections, as well as local elections around the country, are similarly a dead heat. Candidates, particularly for State Senate and Assembly positions, as well as candidates running for the United States House of Representatives, are so desperate for every vote that they are happy to meet with even small groups of constituents in the hopes of garnering those one or two elusive votes that may decide their campaigns. Importantly, close elections are wonderful news for bloc constituencies, such as the Orthodox community.
A “bloc constituency” is a group of voters that share strongly held common concerns that motivate them generally to vote for the same candidate or group of candidates in an election. For example, Israel, tuition credits, and traditional values constitute just some of the many concerns that unite members of the Orthodox community. Therefore, politicians logically expect that our community will support the candidate most likely to champion our community’s concerns. Political candidates love bloc constituencies because it allows them to win over a large number of voters by virtue of taking a political view on just a small handful of issues. And, politics being politics, many candidates are flexible when it comes to recognizing that, lo and behold, those very causes and concerns of the bloc constituency coincide with beliefs and issues that have always been near and dear to the candidate’s heart. But, of course, there is one critical condition; the bloc must actually vote!
It would seem blindingly obvious that members of our community each have a tremendous incentive to vote. The Orthodox community is a classic bloc constituency, and in many communities represents a sufficient number of voters to make or break an election. As a linchpin bloc, the tradeoff for our vote is substantial. In reciprocity for its vote, the bloc would expect the candidate, when elected, to champion the bloc’s various concerns. Otherwise, of course, the bloc can be expected to change its loyalties in the next election. So, our bloc elects a candidate, and we then have a voice on Israel, on tuition credits, on traditional values, and on whatever issues may be most important for our community! Naturally, depending on the size of the bloc and on the composition of other voters in the relevant district, it may be impractical for a particular candidate to champion all of the causes and concerns of the bloc, but at least the candidate will champion as many of the bloc’s causes as is practical.
Unfortunately, whether due to laziness, apathy, or sheer lack of common sense, many members of our community too frequently have slept through the voting bloc party, at an incalculable cost to our community as a whole. If we do not show up to vote, then we are not a bloc vote, we are not a vote at all, and our politicians have limited incentive to heed our concerns. Failing to vote is inexcusable. Our community can’t afford to leave money on the table and to mute our political voice out of incompetence or laziness.
VOTE. Persuade your family and friends to vote. Assist in bringing the elderly or disabled to vote. Rabbonim and community activists, convey to your communities the moral imperative to vote. Simply put, all eligible voters, male and female, should vote in their capacity as contributing members of a democratic society, but if for some reason that does not get you to the voting booth, let this persuade you: if you neglect to vote, you are effectively failing our community and blocking our community’s access to the funds and political voice that we so desperately need.
All I am requesting, on behalf of our community, is for a few minutes of your time. If your vote could obtain additional money for schools or for members of our community, if your vote could help achieve political support that saves lives in Israel, if your vote could help preserve traditional values in our society, all for just the merest modicum of effort, of hishtadlus, necessary to vote, how can you say no?
So, please consider this a formal personal invitation to our community’s voter bloc party on this coming November 6. I look forward to seeing you there.
Shlomie Boehm is an attorney, and lives in Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, New York.
A modified version of this article originally appeared in Hamodia.
I believe that prominent Rabbis have urged Orthodox Jews to vote,
but I do not remember any specific names or sources to prove it.
Maybe someone reading this message can provide the missing names and sources.
And a special note to those affected in the Rockaways, Long Beach, etc…
One candidate wants to drastically reduce FEMA and government involvement in disaster relief. Keep that in mind over the coming days, weeks, months and years as you rebuild your communities.
I definitely agree that as many traditional, Orthodox Jews should vote as possible, although I would question voting on the basis of which political party would give us more money for our Jewish schools. Every so-called gift has its price, after all. Do we really want the government to dictate what we teach in our schools or whom we can hire as teachers, when the government is beholden to special interests groups whose values are often antagonistic to Jewish values? Better that we vote for which candidates/political party will leave us Jews alone to live our lives in our local Jewish communities as we see fit.
But to address the question of us traditional Jews voting in general, I have come across too many religious Jews who not only do not vote, but are not even registered to vote. They claim that it makes no difference who they vote for, since everything is in G-d’s Hands anyway. Yet I do not see them having that attitude when it comes to anything else in their lives, such as making a living, going to the doctor, educating their children…they always make an effort when it comes to those things. We are supposed to be partners in G-d’s creation, not His passive recipients.
I second the opinion that New York voters, especially, should look at the candidates and their stance on FEMA.
With seven years to learn from Katrina, and over a week of warning that a storm of unprecedented size would hit the tri-state area, FEMA was once again miserably unprepared.
It purchased $1 billion in dehydrated food in 2011, but that food is nowhere to be found. New Yorkers are diving into dumpsters. There is no food, there is no water, there is no gas, and there are no excuses. Only now is FEMA soliciting for food and water to be delivered.
So yes, one of the candidates thinks this is an excellent record. The other believes that the states, with their own National Guard units and local disaster planning, can do a much better job preparing, acquiring and distributing critical supplies, than a nationalized government bureaucracy with a consistent record of incompetence.
To Yaakov Menken:
Are you honestly comparing the approach of federal government officials and FEMA in New Orleans with how they have been in New York and New Jersey?
That is revisionist history at its worst. The size and scope of Sandy (the actual storm, and certainly the population affected, is vastly greater. State officials, including the Republican governor of New Jersey, have been effusive in their praise of the federal government and of its chief executive. Katrina was a far different story, and you know it.
Does more need to be done? Absolutely. Starting with the utility companies, which have been absolutely abysmal in their response. One candidate would want less regulation, while another–if re-elected–will no doubt be pushing for more oversight and accountability of these corporate behemoths.
The states are completely ill-equipped to do this on their own…there are times when a strong federal government is needed (not just over the next few days or weeks, but in the coming months and years for the rebuilding) and to pretend that we can continue to send in our clothes and donations and all will be fixed is a serious mistake. It is a welcome supplement, to be sure, but hardly sufficient.
Sorry for stating the obvious, but the problem with voting as a bloc is that you have to vote as a bloc — meaning everyone agrees to vote together. The Orthodox community is nowhere near that – from what I can tell it will split its vote at the next election, at least at the presidential level. That is not necessarily a bad thing — but a bloc vote it isn’t.
(If such a “bloc” were organized, who would determine whom the bloc would vote for? By chassidim , that is the rebbe and his askanim. Anyone in such a position among the Orthodox community at large?)
There is already too much “community pressure” on other issues where Jews actually have more than one halachically acceptable option, but some machers want it their way only. Do we need one more thing to be pushed around for?
Just because both options are halachically acceptable doesn’t mean both make equal sense.
For Reb Yid, Rudy Giuliani’s critique of FEMA in NY: “The response since the time the president got all this praise and credit and press op has been abysmal. I think that FEMA is as much a failure now as it was at the time of Katrina. I do not understand why there is not enough water in NY… the minute he got his pat on his back, we have the same situation we had in Benghazi. He loses focus.”
“Just because both options are halachically acceptable doesn’t mean both make equal sense.”
Offer info and let Jews make personal decisions based on their personal sense.
Is Giuliani the current mayor?
Last I checked, it was Mike Bloomberg, who used the storm as an opportunity to endorse Obama for President. The primary reason? His understanding of the dangers of climate change, and the commitment to use the power of government to address its impact.
I’m pretty certain Shloime was hoping the comment section wouldn’t turn into a partisan discussion. The message is to vote, because that’s how politicians know that we are a community to be reckoned with.
If the Mayor really believed in his climate change idea before Sandy, why did he do nothing back then to protect or move vulnerable shoreline communities? He had many years as Mayor to attempt this.