Finally, a Real Election (Well, Sort Of)
This article first appeared in Times of Israel.
As we know, voters are sick and tired of the “schmutz” (filth) of the present US election. Whereas most of the recent negative personal publicity had focused on Donald Trump, the FBI’s renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails has begun to again seriously tarnish her image and place her starkly in the negative spotlight – not to mention the impact of Wikileaks.
The “schmutz factor” has substantially damaged both candidates and the entire campaign on various levels. Most of us were justifiably outraged by Donald Trump’s statements about John McCain, we were shocked by Mr. Trump’s interaction with the parents of a fallen US soldier, and we were disgusted by his “locker room banter” (hyperlink intentionally omitted).
Similarly, we are aware of the countless Clinton scandals (see also here), as well as Hillary Clinton’s emails against minorities, anti-Israel emails by her senior staff, and her emails against various other groups.
We are utterly turned off by this all. Whereas we Americans want our President to set an example and raise the bar, we are happy to forgo these expectations in various ways this time around. Not that the candidates are personally flawed in all ways – each is blessed with certain great talents – but there is obviously much to be desired.
This sorry situation engenders a most ironic result: This election must be decided on the issues rather than on the personalities. The present US election cannot boil down to a popularity contest, as do most elections, for both candidates would in that case lose. Rather, voters are now compelled to decide based solely on the candidates’ stances on the issues: the war against terror, economic growth, employment, fighting crime, international stability and security, and, for our readership, the well-being of the State of Israel.
We cannot vote based on the candidates’ personal qualities; we can only vote according to their positions on the issues. And that is largely how it should be (although we certainly always seek candidates with good character across the board and who serve as positive personal examples in most ways, and we sorely lament the problems this time).
Shlomo Ha-Melech (King Solomon) wrote: “Like rushing water is the heart of the king in God’s hand; He directs it wherever He so desires.” (Mishlei/Proverbs 21:1) This verse is often interpreted not only to mean that God controls the decisions of political leaders, but that the strings of the entire political system are pulled by God. Perhaps the incredible irony and unprecedented overall nature of the current US election will serve as the boldest contemporary manifestation of Shlomo Ha-Melech’s eternal words of wisdom.
There are gradations of both goodness and badness, even among politicians and their movements and cronies. If we can’t sort out one level of venality or ideological radicalism from another and begin to call things clearly by their right names, we stand no chance to survive as a republic. As it is, the government has been largely emptied of honest public servants and largely filled with the opposite. We have a personal duty to sort things out as adults and vote accordingly.
You might find it interesting to try to correlate historical candidates positions on various issues and the actual policies they pursue once elected. I’d suspect that the correlation would be somewhat weak. Most of the undecideds I know are trying to decide which candidate’s personal flaws are less likely to endanger the Union. Perhaps HKB”H is trying to remind us that as comfortable as we might feel in this great medinah shel chesed, we are still in galut. Our forefathers have heard the same tune before.
I here give thanks to the Almighty for having led me 46 years ago to come home to the Torah and Eretz Yisrael. Whether you reckon us to be in the historical position of end of the exile or beginning of the redemption, I will not quibble. Nor will I (hakattan) attempt to take a halachic position on the applicability of the mitzvah of living in Israel at this present moment, however you interpret that moment. But we believers in the Torah, who are given (and rightly so) to look at the world in terms of absolute religious categories, must realize that we are in a period of fast and violent change. America of one or two generations ago and Israel of one or two generations ago are not the same as they are today, and they will not be the same tomorrow. Perhaps a great leader can help America for the moment to slow the forces of decay, but it is hard to deny that they are occurring. We are also in a cultural struggle here in EY for the soul of the land and people. We need all the best hands on deck for that. Vote your conscience (so will I), but pack your bags and come home. The future of the Jewish people is here and only here!
“This sorry situation engenders a most ironic result: This election must be decided on the issues rather than on the personalities.”
How does this follow? If both candidates were very qualified for the job, then issues can come to the forefront. The more unqualified they are personally, the less important the issues are (and as Joel Rich points out, the less likely their positions mean anything). This is not ad hominem, as we elect people to the office, not position papers.
I would also say that the balance in this post is a little artificial. Your link to Hillary’s “emails against minorities” is to an incoherent youtube video, while Trump’s own defense for his alleged sexual assault as “locker room” talk is accepted unequivocally. Something tells me that if Clinton the person were the Republican and Trump the Democrat, then this post would look very different.
The problem is not the “‘schmutz’ (filth) of the present US election”, but the horrifying flaws of at least one candidate which the press is properly reporting.
Regarding the Orthodox Jewish support of Trump, how could the “holy people” ally themselves with a person of such despicable middos? What happened to being a moral beacon to the world? I’m sad to think that perhaps derech eretz is no longer a basic value of the right wing Orthodox. Orthodox Jews may consider him a “safe” choice because he is not an anti-semite, but if the American people are inclined to elect demagogues, then perhaps the next time we won’t be so lucky.