By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
As Democrats lurch further to the left and Republicans tend increasingly to adopt moral and traditional positions, frum Yidden tend to be more aligned ideologically with the Republican Party.
The election of Barack Obama has highlighted a gradual shift in Jewish voting patterns as the changes in party doctrine are being felt at the grassroots level. Obama’s extreme liberal positions on moral issues; his socialistic approaches to the economy; his ingratiating speeches to European and Muslim audiences contrasting with his toughness towards Israel, have many in the Orthodox Jewish community worried.
The great euphoria over Obama, who was elected with so much hope and promise, has dissipated. Just one year later, much of the hope has turned to fear and the promise to betrayal. The great potential for change has collapsed into a morass of Washingtonian pragmatic hypocrisy. The promise of inspired leadership has slowly fizzled out.
The shortage of such leadership in the world at large is one of our generation’s most acute problems, affecting every society and industry. People are bewildered and lost, seeking leadership in a drifting world. People look for someone they can rally around. They seek someone who can put their feelings into words and give voice to their concerns. Yet, strong, honest, selfless leaders – who act in the best interests of the people they serve – are in very short supply.
By contrast, manipulative, scheming politicians are ubiquitous to the point where the word “politician” has become synonymous with “con artist.” Nonetheless, people continue to fall for their platitudes and hollow promises, and give them the power to effect radical change.
If people exercised their power to think, they would quickly grasp which party raises taxes as a matter of policy and which seeks to reduce taxes. They would analyze the records of the candidates and determine whose positions most closely match their own. They would realize that their votes have consequences and vote accordingly.
The masses are content to let others do their thinking for them. They hear only what they want to hear, content with half-truths, never really bothering to understand the issues even when they are vitally affected by them. They develop opinions based on snippets of biased and often inaccurate information they happen to pick up.
America thought it had found the answer to its search one year ago when the country elected Obama, who cast himself as a centrist who would be able to unify the American people and govern as a moderate. He down-played his long-time and much criticized association with the radicalist Rev. Jeremiah Wright. He wooed the American public with his eloquent oratory.
As the months passed, people began to realize that they had been hoodwinked once again by a politician who said one thing on his march through the election campaign, and another once he was safely ensconced in the White House.
With Obama, it’s always been form over substance. By now, he has shown that he can’t deliver on his poetic promises. Capable as he is of delivering impactful speeches, when it comes to building coalitions, to being open and honest with the American people about actual laws and proposals, he has displayed his ineptitude.
He promised to create a new mold for elected officials. Instead, he has shown himself to be no different than the typical politician who panders to the masses and tests the wind before reacting. Far from being a unifying force, he has veered even further Left, stooping to mock his political opponents.
For evidence of public disenchantment with the president, consider the drubbing the Democrat party took in two closely watched and hotly contested races. The White House itself had declared early on that these elections would testify to public approval for Obama policy.
The President traveled to Virginia and New Jersey several times to campaign for his boys. He declared their election vital to his ability to carry out his proposed agenda of change. Members of his administration, on all levels, pitched in, doing their best to demonstrate that the American people are supportive of their radical program despite falling poll numbers.
When the votes were counted, however, the Democrat party had lost badly in both contests and Republican governors took over for Democrat incumbents. Virginia swung by 24 points since the last election when Obama won the state and New Jersey swung by 20 points to the Republican side.
And here’s the grand irony: Refusing to concede that the double defeat was a blow to her party, Congressional Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi seized on a minor win in another state to declare the elections a victory! Party spokesmen took self-deception to a new level by joining the vain effort to put a positive spin on the night’s results. From Obama himself, there was silence.
This obvious detachment from the will of the people was underscored on Motzoei Shabbos when Congress passed the sweeping health care overhaul by a vote of 220 to 215. The contentious bill will cost the nation over a trillion dollars to solve a problem that is not high priority for the vast number of Americans. In a time of economic recession and widening unemployment, the bill will increase taxes and further hamper already reeling small businesses.
Opinion polls have demonstrated time and again that the American people are opposed to the further expansion of government, higher taxes and more strangling regulation, yet Democrats in Congress – in the dead of night – voted for just such a bill.
Can it be that the politicians are that far detached from reality that instead of concentrating on returning America back to work, instead of enacting legislation that would return consumers to the stores, and health to the economy, they persist in enacting budget-busting boondoggles only their base can support?
Can it be that they are oblivious to the message of last week’s elections as they pursue reform no one is clamoring for and which only a minority support? Can it be that they don’t realize there will be serious consequences when next November rolls around and the entire Congress is up for reelection?
And what about a president who is facing a world spinning out of control? Events in Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Honduras, to mention just a few, are not going according to plan. The young president is facing serious decisions in responding to predicaments which pose a threat to his world-view and have the potential to cause much carnage and destruction. Yet, despite all that, he plows head-first into health care, bizarrely treating it as the crisis of the hour.
The world is up in arms over the Goldstone Report which convicts Israel of crimes against humanity for targeting civilians during its war against Hamas in Gaza. There is almost universal denial that Israel was engaged in a war for its survival against terrorists hiding behind civilians. The world also willfully ignores the fact that accepting the report’s findings compromises their own ability to combat terror. Their hatred for Israel and loathing for the Jewish people blinds them to the inevitable consequences of sanctioning terrorism.
As the UN debated the acceptance of the report, Israel captured a ship loaded with Iranian weaponry on the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon. While Iran, the greatest destabilizing force and the greatest exporter of terrorism in the Middle East, gets a pass from the world body, Israel is slammed for protecting its people against the onslaught of Hamas terror. Could there be a greater irony?
Let’s take a look at the latest act of terror on our own American turf. Last week, a Muslim terrorist killed 13 people and wounded 30 more in Fort Hood, Texas, in a crime that shocked the nation. As he jumped up to begin spraying bullets into the hearts of fellow servicemen, he shouted, “Allahu Akbar,” the traditional salute of terrorists as they engage in murder.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan had a history of spouting radical Islamic propaganda, making anti-American statements, justifying suicide bombings, and visiting and posting on websites condoning terror. Nonetheless, the media and officials investigating the heinous crime did their best to blame the army and associated tensions for the murderous rampage.
The red flags in Hasan’s behavior leading up to his assault were not hard to miss. But common sense was shunted aside in favor of avoiding racial profiling-the same twisted moral relativism that insists on having elderly Americans remove their shoes before boarding a plane lest Muslims be insulted when they are forced to undergo an enhanced security check. Thus, the army allowed itself to ignore dire warnings from fellow servicemen that this army major was exhibiting a frightening identification with extreme Islamic terror.
Amazingly, the media too closed its eyes to the glaring facts. Instead, news outlets vied with one another in trying to lay the blame for the attack on the doorstep of the military. They cited Hasan’s upcoming military service in Iraq and Afghanistan as the trigger for his murderous aggression. They refused to call the incident what it really was; a terrorist attack. They follow the liberalist dictate of never using the term terrorist when referring to Muslims.
The reason for this stunning effort to rationalize away the facts is that people have their minds made up and can’t bear to be wrong. Their agendas are in place and they don’t want to be confused by the truth. The culture of political correctness hamstrings the army, even as it wages a war on terror. The liberal philosophy cannot accept evidence that some people are more prone than others to violence and terror. They would rather twist the facts and impugn innocent people than admit their world view is divorced from reality.
President Obama and his Democratic colleagues would rather press ahead with their radical agenda than recognize that the people are opposed to what they are doing. They continue to claim that they speak and act on behalf of the people, even though signs are unmistakable that they no longer have their finger on the public’s pulse. They watch the dipping of their poll numbers and their party’s election defeats, but instead of absorbing the obvious message, devise all kinds of rationalizations to explain the disappointing results.
Such is the way of men who aren’t interested in the truth, but rather their own personal aggrandizement. They continue to cast a favorable spin on events until forced to confront the ultimate rejection by those whose loyalty they were sure of. Finally, it all comes to a head, and their constituents vote them out of office.
In our world, we are no different. Don’t we too refuse to recognize the truth when analyzing problems in our community? We recognize corruption, yet we ignore it. We see hypocrisy, yet we turn the other way. We are afraid to say the truth and permit ourselves to be terrorized into following what we know to be a deceitful party line. We permit the molesters to molest and the abusers to abuse as we wring our hands in feigned horror.
Of course it is easier to point fingers at others, and mock Obama and Pelosi for their arrogance, shortsightedness and insistence on a course of action that endangers their own careers no less than the health of a nation. It is a lot more painful to turn the spotlight on ourselves and our world. But difficult as it is, we owe it to ourselves and our children to do so.
A mature society is one which is not afraid to engage in self-scrutiny in order to root out injustice and evil. We need to summon the inner strength to uphold our ideals, even at the cost of alienating the powers that be who may not be happy with us for rocking the boat. Don’t we want the best for our children? The society they inherit from us is the one we create. The values we choose to live by are the ones that become our legacy to future generations. Our lives can be vibrant, growth-oriented and infused with yiras shomayim. Or they can be marked by cynicism, self-deception and banality.
Let us summon the moral and spiritual courage to choose wisely so that we can look forward with hope, and look back without regret.