Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Fourteenth Article of Faith?

American pollsters have uniformly placed the Jewish vote in the Democratic column. I have lost track of the number of times that the "holy" name of Franklin D. Roosevelt is invoked as a reason for voting Democratic. It is taken as an additional article of faith that FDR was a great friend of the Jewish people.
Anyone who lives in or near Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods knows that the Republicans get a much fairer hearing in Orthodox Jewish precincts than among their suburban fellow Jews. Hasidim, for instance care about government support for private schools. In a heretical departure from political "tradition", we vote based on current issues, for Jews and for the country.
It is ironic that the Orthodox community is often criticised for keeping "archaic" and outdated commandments by those who vote Democratic because of "tradition". It is worth noting that a lot of the information about FDR shows him as far less sympathetic to Jews than was believed when he was alive. Conversely, Herbert Hoover, who is often wrongly blamed for the Great Depression, is remembered by Jews from the former Soviet Union for his famine relief efforts during the USSR Civil War between 1918 and 1921. Lubavitcher chassidim recount with gratitude the role of Herbert Hoover in lobbying for the release of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe from exile and a death sentence.
The only note of caution that I like to sound about a political philosophy is the danger that it can become a religion. I have spoken with Germans of my grandparents generation. They all remembered and sometimes spoke about how they voted in the 1932 elections that brought Hitler to power. Those of that generation remembered how their city voted in that election that changed the world. We should always regard elections as a collective act of free will that can change the world. And in deciding how to cast our votes, we should refer to the past, consider the present and look to the future.
Copyright 2008 by Magdeburger Joe

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