This is the third in a series of articles by Robert Wilkes, who hopes to convince Seattle-area Jews that it is in the best interest of the Jewish people to consider voting for Republicans, or Democrats with more conservative viewpoints.
We all have a Weltanschauung, a comprehensive concept of the world, or a “world view.” Your world view determines your political stance and what you believe is right for the future of this grand American experiment.
I pose this simple question: Does your world view seem consistent with objective truth and is it validated by reality over time? As Stanislaw Lec wrote in Unkempt Thoughts, “Think before you think.”
This election season I encourage you to experience an epiphany; a sudden intuitive insight that brings truth and reason into clear light. The word has religious connotations for Christians: The Feast of the Epiphany, observed in early January, derives from our Sukkot Feast of the Tabernacles. Religious or not, I like the word. There is no better way to describe the liberating, energizing sensation that accompanies a personal political awakening.
Jews are no strangers to epiphanies. Moses grasped that he was more in sympathy with slaves than the ruling class and shunned a privileged life to follow his conscience. Western civilization achieved modernity as Spinoza, in pursuit of rational truth and a personal understanding of God, contributed importantly to the Enlightenment. Without Herzl’s epiphanous realization that the desperate longing by Jews for acceptance was a hopeless delusion, there might not be a state of Israel.
Herzl’s epiphany was kindled by the Dreyfus affair. My own came while fighting in Vietnam. Our nation was in social and political turmoil and ordinary citizens were alarmed and angry, much as they are today. President Lyndon B. Johnson micro-managed the war and was less than forthright, creating a “credibility gap.” His rules of engagement served the cause of the enemy and his fruitless efforts to achieve a settlement with the North Vietnamese extended the war by many years.
Nixon changed the rules and our military achieved victory, formalized by a treaty signed in Paris in 1973. That victory and our agreements with our Southeast Asian allies were abrogated by the Democrat-controlled congress in 1975. South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were handed to the enemy with assurances by John Kerry that there would be no bloody retribution. He was wrong — 1.7 million were killed in Communist “re-education” programs. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but my world view changed. I’ve been a Republican ever since.
My only political impulse up to that time was an adulation of Jack and Jackie, easily the most charming, charismatic president and first lady we’ve ever had. If you’re below the age of 50, well…you had to be there. The upheaval of the ’60s changed everything. The political class that rose out of that chaos is playing out its last act in this election. I believe their power to persuade has been exhausted as more and more Americans are having a personal epiphany. Many of us believe government is too big, too expensive, and too complicated. (The health care reform bill has five times as many words as the Torah!) We are turning away from big-government solutions and European-style social welfare systems. A limited-government mood is ascendant.
So let’s test some objective truths — for example, our current administration’s handling of the economy. President Obama said, “It’s not whether government is too big or too small, but whether it works,” and signed into law an enormous Keynesian stimulus bill that enlarged the government’s share of our GDP to levels not seen since World War II.
To evaluate his policies, we need a control group: say, Europe. The slow-motion meltdown of democratic-socialist PIGS (that’s not a slur, it means Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) is roiling Europe. Riots in Greece alarm us, demonstrations in France continue. In response, Germany, Britain and, of all people, Sweden, are unraveling their welfare states and reducing the size of government.
It’s working. Under Angela Merkel’s conservative leadership, Germany is growing at an annual rate of 8 percent and unemployment is below 7 percent. We have been hurtling headlong in the opposite direction, with little growth and a “real” unemployment rate of about 17 percent. The public outrage is palpable. Change is in the air. I believe we can conclude that the administration’s economic policy is wrong. It does not appear to comport with objective truth or be validated by events. If you’re seeing this for the first time, you’re having an epiphany.
If you’re like me, nothing is more inducive to an epiphany than the realization that your government is not telling you the truth. Consider all the promises made to us about the healthcare reform bill. If you like your coverage, you can keep it. Seniors on Medicare Advantage and many others are finding out that is not true. They said premiums will go down; they’re going up — sharply. And the biggest untruth of all, it will lower the deficit.
The political tactics used to pass the bill are not, in and of themselves, a reason to abandon your loyalty and change your vote. One might argue, “It’s politics, American style. Get over it.” But they represent something deeper and infinitely more pernicious. A government that believes the ends justify the means threatens us all — left or right, liberal or conservative. Once that bridge is crossed, and we don’t stop it at the ballot box, there is nothing to stand in the way of every kind of tyranny. As Jews, we know that in our bones.
This election is not about witches or the immigration status of Latina maids. Rather, it’s about recovering our optimism and our capacity to dream. We have always been a people who believed our children will have a better life than we had. That has been taken from us. It’s time to take it back.
Vote for the America that accepts Jews in a way Herzl’s generation could only imagine; an America in which we Jews succeeded beyond our immigrant ancestors’ wildest dreams. If we lose that wonderful American optimism, we will be France with bland cheese. Don’t let it happen.