Jewish angles in the presidential primaries? Here’s my take, so far.
First, what a difference four years makes. In the 2004 democratic primary, we had Jewish connections everywhere: General Wesley Clark’s birth father was Jewish, so were John Kerry’s paternal grandparents, and so were Howard Dean’s wife and children. And don’t forget Joe Lieberman.
This year, no Jewish connections. I see chance, no conspiracies. It just turned out that way.
Still, I admit that political races with Jewish connections are more interesting to me. For African-Americans, women and voters under 30, this year’s political scene has become very exciting. Identification is a mighty thing.
Second, if young people continue the Iowa phenomenon and go to the polls in high numbers, they will have the power to elect the next president.
Ironically, older people have always bemoaned young people’s low voting turnout, urging greater involvement by the young in the political fray.
After the next election, many people, Bill Clinton for one, may get what they wished for and be sorry for what they got. The famous “law of unintended consequences.”
This political participation of the 18-29-year-old crowd gives a boost to those members of the Jewish community who, for many years, have urgently sought ways to get young people to strive for leadership roles.
Along with participation, the hope is that young Jews will have a strong commitment to Jewish continuity, charitable deeds and the well-being of Israel. There is much work to be done.
Third, of all the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of words during the past weeks in both Iowa and New Hampshire, my Jewish antennae picked up on only two Jewish slurs, both from CNBC’s Chris Matthews, commentator on the “Hard Ball” program.
On election night in Iowa, after the results were in, Matthews wondered aloud how “Manhattan and West Hollywood” political contributors would react to Hillary Clinton’s poor third place showing. Would she continue to be able to raise big money?
“Manhattan and West Hollywood,” when associated with raising political money, are code words for Jews. Why doesn’t he just say what he means: “Where will the Jews put their political money now?” That would be dumb to say because even he knows that Jewish-Americans run the gamut of all ideological stripes and are contributors to most of the political candidates. And, after New Hampshire, the issue is moot, at least for the time being.
The second Matthews’ foolishness was a question to Mike Huckabee about what Huckabee thought of a breaking story in the Jerusalem Post describing the Republican victor as a Baptist minister turned politician. Just as Huckabee began to answer, Matthews said, “I wouldn’t fight with them [Jerusalem Post] if I were you.”
Matthews was really saying: “Don’t screw with the Jerusalem Post or the American Jews will get you.” How stupid is that? Big.
Huckabee ignored Matthews and answered, to Matthews’ surprise, that the Post story originated with the Associated Press in the United States.
These statements don’t approach the level of Don Imus’s flagrantly racist remarks last year about an African-American women’s basketball team.
I just want Matthews to know that at least one Jew is listening, and unhappily at that.
Were I his boss at NBC, I’d warn him harshly, “Snide and stereotyped remarks about Jews or anybody else, whether said directly or put into code words, are not acceptable at NBC. Period.”
The election cycle continues. And while I may continue to suffer boredom and repetition, I am also applauding the passion and speech-making abilities of many of the candidates. From my view, politics and presidential elections are still the best game in town.
Besides, almost every American is looking forward to January 20, 2009, when a new president will be inaugurated. Desperately looking forward.