Failure after failure of the Democratic party


I love Passover. It’s one of my very favorite Jewish holidays. For more than 3 score years I have enjoyed the richness of the rituals, the exotic and tasty food, and the story about a struggle for freedom, some would say a never-ending struggle, and I won’t argue the point.

The ceremonial Haggadah, the book that is the guide through each step of the Seder, is spiritually uplifting, and I have learned something new every year. This year my attention was caught by the dictate to “lean to the left” while dining. While there are both religious and medical reasons this makes sense, I fear that most of my co-religionists in America have taken that directive to heart in their political views, and in their overt disdain for those who hold contrary views.

The Jews’ role as history’s favorite victim needs no recitation here. It is understandable, and I concede even commendable, that Jews seek to protect the underdog. But a measure of political correctness, and political incivility, has crept in and taken over much of our discourse.

Like African-Americans, Jews in this country have essentially traded their civic birthright – the right to vote. Like Esau of old who got a mess of pottage in return, we have gotten stale political ideas, shrill rhetoric, and a lockstep mentality with the Democratic Party.

I like to joke that I grew up thinking that Franklin Roosevelt was my grandfather. His picture was displayed prominently in the center of the family photos on the mantelpiece in our home. While that kind of loyalty was understandable to a generation of immigrants, or immigrants once-removed, during a world wide Depression and a World War, it is not a healthy legacy.

Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Today’s Democratic Party is a spend-more, affirmative action (for select minorities), weak on defense party, and articulates vocal, disdainful hostility toward ideas which do not conform to these set-in-stone beliefs.

Are there exceptions to this generalization? Of course. But writ large, what you see is what you get. And what we’ve gotten so far is failure after failure, on the world scene and here at home. Maybe we’re like the frog in the proverbial pot: we don’t see the danger as the heat is gradually turned up, until it’s too late and we succumb. I fear that American Jews, despite educational and professional success unmatched elsewhere throughout our history, are suffocating on stale nostrums and closed minds.

One case comes immediately to mind: Senator Ted Cruz. Yes, I’ve heard it all, “He’s Joe McCarthy with a Harvard degree. He’s a moron, an idiot.”

Is he? Alan Dershowitz, who has some street cred in our community, who disagrees with Cruz on most issues, had class enough to point out that Cruz was one of the most brilliant students he ever knew.

This isn’t about Ted Cruz. It’s about us. It’s about a mind-set that reflexively belittles the person and dismisses his ideas without an open-minded analysis. Disagree with Cruz on the merits, I’m all for it. Turn him into an unthinking cliché and you lose me.

I admit that I like the middle of the road. Not a good policy when driving, but it’s a political philosophy that has served us well, and it mandates the willingness to examine all points of view. Right now the Jewish community (and again, I admit to generalizing) is up in arms about the law recently passéd in Indiana. Me too. I think it went too far.

But there is a voice to be heard and considered that says that while it is wrong and should be illegal and in some cases is unconstitutional to discriminate, there is also federal law, recently upheld by the Supreme Court, which seeks to consider legitimately held religious beliefs on the part of those who choose not to participate in certain activities.

My hope is that the vibrant Jewish American community will engage on subjects like this in the true tradition of our ancestors. We all have our biases. Some are hidden, even to ourselves. I know that I have contempt for self-hating Jews, and as I re-read what I have written I profoundly hope I have not drifted into that realm.

Arnold Haiman is a retired Navy judge and former deputy general counsel for USAID. He is an adjunct professor at George Mason University and Senior Ethics Advisor at Ethos, LLC.

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