Always out of step with history

out of step

It’s said that the Jews are always out of step with history. When the masses take to the revolutionary ramparts, we are said to stay loyal to the counterrevolutionary status quo. Okay. There might be something to that. Think of the Iranian Jewish community’s relationship with Shah Reza Pahlavi, for example, or the debt that a thousand Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany owed the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo when he permitted them to settle in a backwater called Sosua. It seems that history just doesn’t want us to be cool.

Of course this premise is wrong as many times as it’s right. Jews actually do what my mother says they ought not do: Zey krikhn vi m’darf nisht. They meddle where they shouldn’t. They are just as likely to be Emma Goldmans as Mort Zuckermans, Abby Hoffmanns as Joe Liebermans.

Certainly when it comes to American politics, Jews tend to throw their lot in with the leftish-liberal groups that promise to alleviate the burdens of the tired and poor, even if it means they themselves will have to pay higher taxes or yield to the prerogatives of multiculturalism. A lot of American Jews these days believe that we have so-called white-skin privilege, and if we ever did suffer discrimination, we should have long since overcome, forgiven and forgotten.

Nobody can say for sure where American Jews are going to come down in the general elections this November. The Jews I know at work hate George Bush for invading Iraq. They think of themselves as Americans first, I think, and aren’t that fixated on Israel or the historical fate of the Jews. No doubt they plan to vote for Obama. 

That’s not a criticism. I myself have been all over the political map, and I understand how the liberal point-of-view feels tolerant, objective, superior — even as it touts a philosophy as shrill as any of the radical Moslem sects’. True confession: If it’s a choice between liberalism and Talibanism, give me scantily clad girls on bus shelters, single-parent families and the right to mouth off about matters sublime and ridiculous any day. The culture that gives rise to all of these is awfully imperfect, but at least it allows for personal choice.

Now, the Jews I socialize with — my friends in Riverdale — are leaning toward McCain. It’s not that we are in thrall to him either, but by comparison with Obama, McCain strikes us as a realist, particularly when it comes to dealing with tyrants like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and with the radical Moslems who believe there is only one way to pray, get educated and treat women. And even though both candidates have had the support of extreme preachers, Obama’s 20-year long mentorship by Jeremiah “God damn America” Wright is a lot more worrisome to Jews who care about Israel than a know-it-all like John Hagee who got the lowdown from God Himself as to why He visited the Holocaust upon the chosen people.

A headline on Yahoo! News —  Many historians see little chance for McCain — pretty much sums up the current media outlook about the outcome of the election. Several academics apparently see Barack Obama’s prospects “as the most promising for a Democrat since Roosevelt trounced Hoover in 1932.” Historian Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted the past six presidential popular vote winners, says, “This should be an overwhelming Democratic victory.” Emory University’s Alan Abramowitz observes, “It is one of the worst political environments for the party in power since World War II.”

I have a feeling that the Yahoo story is on target. As Abramowitz goes on to say, “It would be a pretty stunning upset if McCain won.”

Something really awful would have to happen for McCain to win this one. Something like Iran attacking Israel with nuclear weapons. (Although why Ahmadinejad would do that now instead of waiting to chat with President Obama about it first — strikes me as, well, jumping the gun.) But that’s about it, I think. Everything else — the price of gasoline per gallon, the endless war in Iraq, the low profile of the U.S. dollar, the subprime implosion, an economy that keeps tanking — everything else will pull voters in Obama’s direction.

My father, who rues the day he voted for Jimmy Carter, is philosophical about Obama. “He won’t do any harm,” he says.

“Do you plan to vote for him?” I ask.


It would be so fly to be in step with the “mood of the country” and boot da bums out of office. But something tentative, something cautious inside my judgment is telling me to stay out of step with this historical moment. I don’t like the economic and geopolitical mess we’re in, but I worry that an untested, charismatic guy with the resume of a smart 30-year-old is going to be our Huey Long. And while we’ll be perceived as a “country of new beginnings,” as Thomas Friedman wrote in his New York Times column, we’ll also become victim to the same old bad endings that have befallen every well-meaning conciliator. Moreover, we’ll be as easy to take advantage of as Israel is when it calls for cease-fires with Hezbollah or Hamas. We’ll be the country that just “wants to get along” while our adversaries strategize and re-arm.

What I wouldn’t give to feel as optimistic as the Obama-ites on the ramparts. But I can’t help but wonder: Will we look back to the days of the current administration and think, “By George! ‘W’ may have been a buffoon, but he wasn’t a complete idiot after all!”


Create a word cloud of my text.




  1. Dark Prince said

    I worry about Obamania as well. But my vote is going to be an anti-Bush, anti-McCain vote, rather than a pro-Obama vote.

    I suspect many people are going to vote for “not-Bush”.

  2. Hello Dark Prince.
    Doesn’t a vote against Bush or McCain automatically become a vote in favor of Obama?

    Several months ago, it seemed as if we were going to have so many choices. Now it feels as if we’re stuck with a rather mediocre lot. Why does this keep happening!

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