By: Avraham Schneider  | 

Intelligent Decision (Vol. 46, Issue 2)

The mass media’s coverage of the 1980 presidential campaign differs little from that of previ‘ous years. Despite diligent reporting, round-the-clock monitoring, and public opinion polls on issues ranging from détente to the candidates’ wardrobes, the public remains woefully ignorant. The media falls short of painting an accurate picture of the true nature of the candidates in today’s political spectrum, To expect the American citizen to premise his vote on the adulterated and refined materials provided by the news wire services and TV/radio broadeasts is an insult to his/her integrity and a debasement of American political theology. Perhaps the following objective assaying of the situation will provide the approach necessary for an intelligent decision on the part of the American “Jewish vote.”

The Jews, of all minority group voting blovs, have traditionally taken the limelight because of their strategic importance in states with Jarge electoral votes, eg. N.Y. The “Jewish Vote” is generally associated with two apparently contradictory attitudes. On one hand, the Democrats have enjoyed Jewish support as being the core of their minority and labor union baek- ing. Yet the powerful corporate structure that has consistently represented the Republican Party’s powerhouse is the object of considerable vested Jewish interests. This cross affiliation and politieally incongruous alignment typifies the Jewish voters, much to the frustration of the candidates and Jewish leaders, who would like to coordinate their constituents’ voting and thus increase its strength. The candidacy expressing the staunchest support of Israel can generally be assumed to carry the Jewish vote (in this election—Reagan). A candidate’s affiliation with the rapidly emerging radical right wing movement can serve to scate Jewish voters to the more left wing choice (Carter). The Jewish voters have tended to support liberal programs and  legislation, of which the ERA and social reform expenditures are classic examples. 

Reagan's candidady has been repeatedly criticized for the drastic spending cuts he plan to make in all federally subsidized social programs (to compensate for his proposed ‘increase in military spending and tax cuts). His flimsy position on ERA is clearly evidenced by his early opposition to its ratification until Carter's recent gains in the polls, especially among women, frightened Reagan into his purely political endorsement of the amendment. Following Reagan’s sudden reversal on ERA, it is not entirely presumptuous for one to assume that if elected he is capable of doing something similar with issues of far greater consequence. Thus, Reagan’s foremost attractions of the Jewish voter, his support of Begin’s government, West Bank settlements, and a hardline Soviet foreign policy, are dangerously jeopardized by his lack of credibility and radical right wing alliance. (It should be understood that right wing activism translates to advocation of restoration of school prayer, drastic curbing of social welfare spending and anti-civil rights action.)

It is not difficult to see where Carter's and Reagan's platforms clash. The President would perhaps like to be somewhat more anti-Soviet in his foreign policy, but he must maintain his low-key prospectus to pointedly offset Reagan’s with which he hopes to make Reagan appear as irresponsibly dangerous. On the home front, the disparity is most pronounced. Carter's “bread-and-butter” policies of increased job creation programs, urban aid social welfare, and civil rights, are a dramatic contrast to Reagan’s prescribed social platform. This is what had retained for the President the Democrats’ traditional appeal to ethnic and lower middle-class. white voters.

The Jewish voter, however, must concern himself with Carter’s not too favorable stand on the current peace-making process between Israel and Egypt, as well as his increased tolerance of the PLO and steady provisions of military hardware to sworn enemies of the Jewish State. Should: Carter be granted a second term in office, he will, regardiess of campaign promises, most assuredly take an even tougher bargaining stand with Prime Minister Begin. The past four years have seen the President do a 360 degree turn on his Mideast position of '76, and without the inhibiting pressures of re-election, Carter’s true colors will emerge. Interestingly enough, despite widely protested pressure tactics and arm-bending at the bargaining table with Israel, Carter has been able to survive what could have been a whole-sale defection of all Jewish support because of American Jewry's growing identification with the Peace Now (anti-Begin) sentiment so prevalent in Israel.

 In view of the present unrest and in-fighting among oil-exporting nations, it is conceivable that the price of dwindling oil supplies will skyrocket on the market, creating an even more pressurized and precarious theater of American ‘foreign policy. Oil, money, and threatened embargos have had a sizeable irfiuence on Carter's foreign policy, and it would be only natural to expect Reagan to succumb to even greater pressures forecasted for the coming years. Following this vein, it is vital to recognize that Reagan's pillar of support is the big business and corporate power structure, which has been among the first to “cowtow” to Arab oil. Relying on their backing, Reagan, who projects a foreign policy of tough-talking the USSR  and wholly supporting Israel, could forseeably switch horses in midstream under strong-arm pressure from the corporate community. The former governor’s proposed increase in military spending and his hardline Soviet stance will serve to increase the clout of ranking military leaders on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a notoriously anti-Semitic faction of our government.

Carter’s ineffectiveness as a leader is more than apparent in every aspect. Our economy has gone from good to terrible and its crippling effect is clearly evident in mathematical figures and in our pockets. There is no need to stress the specifics. American international prestige and national pride are at a shamefully low level, with the hostages still in Iran and a crazed Moslem dictating US foreign policy. Carter accomplished nothing but “biting off our country's nose to pite its face by boycotting the Olympics, aside from drawing attention to the fact that the Soviets don’t take him too seriously. Finally, Carter’s lack of regard for responsibility, loyalty, and America’s obligation to the free word are all too evident in his virtual abandonment of Somoza, South Korea, and Taiwan. Based on that record, how much longer will it be until the list includes Israel? The answer is frightening should Carter be re-elected.

If you vote with a Jewish conseience this November, you are indeed in a quandry. The GOP platform, while it entices us with its promise of continued support for Begin’s government and policies, is darkly overshadowed by Reagan's open association with the anti-Semitic “right,” coupled with the probability that the very influential corporate suprastructure of his candidacy and military leaders will quietly steer him away from Israel. Carter, on the other hand, is more of a master of his own policy, and, while it is obvious that his position with regard to Israel cannot be and will not be overly favorable, the element of risk in the unknown associated with Reagan is not evident in his candidacy.

The purpose here is not so much to endorse any particular candidate as to objectively outline them with regard to the criteria of the Jewish voter and allow him/her to reach a more intelligent decision.