My Turn: Ode To A Peanut (Vol. 46, Issue 2)
‘It's lonely at the top’ is a cliché that is ansociated with the stresses of leadership. On President Truman's desk lay a plaque that proclaimed ‘the buck stops here,’ If one had to coin a cliché regarding the Carter administration, it would probably be ‘the road to hell is paved with dubious intentions.’ The U.N. vote condemning Israel (which Jimmy claimed was a misunderstanding) portrays Carter at best as an incompetent, and at worst as a liar. Since one can choose his friends but not his relatives, the Billygate fianco served only to reflect the President's genetic stock. The Bert Lance affair, however, indicates his choice of friends. It is ironic that a man who ran for the presidency in 1976 on a platform of truth, managing to evade the issues, should be confronted with so many ‘credibility gaps.’
What makes these matters pertinent is the fact that Jimmy Carter is now running for re-election. Although he was given some competition by Senator Kennedy, it was no surprise that the Democrats renominated him. Not doing so would have been tantamount to an admission of error in 1976. Even so, the vast majority of Kennedy delegates chose to vote for the Senator even after he released them, rather than vote for Carter.
Carter's real challenge, however, will come on November 4. Although there are three major candidates running for the presidency, for all intents and purposes, the race is between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
Those who would have Carter re-elected have done their best to portray Reagan as a reactionary who knows nothing about leadership. In answer to this, let us remember that Reagan served two terms as Governor of California. During his tenure, he was a popular governor who managed to convert a 200 million dollar deficit into a 500 million dollar surplus. California’s heterogeneity of individuals and cultures, along with its vast size, presents the state as a smaller version of the country as a whole more so than any other state, with the possible exception of New York. It is therefore not unreasonable to believe that Reagan's experience dwarfs Carter's gubernatorial experience in Georgia. If Americans did not feel Carter to be inexperienced in 1976, they have no reason to be skeptical of Reagan's experience,
Unfortunately, Governor Reagan is at a distinct disadvantage regarding the Jewish vote. Ever since the days of F.D.R., when the Democratic Party achieved the image of being the more progressive in the two-party system, the Jewish vote has been solidly Democratic in presidential elections, It was considered a major coup on the part of Richard Nixon (considered a good friend of Israel) that thirty per cent of the Jewish vote went to him in the 1972 election, and ‘only’ seventy per cent went to Senator McGovern. Without analyzing the 1972 candidates, one realizes that something is wrong when thirty per cent of the vote is considered good.
Since we Jews like to see ourselves us having political clout, such statistics make a mockery of our illusions of grandeur. Being so solidly entrenched in one camp, to the point that issues are trivial, removes our political clout. Regarding issues in which Jews take a special interest, specifically American policy towards Israel, the Carter administration, to say the least, has been insensitive. Governor Reagan, on the other hand, is known to he a strong supporter of Israel, as one could have noted from reading his column, written yet before his bid for the presideney.
Although in the primaries, the Democratic Jewish vote on the whole went for Senator Kennedy rather than to Carter, I fear that in the general election, Jews will hesitate in voting for a Republican, even when it is in their own best interests to do so. Our votes must neither be taken for granted by Democrats nor assumed by Republicans to be a lost cause. It is imperative that we vote for the presidential candidate who best represents our interests, not our party affiliation; otherwise we will fore our status as a cohesive group to whom our government’s leaders must answer.