American Jews and the Democratic Ticket: A Convergence of Interests (Vol. 58, Issue 3)
This November, America has an opportunity to put a team of dynamic, experienced Democrats in the Oval Office ... an opportunity to re-energize itself after 12 years of irresponsible Republican rule ... an opportunity to elect leaders who would rather pass on a legacy of economic growth and justice to the next generation than pass the buck in this one.
In short, America has an opportunity to reverse its downward spiral. Voters, especially Jewish voters, should take advantage of it.
Nothing demonstrates the abject failure of George Bush more than his courting of Saddam Hussein. While Iraq was gassing its own people, threatening to incinerate Israel, and harboring known terrorists, George Bush was busy showering Hussein with loan guarantees and technology sales that helped him build up his nuclear, biological, and chemical arsenals. Hussein did not hear one word from Bush about human rights violations or making democratic reforms. Instead, he heard Bush's misguided signals of support that directly led to the Gulf War, in which hundreds of thousands of American lives and tens of billions of American dollars were used to try to rectify Bush's foreign policy blunders. Unfortunately, it didn't work. Saddam Hussein remains in power, flaunting U.N. resolutions, while Bush weakly casts about for another way to undo the tremendous damage.
Unlike George Bush, Gov. Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Gore have the vision, vigor, and values to take this nation into the next century. Unlike George Bush, they are offering plans for a brighter future, not excuses for a painful past. And unlike George Bush, they know that basic American principles--like the freedom to petition our government and worship without government interference--must be defended for all people, not abandoned for political expediency.
America needs better and deserves better than four more years of George Bush. It must have the best leadership available, leadership that the Democratic Party is offering.
The U.S. economy is the number one issue in our domestic and foreign affairs today. Unless this country is strong at home, it cannot be a reliable friend and ally abroad. The American people are reluctant to support foreign aid in the best of times, and are even more reluctant to do so when the economy is sour. The Jewish community also knows that when times are tough, we are often used as scapegoats by people frustrated with their own economic circumstances. It is probably no coincidence that the Anti Defamation League reported a record number of anti-semitic incidents in this country last year while the Republican recession raged.
Gov. Clinton and Sen. Gore have put forward a practical blueprint for rebuilding America's economy by investing in our infrastructure, working with corporate America to create new jobs, and restoring equity to the tax system. George Bush has given us high unemployment rates, record bankruptcies and business failures, anemic economic growth, and swelling food stamp rolls. His response to America's economic problems at the Republican Convention was to offer a tax cut, but he won't tell voters until after the election who would benefit, how much the cut would be worth, or how the cut would be paid for.
Gov. Clinton and Sen. Gore have a plan to provide health care coverage for all Americans, control costs, ensure quality services, improve preventive care, expand long-term coverage, and intensify health education. They believe in a woman's right to choose. George Bush didn't pay attention to the nation's health care crisis until he sensed political danger, has yet to offer a comprehensive health care reform package, and would give women no choice in controlling their bodies.
Gov. Clinton and Sen. Gore have a proven track record on education reform, and have proposed a new worker retaining program, a national apprenticeship program, a trust fund to help any American borrow money for college, and a "safe schools initiative" to rid our classrooms of violence. George Bush talks a lot about being the "Education President," but hasn't aggressively pursued education legislation.
Gov. Clinton and Sen. Gore have forcefully fought for civil rights and sought to heal the racial wounds that divide the American people. George Bush has chosen to pick at racial scabs with his "Willie Horton" ads, opposition to civil rights legislation, labeling American Jews "1,000 lobbyists on the Hill," and decision to give a prime-time speaking spot at the Republican Convention to Patrick Buchanan--a man who has called Hitler a "genius" with "extraordinary gifts" and declared a "religious war" in America. Further, Bush opposes the Equal Remedies Act, which would remove limits on damages that Jews, members of other religious minorities, women, and disabled people could seek from workplace discrimination.
Gov. Clinton and Sen. Gore firmly believe that government has no right to interfere with the religious life of the nation and that the constitutional separation of Church and State must be enforced. George Bush wants to introduce prayer into public schools, and has appointed Supreme Court justices who have weakened the wall between Church and State.
Gov. Clinton and Sen. Gore strongly believe in maintaining and nurturing the special relationship between the United States and Israel, combating terrorism, and standing up for human rights overseas. George Bush has done tremendous damage to U.S. relations with Israel, sought to weaken regulations against the Arab economic boycott of Israel, provided technology that could have military applications to nations that sponsor terrorism, held an extensive dialogue with the P.L.O., armed Israel's enemies, and moved slowly on human rights violations in China and Bosnia.
For these reasons and many others, it is clear that the Democratic ticket reflects American Jewish interests across a broad array of issues better than the GOP. That should be foremost in the minds of Jewish community members when we cast our ballots on November 3rd.
Steve Grossman is a Vice-Chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council, an independent organization dedicated to strengthening the Democratic Party through the political participation of its members. He is also Chair of the Massachusetts Democratic Party.