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From the Archives: Elections

Editor’s Note: The Commentator has decided to reprint the following editorials and op-ed that were published in The Commentator during election seasons over the years. These articles are illuminating not only in what they reveal about Yeshiva students’ political opinions from decades ago, but also in the way in which they call attention to the dramatic shifts in Orthodox political opinion since then.

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Title: From the Archives (November 6, 1940; Volume 6 Issue 3) — Editorial: Green Light

Author: Ephraim F. Mandelcorn and the Commentator Governing Board of 1940-41

Franklin D. Roosevelt has been reelected. The cheering and the whistling have by now already abated. The jubilant crowds have long since ceased their raucous enthusiasm for the momentous bulletin that spelled victory for the Democratic party. They have already dispersed and had the benefit of several hours’ sleep. Now, then, let us see precisely what we have. The die is cast—let us see what it yields.

Firstly, the closeness of the race and the comparatively equal division of the voting population between the two major candidates show quite conclusively the strength of the tradition against the third term in the mind of the masses of Americans. Had this not been a third term candidacy, the difference in popular backing would doubtless have been much more decisive.

By the same token, however, the very critical emergency of the times must have prompted many temporarily to dismiss such a prejudice from their minds in favor of an expertly trained hand at the helm of the state.

Thus the general approval of the foreign and domestic program of the incumbent administration should actually far exceed what the actual ballots indicate.

The verdict of the people, then, and the approval implied in the circumstance of the election have given the New Deal what the President has termed “the vindication of the principles and policies on which we have fought this campaign.”

The voters have given the Administration the green light—the signal to go ahead. But, the road is strictly a one-way road. The preference is based mainly on past performance and it is the expectation of the continuance of this record that decided who should win.

The newly-constituted Congress will remember that the social and economic progress made during the last eight years has won the favor of the majority of the voters. This majority has expressed itself in favor of the farm program initiated under the New Deal; it has applauded the regulation of business by the people’s government and chiefly it has asked for the continued raising of the living standards of labor. And it is this particularly which will require most careful treatment.

For, the temptation to undo some of the historic gains on behalf of labor in the interest of the seemingly greater enterprise of national defense will be great. Retreat from the advancements gained by maximum hour and minimum wage standards may to some appear expedient and necessary under the stress of the times and some may find an opportune moment to rescind these gains.

But, the people have dictated the policy, and they have given their government but one mandate—that of going ahead on the road to a still better standard of living.

The people have sanctioned the policy of helping the needy as it is incorporated in the institutions of social security, relief, unemployment insurance, NYA, CCC and their like. This, then, is to be the cue for the newly elected government. This is its mandate. This is its signal to proceed—its green light.

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Title: From the Archives (September 30, 1948; Volume 14 Issue 1) — Editorial: Liberals Unite!

Author: Max Frankel and the Commentator Governing Board of 1948-49

After careful consideration of the present political situation, we have decided to support Mr. Truman’s candidacy. That does not mean that we agree with Mr. Truman; as a matter of fact we are much more partial to many of Mr. Wallace’s ideas.

But we are not voting in a popularity contest. We are voting in an election. And it is a characteristic of American elections that there are only two candidates with any prospects of success. Support of a Liberal splinter-party candidate serves only to advance the political fortunes of the more conservative of the leading contenders, a purpose to which we can hardly subscribe.

We, we would like to make it clear, are liberals. We are not A.D.A. liberals. We are not P.C.A. liberals. We are liberals. As such we cannot but look with distaste at anything that tends to split the liberals. Mr. Wallace obviously fits into this classification. For as long as Mr. Wallace prevents his followers from joining their fellow-liberals, the liberal cause is severely, if not critically, handicapped.

Under the circumstances, our duty, and the duty of all true liberals, is clear.

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Title: From the Archives (October 29, 1952; Volume 18 Issue 2) — Yeshiva Student Body Prefers Stevenson 16-1, Survey Shows

Author: Commentator Staff 1952-53

Governor Adlai E. Stevenson received 92.4 per cent of the total votes cast by the student body of Yeshiva in a poll of student opinion on the national elections. He thus had an approximate 16-1 advantage over his political opponent, Dwight D. Eisenhower who received 5.6 per cent of the vote. A total of 407 votes were cast in the poll. This total represents 78.7 per cent of the student body.

Governor Stevenson’s majority dropped considerably when students were asked their opinion on the outcome of the election. Sixty-nine and eight tenths per cent felt Stevenson would win, 10.6 per cent felt Eisenhower would win, and 17.4 per cent were undecided as to the outcome. A little over 2 per cent of those polled expressed no opinion.

The students were asked if they were in agreement with their parents in their choice of a presidential candidate. Seventy-four and nine tenths per cent said that they were in full accord with their parents in the choice, 6.1 per cent were not, and 15.3 per cent did not know their parents’ political choice.

Of the entire group of voters, only 9.8 per cent were eligible to vote. The rest were ineligible due to age (under 21), or lack of citizenship. Eighty-two and two tenths per cent were not old enough, and 8.9 per cent were not citizens. Of those old enough to vote, 10 per cent were ineligible because they did not register.

Foreign students voted almost unanimously for Stevenson, with only one Eisenhower vote in 18 tallies cast.

In the Senatorial race, Dr. George Counts, Liberal Party candidate, received a plurality of 34.2 per cent of the total vote. Senator Irving Ives, the Republican incumbent, polled 26.8 per cent, Brooklyn President John Cashmore, Democratic candidate, received 17.7 per cent of the vote, and Corliss Lamont, American Labor Party candidate, received 2.2 per cent.

However, 61.4 per cent of the students thought that Ives would be the victor in the New York election. Fourteen per cent felt that Cashmore would win, 6.63 per cent thought that Counts will win, and 2.6 per cent felt that Lamont would carry the election. Seventeen and seven tenths per cent of the student body had no opinion on the outcome of the State Campaign.

When asked to state their political identification, 53.6 per cent considered themselves Democrats, 37.4 per cent as independents, 2.49 per cent Republicans, and 6.5 per cent favored other parties.

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Title: From the Archives (November 9, 1960; Volume 26 Issue 3) — Kennedy Poll Victor; “Interests” Play Role

Author: Abraham Sofaer

It seems apparent now that we have the results of the Young Democrats’ poll at Yeshiva College that Senator Kennedy has successfully wooed orthodox Jews—that attend this school. Senator Kennedy received 318 votes to vice-president Nixon’s 50 votes.

The subject of minority voting blocs has been much discussed. A great deal of work, energy and intelligence has been expended in this field. To presume that a poll of 368 college students at a religious school could represent a significant trend or anything of any significance at all, would be dangerous, and highly injudicious.

However having stated this fact I am not attempting to present undebatable issues, it would be very pointless of me not to say anything at all. So, I will now present the results of this poll as seen through my eyes, even though the results may be highly questionable.

The Religious Issue

Are we young Jewish men of Yeshiva College “influenced by religion”? Out of the 50 young men that voted for Nixon, 44% or 22 young men felt that their vote was influenced by religion. Although this result does not fully reflect the noble and ancient ideals for which we stand at this institution, when compared with the total 368 votes cast, our twenty strong become diminished in percentage, if not in principle. It hurts to admit that even twenty of us have become prey to such considerations.

“To what extent is your vote influenced by Jewish interest?” Here is a potent question. As Jews, it is difficult to separate ourselves from our interests as Jews. This would probably be an unhealthy dichotomy. Of the 50 that voted for Nixon, 28 felt that Jewish interests influenced their votes, while 200 of 318 had Jewish interest in mind when they cast their ballots for Kennedy.

A Jewish Vote

It seems that these figures clearly show two things: The Jews here are influenced by Jewish interest, and that there is, in all probability, a “Jewish vote”. Whether these revelations please us or not must depend on our individual views. The pages of Commentator are always available as a forum in which to discuss this question.

In spite of the predominant Jewish interest, the students felt that foreign policy was the major issue of the campaign. I guess this shows that we are relatively interested in the campaign and the destiny of the United States. However, on the basis of evidence present in our replies to the other questions, I fear that some poll in the future may show that some large percentage of those deeply concerned about foreign policy are in fact devout isolationists.

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