(RNS) — If you happen to live in a city which was surrounded by walls in the time of the biblical figure, Joshua, today is Shushan Purim — a second day of Purim.
Therefore, let me don my “second day of Purim” costume — that of political analyst.
After all the debates, there are two Democratic candidates left standing — Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
Biden’s campaign has experienced techiat ha-metim — the resurrection of the dead. It is one of the greatest miracles of modern political history.
Except, perhaps it really isn’t all that miraculous. Perhaps it is simply part of the normal cycle of politics — usually invisible to the naked eye, but here, fully on display.
It was, quite simply, a reset. A re-boot.
Historically, when it comes to the voting booth, Americans reject leftist progressive politics.
Recall the political career of Henry Wallace. He had once been FDR’s vice-president, then secretary of agriculture, and ran for president in 1948 on the Progressive ticket. He won slightly more than 2% of the nationwide popular vote, and failed to carry any state.
His political protege was, ahem, George McGovern.
- Bernie Sanders’ radicalism isn’t playing as well as he, and his supporters, had thought.
- Where were all the young people who were supposed to be Bernie’s foot soldiers?
- If Bernie Sanders is the candidate, there is massive danger that that candidacy will affect down ticket elections.
- The Bernie phenomenon is a mirror of the Trump phenomenon — a populism of the Left.
- Bernie’s public presentation is vituperative. Joe Biden might be a little boring, and perhaps a little “off,” but the American soul craves a return to normalcy.
And, of course, as a rabbi/writer, I am constantly thinking like my late grandmother did: Is this good for the Jews?
In a word, yes — to the extent that a pro-Israel stance, or at the very least not an anti-Israel/hyper-critical of Israel stance is good for the Jews.
The overwhelming majority of the voters in the states that Biden won could not care less about Israel.
Most Americans don’t pay that much attention to what is going on in the Mideast. They are much more concerned with the Midwest — and rightly so.
But, consider those Americans who passionately care about what is going on in the Mideast — Arab-Americans.
Bernie lost Michigan — the state with one of the largest Arab populations in the United States. These are people whom we might have believed would have sufficiently resonated with Bernie’s extreme criticism of Israel and his anti-Israel surrogates, like Linda Sarsour.
By contrast, it would be hard to find a candidate with the pro-Israel street cred of Joe Biden.
The Biden victories — whatever else happens down the line — prove one thing.
To paraphrase Shmuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain:
- The news of the death of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party has been greatly exaggerated.
- The news of the rise of the anti-Israel wing of the Democratic Party has also been greatly exaggerated.
Let us admit: the whole “Democrats are anti-Israel” thing has been a convenient tool in the hands of the right wing. It has served the purpose of making Israel a political wedge issue.
This is not to say that anti-Israelism is not a threat. It most assuredly is — particularly on college campuses.
But, in terms of national electoral politics — meh.
And, as far as the Jews and Israel lovers is concerned — that “meh” is a good thing.
I have two identities — Jewish and American.
I hold those two identities together with a strip of sacred Velcro. Like Louis Brandeis, I find a harmony between Jewish ideals and American ideals.
I consider it a blessing that I must rarely, if ever, choose between those two pieces of who I am.
- When it comes to life cycle events, holidays, study, prayer, worship, what happens in the sanctuary and in the synagogue, what I eat, what I don’t eat, what I do on the Sabbath — “Jewish” comes first.
- When it comes to the American holiday cycle, “American” comes first.
- When it comes to the voting booth, “American” comes first.
Because I am a Zionist. I believe in a strong Israel that can defend herself. I do not believe in an Israel that must constantly look over its shoulder.
P.S. — on the “where are the young people?” theme.
This is far bigger than we had once thought. Because it is not only elections. It is all kinds of civic engagement — which extends to religious organizations as well.
No matter what your ethnic or religious identity might be, do yourself, and your fellow citizens a favor.
Vote like the future of America counts on it.
Because, it does.