A few days ago, former President Donald Trump was acquitted by the United States Senate of charges of inciting the January 6 riots at the US Capitol. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives voted to strip Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments. Last week, Ilhan Omar was named Vice Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights. The common thread through these events is that neither political party has a monopoly on virtue, neither deserves to be demonized, and that hypocrisy abounds in both parties.
Congresswoman Greene accused the Rothschild family of using lasers to start wildfires in California. Anti-Semites have historically used the Rothschild family as a metaphor for Jews controlling the banks and using their power to promote Jewish interests at the expense of everyone else. She has also warned of “an unholy alliance of leftists, capitalists, and Zionist supremacists breeding us out of existence in our own homelands.”
In addition to Greene, the Republican Caucus includes Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who compared Governor Jared Polis and Colorado health officials to Nazis, and Madison Cawthorn, who proudly posted pictures of himself at a vacation home that was frequented by “the Fuhrer,” Adolf Hitler.
The Democratic side does not get off the hook. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar has accused Jews of buying off Members of Congress to support Israel and has accused supporters of Israel of “swearing allegiance to a foreign country.” Rashida Tlaib has written: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a call for the destruction of Israel. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has accused Israel of being “criminal” and committing massacres. All three co-sponsored a resolution supporting BDS, comparing it to boycotts of Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa.
Clearly, neither party is totally virtuous. Democrats have Omar, Tlaib, and AOC. Republicans have Greene, Boebert, and Cawthorn. But neither party should be demonized. Greene, Boebert, and Cawthorn do not represent all Republicans. Omar, Tlaib, and AOC do not represent all Democrats.
There are many good people in both parties who strongly support Israel and are sensitive to the needs of the Jewish community.
Yet when it comes to speaking out against anti-Semitism, both parties fall short. Republicans who shouted the loudest about anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party voted against stripping Greene of her committee assignments. The Democratic Caucus, which voted unanimously to strip Greene of her committee assignments, made Omar the Vice Chair of the Committee on Human Rights. Both parties are quick to call out anti-Semitism in the other party, while condoning it in their own ranks.
As Mitchell Bard of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise put it: “The inadequate response of both parties to anti-Semitism in their midst is normalizing anti-Semitism and contributing to the upsurge of extremism on the far right and left.”
Sometimes, contrast can be found within the same person. Donald Trump moved the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and issued an executive order protecting Jews from anti-Semitism. He also undermined democracy with his claims that the 2020 election was “rigged,” and played a role in inciting the January 6 riots at the US Capitol, in which many of the participants displayed anti-Semitic symbols or expressed support for anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
As passionate as we may feel about our support of one candidate or one party, we need to realize that the triumph of one party or the other will herald neither the dawn of the messianic era nor the second coming of the Holocaust.
You may believe strongly that one candidate or the other would better serve the interests of our community. But you need to understand that there are other people whose commitment to Torah and democratic values are as deep as yours who feel differently. Their opinions are entitled to the same respect as yours.
At their best, both parties have helped to make the United States a bastion of freedom and opportunity for more people than any country in the history of the world. At their worst, they have displayed bigotry, demagoguery, and hypocrisy.
As tempting as it may be to walk away from politics and to say, “A plague on both their houses,” that is not an option.
The decisions that have impact on us and our community, from support for Israel to funding for our institutions here in Queens, are made by politicians. As an old saying goes, “You have to be in it to win it.” The only way we can impact on the process is to be a part of it.
We should begin by recognizing both parties for what they are: deeply flawed vehicles for attaining political power, addressing our needs, and promoting our values.
None of us should be loyal to a political party. Our loyalty should be to our community, our country, and our city. We should support candidates of both parties who promote our interests and oppose those who do not.
This year, we will be electing a Mayor, Public Advocate, City Comptroller, Queens Borough President, and City Councilmembers. These officials actually can have more impact on our day-to-day lives than the President. There are candidates who have shown a lifelong commitment to fighting for our community and addressing our concerns. There are others who are downright hostile.
As we approach the upcoming elections, we should be looking not at which party is more attuned to our concerns but at how we can most effectively meet our needs and promote our values.
In Queens, there were 766,213 enrolled Democrats for the 2020 election and 126,670 enrolled Republicans. That is a margin of more than 6-to-1. The citywide figure is similar. In virtually every race, the winner of the Democratic primary will win the General Election. The Democratic Primary in June is the real election, and that is what we need to look towards.
The deadline for registered voters to change party enrollment has passed. But those who are not yet registered to vote can still enroll to vote in the Democratic Primary until May 28. If you have a valid driver license or identification card from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, you can register to vote online at voterreg.dmv.ny.gov/motorvoter. You can register to vote by mail by downloading the application and following the instructions at vote.nyc/page/register-vote.
While the deadline for changing party affiliation and the Special Election for the City Council in the 24th District have passed, the real political season has just begun. Our opponents are already hard at work.
In the last closely-contested Democratic Mayoral Primary, only 14% of the enrolled voters voted. A relatively small handful of people selected the Mayor and city officials. It means that the real task before us is to make sure that those of us who are already enrolled actually vote.
The new system of ranked choice voting will give us the opportunity to vote for those who best support our interests and against those whom we most want to defeat. We have four months in which to educate ourselves about the candidates and bring out the vote. I am confident that this newspaper will do its part; I know that I will, b’ezras Hashem, do mine. I urge you to do yours. And remember: No matter which party you support in your heart, the real election is the Democratic Primary on June 22. I urge you to do yours.