Apparently the Presidential race is set. It will be Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump.
But before we relegate the now concluded primary campaign to history, there is much to consider, particularly for American Jews. “Old Jews Telling Jokes” is a successful play that has been running on Broadway for a number of years. It pays tribute to classic jokes of the past and present. I would like to offer a sequel to be entitled “Old Jews Telling the Truth.” Not a comedy. The old Jews I have in mind are Senator Bernie Sanders and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Who would have guessed that in 2016, two Jewish old-timers, one born in 1936 the other in 1941, could have made such an impact?
Senator Bernie Sanders, a most unlikely rumpled old candidate, without the backing of the establishment heavy hitters, harnessed the energy of millions of young and no-so-young people, most 40 to 50 years younger than himself, and came close to winning the nomination. And he did so by continuously pressing for a politician revolution.
On the campaign trail, the level of enthusiasm was extraordinary. Wherever Bernie Sanders went, thousands of devoted supporters “Felt the Bern,” and most remain committed to this day. The reasons for the fire that he ignited are crystal clear.
Bernie has been the candidate for the little guy. Without equivocation, he championed the cause of social and economic justice including: universal health care, the end to the corruption campaign practices, overturning the Citizens United ruling, the need for free college education in public universities, breaking up of the big banks, equal pay for equal work and, especially staying out of wars that are not in defense of our nation. His authentic vision was for a more just America in contrast with the status quo attitude of almost every other candidate of both parties. Bernie did not win the nomination, but he has done a “huuuge” service to America.
Thinking about the guiding principles of liberal Judaism, Bernie Sanders’ campaign completely embodied almost all of them. Judaism’s Reform movement has been advocating for these very causes for decades. Though he was truly deserving, he received little support from the Jewish establishment. I should note that Sanders’ willingness to acknowledge the need for the U.S. to be more even-handed regarding the aspirations of the Palestinians may have put him at odds with AIPAC, but it resonated with a large number of Reform Jews who are increasingly disenchanted.
Sanders may not be an observant Jew but he definitely has a Jewish heart and conscience. This old Jew had it right!
And now let’s turn to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who, at the age of 83, remains the Supreme Court’s conscience and the vigorous leader of its liberal wing. She may be small but she is mighty. Her mind is as sharp as ever and her vision is unclouded. Whether in the majority or in dissent, she remains a force to be reckoned with. No wonder that this elderly little Jewish lady is so greatly admired by many much younger people who refer to her as the Notorious RBG. By her own admission, she may have crossed the line by speaking out so forcefully against Donald Trump, yet her words ring true. Trump is a threat to American democracy. It is a sad time for America that he is to be the presidential candidate of the Republican Party.
Trump is a threat because he rejects many of the basic ideals on which our democracy is based. He talks about opening up the libel laws so he can attack organizations that are critical of him. He repeatedly expresses admiration for dictators and approves of their most brutal methods, including assassination, torture, and the use of overwhelming force to suppress opposition. He appeals to the lowest instincts and prejudices, disparaging entire cultures and religions. This is the despicable path he intends to take all the way to the White House.
As Paul Waldman has written: “One can understand why someone who has devoted her life to studying, interpreting and upholding the Constitution of the United States would conclude that Donald Trump is not just a candidate with whom she has political differences, but something altogether different…You can still argue that Ginsburg should have kept her opinion to herself… But Ginsburg’s breach of decorum is a reminder that in Donald Trump, we’re not dealing with an ordinary candidate, but someone who threatens the very underpinnings of the American system.”
Once again, an old Jew telling the truth.
How inspiring it is that these two amazing personalities are not content to retreat into quiet retirement. These two definitely are not heading off to “God’s waiting room.”
I hope and fully expect Bernie Sanders and Ruth Bader Ginsburg to continue fighting for what they believe in as long as God grants them the strength. As we say in Hebrew, may they continue to do so “ad meiah v’esrim,” “until 120.”