Sunday, April 10, 2016

An Unfunny Silly Season

Bizarro World
I was an avid fan of Superman when I was a child. I used to buy every comic book that had stories about the Man of Steel – and save them in mint condition for posterity.  No I don’t have them anymore. My father made me give them away when we moved from Toledo to Chicago. Which is too bad. Those comic books are quite valuable now. But I digress. 

The current political situation reminds me of a world created by Superman comic book writers called Bizarro World. That is a parallel universe wherein there exists, Bizarro, a Man of Steel with a bizarre appearance who acts in bizarre ways.

I cannot remember anything like the current political season. To say it is bizarre is an understatement. Not just because of the candidates running. But also because there is so much positive public reaction to the candidates by the public - whether by private or prominent individuals. Which is beyond bizarre.

Because as much as there are people that like the two most likely candidates, there seems to be even more that don’t. They have the highest negatives of any candidate in recent memory. Simply put – most people do not like Clinton or Trump.  The two runners up in each party do not fare much better in the ‘Bizarro’ factor.  Bernie Sanders, an avowed socialist who is not even a registered Democrat is running as a Democrat. And Ted Cruz the most hated man in the senate is running as a Republican. Both of these men have done very well of late.

The conventional wisdom about all of this seems to be that the voters in both parties are fed up with business as usual. Clinton’s vaunted experience may in fact be a liability since it implies she is part of the ‘business as usual’ crowd. With which people are fed up! If there is one thing that Sanders followers have in common with Trump it is the fact that they are seen as the consummate outsiders. In fact that Cruz’s is hated by his colleagues may be part of his appeal. Voters on both sides of the political aisle simply do not want to vote for insiders anymore.

Chicago Jewish News editor, Joe Aaron, an observant Jew and avowed card carrying liberal Democrat that has in the past fawned all over Mrs. Clinton - said the following in his most recent editorial:  
Truth is I actually believe that (Trump) may be the sanest, most reasonable, of all this year’s Republican candidates. 
And as if that weren’t enough of a surprise, he actually admitted that although Clinton is still his ‘man’, he is not sure which way he’d go in a contest between them.

The list of prominent people that support Trump is , well… HUGE!  – had anyone asked me if it were possible that people whose views are as disparate as  David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, and Pat Buchanan would support the same man, I would have laughed myself silly just thinking about it. The fact that these 3 people have in common varying degrees of antisemitism could hardly be the reason they support a man whose grandchildren are Orthodox Jews. 

The fact that mainstream governors like Chris Christie, Rick Scott, and Paul Lepage support Trump is a somewhat of a mystery to me. I suppose that it might be chalked up to politicians getting on the winning bandwagon early

But all this is not half as shocking as the number of people in the Orthodox world from a wide variety of Hashkafos that have told me they support Trump. These people are not kooks. They are quite normal, rational people that have values similar to my own. And yet they are supporting a man that who has made some profoundly offensive comments during his campaign. A man whose qualifications for President of the United States could not be more lacking. He is - for example - completely ignorant about major components of American foreign policy, or America’s defense posture.   

Then there’s the ‘Bernie Sanders phenomenon’. A Jew running for office. Something that should make me proud. It actually does. He seems like a nice guy who cares more about the people he wants to serve than any of the other candidates running. Which is probably part of the reason for his appeal. But at the same time his views are not exactly anything I could support. His views on Israel are more in line with the Palestinian narrative than they are with mine.  And his plans to socialize the American economy should be anathema to all Americans.

That no one even notices that he’s Jewish is  a testament to the core American principle of religious tolerance. Nobody here really cares what the religion of any given candidate is.  But it is still a shock that this socialist is so popular. And of late he’s winning one primary after another!

It’s the silly season. Only it isn’t really that funny.

‘There something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear’. So went the opening verse to the 1967 Buffalo Springfield hit, ‘For What It’s Worth’. That phrase is as relevant as ever.