We all know that if you want to change someone’s mind it’s a waste of time to offer logical arguments, facts, and figures. None of this will work—people only hear whatever supports the positions they already hold. So, I won’t try to convince you to re-elect President Obama by arguing that he brought the economy back from the brink, or by touting statistics about the millions of new jobs created. I won’t ask you to think about the auto bailout, or consider how the president’s new health-care law will make it possible for my friend’s son, suffering from a potentially fatal neuro-degenerative disease, to have access to medical care. I won’t even remind you how he ended an ill-conceived war that cost us dearly in lives, resources, and global credibility.
Instead, in the waning hours before the election, I want to ask thoughtful, moderate, still-undecided Jewish voters to keep in mind only two things as they cast their vote:
If you vote for Gov. Romney, don’t let it be because you think President Obama is bad for Israel. Something odious was born in the Jewish community five years ago, when fear of a candidate with the middle name Hussein led otherwise intelligent people to habitual mass-forwarding of loathsome accusations that the senator was a closeted Muslim, a terrorist, a socialist, and a liar—someone who would threaten the very existence of the Jewish state. Even now—after four years of unprecedented collaboration between Israeli and American intelligence; after Defense Minister Ehud Barak said he could not remember a period of more steadfast American support; after the United States funded the Iron Dome missile defense system and spearheaded crippling sanctions against Iran—President Obama is treated with deep suspicion in some Jewish circles. His staunch commitment to Israel continues to be assaulted by lies and innuendo.
If you don’t like President Obama, OK. But don’t vote for Romney because you have succumbed to the cynical fiction that the president “threw Israel under the bus.” It diminishes and endangers the alliance between Israel and the United States, and it makes a mockery of our intelligence.
If you vote for Romney, don’t let it be because you think there is no real difference between the two candidates on key social issues. Some centrists are taking a risky leap of faith in assuming that as soon as he’s elected, Romney will magically morph back into the moderate Republican he was as a blue-state governor. In the privacy of the voting booth, before you pull the lever, you must reckon with the fact that over the past 18 months, Romney has disavowed nearly every moderate position he has ever held—including his previous stances on reproductive rights, universal healthcare, gun control, and reasonable environmental protections. As presidential candidate, Romney argues that the prevalence of mass shootings has less to do with the reckless proliferation of murderous weapons than it does with children being raised by single parents.
You have to wonder why he keeps changing his mind. Is it because he is a fickle opportunist with no true convictions? Or is it because the Republican Party has moved—dangerously and perhaps irretrievably—to the right, and Romney is simply scrambling to keep up? Either option is sufficiently terrifying. What we know is that he has given every indication that his prospective administration, led by Vice President Paul Ryan, the Tea Party’s poster child, will be far further to the right than any centrist would ever be comfortable with. Given that the most profound and enduring mark of a president is his Supreme Court nominations, do you really think this is a risk we can afford to take?
I’m proud to vote to re-elect President Obama not because I think he’s some messianic figure who will miraculously fix all that’s broken in the world. I am voting for President Obama because I know that what drives him as president is precisely what has kept the Jewish people alive and has given us a sense of purpose for thousands of years: the awareness, every day, of the chasm between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be, and the determination to do everything in our power to bridge that gap.
The president has been a rational, sensible, calm, and courageous leader through some pretty tumultuous times these past four years. But he ultimately gets my vote because his vision for our country—a nation dedicated to equality and dignity for all people; a nation that honors our elderly, a nation that dreams ambitious dreams for our children; a nation that is a standard-bearer for democracy and freedom in the world—aligns deeply and profoundly with my values as a Jew, an American, and a human being.
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