We are currently in the middle of the American Presidential
primary season, where all voting-eligible Americans who want
to will get a chance to vote and caucus for their preferred
Presidential nominee for both the Democratic and Republican
parties. This even includes Americans living abroad, like me.
As of the time of writing, after ‘Super Tuesday’ and with around
20 to 30 per cent of delegates now pledged, the choices are
crystallising: likely Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and, it
grieves me to say his name, Donald Trump for the GOP.
As this general election shapes up, there is cause both for much
joy and much anxiety.
On the one hand, the Democratic nomination has been fought
out by two fascinating, strong candidates – Senator Bernie
Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
From a Jewish perspective, Sanders is an especially interesting
candidate. He is a self-identified ‘social democrat’ whose public
press package proudly and simply says “Jewish” under
“Religion”. His brand of radical Progressivism comes largely out
of the Saul Alinsky style of politics.
Alinsky was the great activist, and son of Russian Jewish
immigrants, known as the godfather of community organising.
His work seeded the ground for the civil rights movements of
the 60s and 70s in America.
Alinsky also inspired Sanders’ opponent, with his tactics, as
expressed in Rules for Radicals, the subject of Hillary Clinton’s
(then Rodham’s) undergraduate thesis. Hillary is also very
appealing to me, as a very experienced candidate who is
looking to become America’s first female President.
On the other side, the field, split between conservative and
establishment/moderate Republican candidates, has been swept
by Donald Trump, the son of a self-made real estate man.
From Trump’s rhetoric about banning Muslims, to his proposed
deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants, to his
most recent hesitation to disavow endorsements from white
supremacists… his road to the nomination is an ugly one.
Trump has played into populist anger and anxiety around a
changing, more globalised, unstable, and more diverse world.
Trump wants a share of those votes. As news journalist Mika
Brzezinski recently asked, “How about a share of morality?”
If this Presidential election is a referendum between the
Progressive Jewish values represented by Saul Alinksy’s fight for
economic and racial justice on the one hand and the
reactionary, racist, nationalist dogma of an ideologue on the
other, it’s a bizarrely easy (but also important and urgent)
choice – for us and for the wider Jewish community.
Rabbi Leah Jordan