Why I am voting for Barack Obama and the Democrats

3-5 Tishrei 5773

September 19-21, 2012

“Hope in the Lord.  Be strong and of good courage, and hope in the Lord!” (Ps. 27) .  If we believe that the universe was created for good, we must have the courage to act for the good of all even when this seems to be unrewarded.

On the economy, we were reminded in 2008 that when less fortunate people can’t spend or invest because they’ve lost their jobs or because medical needs destroy their savings, most of us will face financial insecurity as well.

But beyond self-interest, we must recall that the Torah envisions a society in which the community ensures that its members’ basic needs are met, while individuals are responsible for identifying with the community and contributing to it to the best of their ability.  For the Rambam, the highest level of charity is teaching self-sufficiency, but “you’re on your own” is not an acceptable lower level.  Respect for others’ property is an important value, but seeking to keep it all for yourself is often associated with Sodom.

There have been other campaigns in which Democrats substituted this principle with a focus on unreciprocated entitlement; and Republicans very appropriately sought more frugal ways to serve the public good.  But the other choice this year would leave millions of people to languish in poverty through no fault of their own, and is callously indifferent toward the challenges faced by working people.  A vision of society in which those more fortunate don’t even feel connected to the less fortunate, let alone giving them a hand up so everyone’s children can be more prosperous, is very far from the Torah’s vision of society and doesn’t merit serious consideration from those who would follow the Torah.

I have no intention of questioning Mitt Romney’s character as I see so unfairly happening to President Obama, but the recording released on Sept. 17 shows that, while he’s a decent person, he’s running on a philosophy that judges people as units of production, not as images of God. 

On foreign policy, any administration will need to be concerned with Israel’s security, but America will be less able to help if we have another severe recession and less dialogue with our allies and with the Arab and Moslem worlds.  Jewish organizations will be less able to influence matters if their constituents are worried about making ends meet.

Our foreign policy problems are not caused by personalities, but because other countries and forces are approaching America in influence.  No president could ignore Arab and Muslim public opinion, or China’s growing economic and military strength.  I think we might have been in a stronger position if we had had a stronger economy with broadly-shared wealth and a middle class that felt secure, but whether I’m right or not, while we face our immediate challenges, we need cool-headed and pragmatic leaders who are committed to democracy and realistic about what resources they have (or don’t have) at their disposal.

Which leads me to Barack Obama’s personality.  His cool-headedness has definitely been frustrating on domestic issues, but I’ve never seen any basis to believe all of the wild talk that started even before he was elected.  It’s religiously inappropriate to believe the worst of anyone without evidence, and it makes those who believe it more gullible and easier to manipulate.

Jewish communities around the world have just been sounding the shofar to proclaim God’s rule over the universe (among other reasons given).  If we really believe this, we should try in everything we do to seek good for all, and govern our actions by hope, not fear.  All of life’s dangers will still be there, as they ever were, but let us have the conviction that God is helping us overcome them.  And may everyone who tries to make the world better have the merit of making this a blessed year.

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5 Responses to “Why I am voting for Barack Obama and the Democrats”

  1. Riva Says:

    What a refreshing commentary at a time when there is so much hot headed rhetoric. I hope more of us can take a step back and vote according to what is best for all, not just a select few.

  2. Martin Says:

    This is a wonderful and moving article. I would think that that there would be universal opposition for cuts that so adversely affect children, regardless of how one understands the reasons for their parents’ lack of means. Apropos Judaism’s view of the current push to get government out of the way of the bankers and tycoons, I often think of the comment in Avot to the effect that one should not despise the government as it keeps people from swallowing one another whole.

  3. Shira Says:

    David, what a great post. I wish this were required reading for every Jewish voter. I’m so proud to be your sister!

  4. Chaim M. Says:

    All very well put, David. Especially re it being inappropriate to believe the worst of anyone. Happens all too often, among religious and secular alike.

  5. Yaakov Atik Says:

    How refreshing to be reminded of a Judaism of social care and of justice. This post highlights our better instincts and of motives that go beyond our own self-interests. Well done.

    Yaakov

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