Several fellow Jews that I know have consistently voted Democratic, and will vote for Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Steve Rothman, yet they are either hesitant to vote for Barack Obama or are seriously thinking of voting for John McCain for president. The major excuse that they often give is that Obama would not be good, or as good, for Israel as McCain. Alternatively, they may say that Obama is not experienced enough to be president. They are not swayed by the fact that former ambassador Denis Ross has endorsed Obama, as have Deborah Lipstadt and other leading Jewish figures, plus several leading Israelis, and in addition members of the Chicago Jewish community and others that know him well. In addition to the fact that McCain is on opposite sides of what they normally support when it comes to domestic issues and the fact that some of them were old enough to vote for John Kennedy and did so despite his lack of experience leads me to one conclusion.
No, it is not that they are racists; it’s just that they afraid to vote for president someone who identifies as black. They might work side by side with blacks, or for them, or hire them. They might teach black students and have no qualms about their children taking a university course with a black professor. They would not feel uncomfortable if a black family lived down the street or was on their sons’ Little League team. But they have an unfounded fear that if Obama was elected president then Jesse Jackson would be giving “Hymie Town” speeches from the White House portico, Al Sharpton would become the secretary of education, and our foreign aid to Jerusalem would shift to Nairobi. Perhaps they fear as well that somewhere in Harlem or Jersey City there is a secret network of blacks who are now preparing the “Protocols of the Elders of Africa” for distribution.
When Al Smith ran for president in 1928, many Protestants opposed him, not out of bigotry, but fear that the pope would run the White House – or perhaps it would turn into a saloon. Once Kennedy took office these fears were forgotten. Some of us may support the Republicans because we believe in their economic policies, their idea that less government is better, that more oil is our energy solution and global warming will take care of itself, that Social Security should be privatized, that some should be left without medical insurance, and that military options should be a first resort in many cases. But those of us who fit into the category I described above should try to remember that there have been many times in our history where similar unfounded fears were directed at us. We, of all people, must not give into them.