These words are being written two days before the election and this paper will most likely go to print before the winner is known, but interestingly enough, most people with whom I talk seem to already know who won.
In my conversations with frum people over the past two days, both in New York and New Jersey, I have met with three different reactions or predictions. The overwhelming majority of those with whom I have spoken are certain that President Trump will win once again. There is a minority that is cautiously optimistic that he will win and an even smaller minority that is very worried that he might lose and what that might mean for frum Jews, both here and in Eretz Yisroel.
I am not going to mention the negligible minority of chareidi Never-Trumpers. They are so blinded by their misplaced application of Torah principles, and their numbers, percentage-wise, are so miniscule that they barely count.
I asked those many wonderful Yidden who are absolutely certain that Trump will win about the fact that the overwhelming majority of major polls predict that he will lose and they answered with two words: “Fake news.” The words are said emphatically. In their opinion, it is clear that the media and the overwhelming number of pollsters have been proven to be left-leaning or outright have their finger on the scale for Joe Biden, and therefore you just can’t believe them.
I asked, “What about the fact that many polls don’t just show a couple of percentage points in favor of Biden that are well within the margin of error, but show a large difference, some even in the double digits?”
Their reply is the same: “Fake news. The media and the pollsters will do anything to discourage turnout on behalf of Trump, even transforming single digits into double digits! They have lied for four years and will continue to lie!”
I can’t say that they are wrong, because even a jaded observer of the mainstream media such as myself, who has been observing their shenanigans for years and perhaps decades, has been surprised and deeply troubled by the full mobilization against Trump that they have displayed. To my mind, they have completely lost credibility, and anything they say should be taken as being b’chezkas sheker. Still, I don’t know if they are right either.
Others I have spoken to acknowledge that the race is close enough for Trump to possibly lose, but still hold out hope that the numbers are much closer than they appear and the pollsters always exaggerate a bit on behalf of the Democrats. Just look at 2016, they remind us. So certainly, Trump has a chance, perhaps even a good chance, they say.
Then there are the small number of pessimists who observe the political situation and are forced to conclude that they think it is very likely that Trump will lose. Their reaction is either, “May Hashem have rachmanus on us,” or, “I should get a foreign passport and contemplate moving to New Zealand!”
One Point of Agreement
There is, however, one thing on which I think all of us can agree. That is the corrosive impact that following politics in 2020 can have and is having on our middos and sensitivity.
We recently learned in Parshas Noach how the Torah goes out of its way, despite needing extra words, to classify impure animals as lo tehorah as opposed to temeiah, because the Torah wants us to always use lashon nekiah, clean speech.
Politics, especially in this age, is cruel and mean-spirited, and that, without a doubt, has an impact on us, more than we can ever imagine.
Perhaps there are skeptics who will say, “C’mon man! It’s politics. It has always been that way.” The answer is: No, it hasn’t.
I am old enough to still remember the Nixon impeachment attempt and resignation. (I was a child, but I cannot forget my father being glued to the radio, shushing me so he could hear.) I still don’t recall a time in politics as toxic as ours.
Now, the first thing that partisans on each side will do is assign blame for this sorry situation. It is the media’s fault that the environment is so toxic because they relentlessly attacked the president from day one. Other will say that it is Trump’s fault, because his style is abrasive.
What came first, the action or the reaction?
It doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that everything is toxic.
A New Level of Depravity
I gained new insight into the cruelty, anger and simple lowliness of the Democrat Party establishment from the way they questioned Justice Amy Coney Barrett during the recent Supreme Court hearings before the Senate Judicial Committee. While it may be understood that they were upset over the fact that the Senate did not take up the Merritt Garland nomination during Obama’s election year, though the situation was different because the Republican majority would not have approved the nomination anyway. Then again, if the shoe would be on the other foot, I don’t think anyone is naïve enough to think that the Democrats would have behaved differently and would have put up their nominee so close to an election. Sadly, that is the partisan nature of the political climate in our time.
What was eye-opening to me, already a jaded observer who is cognizant of the lowly moral behavior of our elected individuals, was the depth of the vitriol, hate and enmity that they showed for Judge Barrett to her face. Here was an obviously upstanding woman, a family person, a clearly compassionate woman who adopted two black children, saving them from death or a tortured life and giving them the same opportunity and love that she is giving to her five biological children, and they were trampling on her, trying to make her look like a crazed, primitive, religious fanatic who will rob them of every right they have and kill the planet.
You would think that they would recognize that she is a role model for girls and women. She has a family, is happily married, and at the same time has reached the pinnacle of achievement and accomplishment in her career. Yet, many of them sought to portray her as an almost oppressed woman in a patriarchal, male-controlled, racist world. Observing her conduct and studying her life made their conduct and their innuendo seem so absurd.
They didn’t care. They had a narrative that they needed to pursue, and they were ready to be as mean-spirited and cruel as could be. (For some reason, I didn’t see Biden supporters – those who are so alarmed by President Trump’s horrible “middos,” become as horrified by the disgusting spectacle of the many Democrats on the judiciary committee abusing Judge Barrett.)
The Need for Action
This is why, no matter what happens in this election, I think that all of us will have to engage in actions to strengthen our sensitivity to others and our manner of speech.
Chazal tell us that one who sees a sotah when her Divine punishment is being meted out must refrain from drinking wine. The very fact that one is privy to the lowliness has an impact on him, and he must therefore engage in an action to neutralize the impact.
Whether one is a Trump supporter or not, we all need to actively engage in the avodah of tikkun hamiddos to neutralize the corrosive effect that the political climate is sure to have on us, regardless of who is responsible for creating it.
Just as we are commanded to ritually wash our hands after cutting our nails or using the restroom because these actions, Chazal tell us, create a ruach hatumah, so too, the terrible middos deficiency that we see all over, on both sides of the aisle and in the media, create a ruach hatumah for our middos.
Let us all accept upon ourselves some kabbolah in matters of middos or in learning mussar so that we can emerge from this with our tzelem Elokim intact.
Most of all, rabbosai, please, let’s daven for shlomo shel malchus and that, as Yidden in golus, we will always be recipients of Hashem’s rachamim and brocha no matter who is in the White House.