Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn

Something I wrote up. Feel free to share.

FDR famously said that “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Well, this is ample reason to fear this election, as it is all about fear. Many (if not most) people are voting out of fear: Fear of what the other candidate will do if he or she is elected president, fear for the future of the nation under his or her administration.

Orthodox Jewry in America is split on the elections – often vehemently so. Yet, while many of those who have bought into the “Crooked Hillary” narrative are pulling out all stops in their support of Mr. Trump, it is almost never on account of their like of Mr. Trump (although some do like Ivanka, as at least a nominally Orthodox Jew), but their fear of Mrs. Clinton. They remember some overtures she made, long ago, to Arab opponents of the State of Israel (most infamouly, her 1999 kiss of Suha Arafat), and fear she will double-cross the Jewish state.

Others fear that the Democratic party is hell-bent on undermining religion in America. The positions taken recently by the Democratic party seem to them to be intended to challenge conventional religious norms and morals, and to create a toxic environment for religion in the American public sphere.

This fear drives many Orthodox Jews to the Republican candidate, notwithstanding any personal sordidness. That Mr. Trump is not authentically religious, and that his support of certain Christian positions is of recent vintage and entirely self-serving, does not escape them, but this is not enough to prevent them from voting for him. Furthermore, some of these supporters of Trump believe – or at least hope – that in the end, it will be Mike Pence who actually governs. Thus, they are voting more for Mr. Pence than for Mr. Trump.

On the other hand, many Orthodox Jews are afraid of Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump seems to attract to his banner several fringe groups, some of which are blatantly anti-Semitic. He is seen as a coarse, boorish lout with no intrinsic sense of morality, ethics – not even common courtesy. He has actually made (albeit during the primaries) statements regarding Israel that are more controversial than any statements that Mrs. Clinton has made, such as his pledge, back in February, to remain “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

When individuals from both sides of this great divide learn that I plan on voting for Mr. McMullin, their main complaint against me is that I am wasting my vote.

But I believe it is amoral to vote for a candidate whom you feel is wrong for America as the lesser among two fears. I think it is unethical to support an unethical candidate for pragmatic reasons. As a religious person, I believe that God would want us to support someone we perceive as a good person, representing a good cause, even if that person and that cause will lose this round. As Jews, we have persevered throughout history on precisely such principles, with faith that, as in the movies, good will triumph in the end. This side of the coin is a case for the here and now, for a “real time” positive choice of a candidacy that may do us proud, as opposed to a negative choice of which side will embarrass us less.

Moreover, recent history shows that on January 21, 2017 – if not on November 9, 2016 – this country will begin looking ahead to 2020. I sense that regardless of whether we wake up that morning to a President Clinton or a President Trump, we will begin hoping for a redemptive election next time around. Even in losing, a candidate can establish him or her self as a viable and serious option for next time around. Even in losing, a movement based on idealism and (hopefully!) refinement can be brought into existence, one that will reclaim America’s mission and manifest destiny.

I intend to vote for Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn (who are write-in candidates in my state of New York) because I believe a vote of conscience – even if it only a protest vote – is, in my emphatic opinion, never wasted. Indeed, when I explored my son’s suggestion and decided to vote for Mr. McMullin, I had no idea of the “Utah option” that suggests that if Mr. McMullin wins his home state of Utah he might prevent both major candidates from reaching the decisive 270 electoral votes, thus throwing the election to the House of Representatives, who might select Mr. McMullin as the next president.

While I do not necessarily agree with Mr. McMullin and Ms. Finn on all the issues, in this election they represent most closely my ideal of a national leadership of which this nation could be proud. They could be positive role models in morality, ethics and idealism. In contrast to the electioneering of the major candidates, they manifest civility and refrain from vulgarity.

Rabbi Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer is a rabbi, teacher, lecturer and author. He and his family currently reside in Monsey, NY.  His blog, including classes on the entire Talmud Yerushalmi, is at rygb.blogspot.com.


  1. I was long planning on voting for a write in. As for whether it qualifies as "wasting my vote", I live in New Jersey, where Mrs Clinton's lead in the polls is so high, the Electoral College renders my vote pretty empty. And the same could be said of your home state of NY.

    I do not know if I would have made the same choice if I lived in a "swing state".

    However, as far as I can tell, on a purely political level, the strongest vote I can make is a write in. A record write-in count would tell the major parties that there are active voters that they could be courting but aren't; it is our best chance of voting for better choices in 2020.

    In practice, who the write in is, doesn't matter to my train of thought. But in case it will hearten you, I want you to know did vote McMullin-Finn as a consequence of your earlier postings,

  2. From a correspondent:

    I too voted for McMullin. I think it's a shanda that the frum velt, for the most part, has been taken in by Trump's demagoguery and couldn't care less about his misogyny and abuse of women. ("All goyim are the same." No, they are not!)

    Clinton stands for a number of anti-Torah values and is thoroughly corrupt (though Trump is at least as corrupt). Thus, the choice was clear: McMullin/Finn. I hope he at least wins Utah, whether or not that throws the election to the House.