Rethinking Our Priorities

If going to vote this year was a rather disheartening experience, my subsequent conversation with other voters was even more disturbing.

I am not referring to the actual results in the national election, which, as expected, saw the House switching over to Democratic control, and the GOP retaining control of the Senate. The election results in New York State, which saw Governor Cuomo and Senator Gillibrand winning in a landslide, was widely expected as well. After all, New York is a bastion of liberalism.

What I found to be distressing was the reality that for all practical purposes, topics that ought to be among the most important to our community weren’t even mentioned in this campaign, and that is the candidate’s stance on moral issues.

One highly intelligent and generally very knowledgeable voter told me that he voted straight down the Republican line.

“I knew they won’t win, but I wanted to send a message that I am opposed to the progressive agenda of the Democrats,” he explained to me.

I had the unpleasant task of informing this most well-intentioned individual that while the candidates he voted for may have been – relatively speaking – less progressive than their Democratic opponents, nearly every candidate he supported hold views that are anathema to Torah Jews. For example, in all the contested races in my district, with the sole exception of State Senator Simcha Felder, every candidate running on the GOP and even conservative lines has extremely disturbing positions on at least one social issue.

He was flabbergasted.

“But they ran on the GOP and the Conservative lines,” he argued.

“That no longer means anything,” I told him.

During the campaign, I was contacted by an acquaintance who urged me to support the candidacy of Ms. Chele Farley, who unsuccessfully ran against Senator Gillibrand. The caller cited Farley’s strong support for Israel, and highlighted Gilibrand’s troubling connection to a Palestinian activist.

I told the caller that for numerous professional and personal reasons, I don’t get involved in political races. Later, after I researched Farley’s positions in order to make an educated decision at the polls, I discovered that she actually supports physician-assisted suicide.

While a Senator’s position on Israel is of course something we must be concerned about, it cannot and must not be the only litmus test applied. The threat posed by a law legalizing physician-assisted suicide is far more relevant and frightening than a politician’s controversial friendship with a Palestinian activist.

Gubernatorial candidate Marc Molinaro appeared to be on the right side on this specific issue, but his stance on other moral issues is downright horrifying. Even the candidate who ran against Congressman Jerry Nadler, an individual who campaigned heavily in our community, proudly boasted of her receiving the endorsement of a group dedicated to uprooting Torah values.

An argument can be made that when both candidates hold problematic positions on moral values, we should choose the lesser of the two evils. Whether or not this is true is a question that should be posed to and answered by daas Torah. What does seem certain is that at the very least, we need to be asking this question of our spiritual mentors, and in order to do so, we need to have the real facts about the candidates running for office.

There are many questions that we should be asking of the candidates who are running for office. Their stances on moral issues should be first and foremost.