Though rabbis have to be very careful when speaking and writing in support of Hillary Clinton, which I have decided to do in this presidential election for the first time since I was ordained a rabbi in 1979 (note: rabbis cannot speak from the bimah to advocate for a particular candidate, nor can we use our institutional stationary to endorse a candidate, nor our synagogue email address, nor any official venue in our synagogues and religious institutions lest we cross a line and violate our synagogue’s non-profit status as a 501C3 entity), as individuals we can speak out as long as we indicate that we are doing so as individuals.
I have not endorsed candidates for any office before (local, state and national), though I have spoken out on moral and ethical issues as related to public policy matters, and will continue to do so.
I have been tutored by rabbis far wiser than me, however, that in the case when a candidate is clearly a bigot and whose policy positions are contrary to most every position the liberal American Jewish community advocates, that we must speak against such a candidate with every fiber of our beings. The American Reform movement through the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) representing 1.5 million Reform Jews, our social justice commission and the Religious Action Center (RAC) in Washington, D.C. (our movement’s social justice arm in the nation’s capital) has passed and advocated for many years through many resolutions on matters effecting economic justice, the environment, civil society, civil rights, embracing the stranger and immigrant, fair criminal justice reform, sensible gun control, condemnation of racism, misogyny, mocking the disabled, homophobia, and advocating on behalf of diversity, religious pluralism, and Israel’s safety and sustenance as a Jewish and democratic state.
In one recent poll, though Hillary Clinton was ahead by 11 points against Donald Trump in a two-party two-person race, when adding the Libertarian Party and the Green Party to the mix she was ahead by only 1 point – a virtual tie. Those other two parties will be on most ballots, and so we who protest everything that Trump is and stands for ought not assume that Hillary Clinton will win the presidency based on polls that consider only the two large political parties.
I am not one of those ‘Bernie or Bust’ folks who hate Hillary Clinton to a degree that is, frankly, confusing to me.
Recognizing that Hillary could well be our next President, a year ago I decided to read as much as I could about her. I read three critical biographies as well as two of her memoirs, and I have come to the conclusion that she is a principled public leader, driven by her faith from childhood and her high school years in a church youth group, and as smart and experienced a public servant as there is or ever has been in our national life. She is no doubt flawed and she has made some mistakes, but so are we all flawed. We are not electing a Pope. We are electing a President.
It is also clear to me that Hillary learns from her mistakes, even if she is not as publicly forthright as I or others would like to see her be when she does so. I do believe that she is decent to her core.
I know and respect people who have been supporting Bernie Sanders, and I understand why and respect them for their passion as I respect Bernie for his larger vision. I have always found him honest and refreshing. I also know people who don’t like Bernie and hate both Hillary and Trump, and have decided in disgust to sit this election out to avoid feeling corrupted themselves in supporting a candidate they do not like. I do not understand the depth of venom with which these folks despise Hillary. It does not seem normal, warranted or healthy to me.
I would urge those who refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton to think again and consider that their sitting this election out or their voting for one of the other third and fourth party candidates in protest could result in the election of a President Donald Trump.
I am particularly worried about millennial voters (ages 18-36) who have flocked to Bernie Sanders in large numbers. Surveys indicate that young people do not vote at the same rate as older people, which is one of the reasons that the Congress and Senate are now run by right-wing Republicans. Had young people voted in state races in 2000 and 2010 when legislatures redistricted according to the national census and according to which parties were in power (gerrymandering is legal but corrupt) and had they voted in the mid-term congressional races (the last time Democrats earned 2 million more votes than Republicans and lost the House of Representatives anyway), policy coming out of Washington, D.C. would be very different today.
This is an election that cannot go to Trump, and it is up to all of us who see him for who and what he is to do everything we can to elect Hillary Clinton as President.
Important disclaimer and note: I speak only for myself and not for my synagogue, its members or any other organization.