G

-d runs the world, including the American midterm elections, which were merely an occasion for rearranging of the pawns on the national chessboard, to be moved at His whim. Bearing that in mind, a few post-election observations:

The results showed a continuation of the trend of recent years in which Republicans win with voters who are older, blue-collar, and rural, while Democrats prevail based on younger and non-white voters, but also on white voters who are college-educated residents of cities and suburbs. That in turn means the late sociologist Milton Himmelfarb’s well-known aphorism — “Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans” — needs an asterisk and an added line: “But some Orthodox Jews earn like upper-class suburbanites and vote like rednecks.”

That’s not to say there’s anything necessarily wrong with rednecks. But they tend to live in places where rednecks predominate, while Orthodox Jews tend to live in places whose political coloration is already some shade of blue. In this election, New York and New Jersey, the centers of the Western Heimishsphere, turned even more deeply blue than they already were.

On the national level, the president was said to have claimed it was “close to a complete victory” for him. Or maybe he said it was for the country he lives in, I’m not sure. Well, I for one understand him.

True, even in the Senate races Democrats garnered about twelve million more votes overall, and won both the governorship and Senate races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where the president’s 2016 victory was sealed by a razor-thin margin. And yes, a great many candidates he campaigned for lost, some badly. Take Montana, where he personally targeted Senator Jon Tester for defeat, visiting the tiny state of 1 million — which he won in 2016 by more than 20 points — four times in the past five months. Tester won with over 50 percent for the first time in his career.

But forget all that, because he said you should — there was so much to celebrate. After all, two of his close associates, Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins, won their races. In September, he publically attacked the country’s chief law enforcement officer, Jeff Sessions, for having the gall to imperil “two easy wins” by indicting these two candidates.

But they’re still here and Mr. Sessions is gone. For insisting on following the law, the first US senator to endorse the president — who gave up his Senate seat to join the administration — was dispatched without even being allowed to speak personally with the president or finish the week in office. So who won? And isn’t that what counts, anyway?

Most important of all, the election has likely swept one of his favorite Congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi, back into the House Speaker’s post. As he once said:

When [Nancy Pelosi] first got in and was named speaker, I met her. I think she’s a very impressive person. I like her a lot. But I was surprised that she didn’t do more in terms of… going after Bush. It just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing…. He got us into the war with lies. And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense.

If you’re astonished by these words fit for a radical leftist, that’s because you stubbornly cling to the antiquated notion that anything — law, morals, truth — matters. Jeff Sessions thought so too.

But as National Review’s Jonah Goldberg put it, “what Trumpism always boils down to when put to the test: a cult of personality. Support of the man is more important than support of anything else, including Trump’s own agenda.” And so, like everyone else who’s no longer useful in advancing the only cause that really matters, Sessions was discarded.

 

NO DEBATES HERE The day after the elections, when I wanted to hear a bit of analysis of the results on the car radio, I turned to the public radio station, NPR. Yes, I know — National Palestine Radio and all that. I get it; I make those jokes too. It unquestionably has a distinctly liberal political orientation, and since mine is conservative (read: what many Republicans once were or at least claimed to be, and a diminished group of its best thinkers and writers still are), much of its programming is at odds with my views.

But when I tuned in that day, there were only two choices for political talk on the AM dial. One was NPR, where there was a calm, reasoned discussion featuring a moderator asking good questions to Alice Stewart, former communications director for Ted Cruz, and to Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe, a longtime Clinton associate.

Nor, in my experience, is that uncommon: On public radio, I often hear discussions involving participants of all political stripes, as well as balanced news reportage with sound bites from people on that same spectrum. If they’re trying to deviously skew leftward, they’re being subtle enough about it to fool me.

The other available option was a right-wing talk-radio call-in program with a host who’s very glib and bright, but whose rare guests are those who entirely agree with him, and who takes few calls from anyone who disagrees with him, and then only to harangue and humiliate them and invariably hang up on them. When he talks about his dogs, he gets weepy, but actual humans calling in aren’t treated nearly as kindly.

That’s really too bad, because if that host were only respectful and solicitous to callers, he’d probably win most of those arguments on their own merits while coming across as a mensch who’s fair-minded and secure in his views. Unless he’s simply decided to give his listeners what they want to hear.

We live, after all, in a time when a regular feature of rallies around the country is thousands chanting “Lock ’em up!” — as the nation’s president stands by smiling approvingly — referring not just to his 2016 opponent but also to a variety of others, some of them private citizens. (These same chanters were just recently very exercised about the failure to accord a presumption of innocence to a certain nominee for high office.)

Perhaps some readers don’t even know this occurs regularly, while others have become so inured to the point that it’s unremarkable. To me — as a Jew, as an American, as a human being — it’s one of the most chilling aberrations I can recall in decades of following politics in this country.

This is why I’m left rather cold by talk of the terrible suppression of debate on college campuses, where invited conservative speakers are often heckled or prevented from speaking by very illiberal liberal students. Yes, such behavior certainly doesn’t bode well for the health of our democracy or our educational system. But it also occurs, from the other political direction, every single day in more subtle ways that don’t attract attention and outrage.

It takes place on countless right-wing talk-radio shows around the country where too often (and I spent years listening to them), respectful, intelligent voices are shouted down or simply squelched, and even on the best of them, there’s little to no debate or even in-depth discussion of issues.

And it happens in print media, including in our community, where publications that might properly have a right-wing orientation, as is their prerogative, print only commentary in line with their editorial views, denying their readers exposure to all other perspectives. It’s disconcerting to behold a more lockstep uniformity of political coverage in Orthodox media than exists even in famously liberal newspapers, which for all their biases, do have regular conservative columnists and feature contrarian writing.

That, too, is suppression of its own sort, and it’s unbecoming of us.

Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 735. Eytan Kobre may be contacted directly at kobre@mishpacha.com