Can a Jew be elected President?
“Factually Correct, Not
NEW YORK POST EDITORIAL WRITER JOHN PODHORETZ IS INVITED TO JOIN THE “AMERICAN CLUB”
(CHICAGO)(June 27, 2007) Some time last year I thought of doing a column with the headline “Michael Bloomberg Could Be the First Jewish President.” My thought then was that Bloomberg’s stewardship of New York City was so deft that he could be a serious contender for president. In the mix and match of daily competition for time and space, the column was never written.
This year, Bloomberg has made “presidential” moves while denying that he will run for president.
And Bloomberg’s potential candidacy has elicited anti-Semitic comments from John Podhoretz of the New York Post’s editorial page. What gives?
Mr. Podhoretz is a talented editorial columnist and he and I agree on almost all domestic issues; but we part company with our views on the Middle East. But is Podhoretz an anti-Semite? Well, maybe. But not really.
Podhoretz opined that Bloomberg could not be elected president because of “the ethnic question.” Indeed, Podhoretz asked us to “excuse the expression” and called Bloomberg a “Member of the Tribe.” Most people today, especially non-Jews, have never even heard that expression. “MOT” began as a Jewish term, and was indeed picked up by WASPy anti-Semites as shorthand for a Jewish person.
But WASPS gave up on anti-Semitism decades ago. It seems the last bastion of anti-Semitism is, Jews. Much as Blacks use the “N-word” to shock, until the word shocks no more, some Jews apparently feel that the use of anti-Semitic expressions opens the door to a discussion of anti-Semitism by “gentiles.” (Other than in scriptural readings in Christian churches, who uses the term “gentile” any more, anyway?)
I am not suggesting that anti-Semitism has evaporated. Obviously, some people still hate on the basis of race, religion, etc. But such attitudes are largely confined to the fringes of American society.
For Mr. Podhoretz to suggest that Bloomberg cannot be elected because of his “tribal” status is really a slam at every American. Podhoretz has called all of us anti-Semites. Is that a fair accusation?
I don’t think so.
Many Jews feel the greatest threat today to their ethnicity/religion comes from assimilation and not from anti-Semitism. American society is assimilationist in the extreme (Muslims watch what happens to your kids in the third generation). We assimilate because ours is an open culture. Or as Ross Perot, the waifly presidential candidate in 1992 stated, “We are all owners.”
So is it fair to accuse Americans of refusing to elect a president simply because he or she is Jewish? A Mormon? African-American. I don’t think so.
Podhoretz is living in the past. We live in a post-ethnic America today. Our common culture, however vulgar much of it may be, draws us closer and closer together, and erases ethic divisions. My own mother can remember being the target of ethic slurs. I can remember as a young boy being confused as to why some people could not buy property on the beach.
But no one today would suggest that Americans are anti-Greek.
Jews, Irish, Italians; who have I left out? All were the targets of discrimination in the past. But no longer. We live in a “dollar democracy.” You have the dollars; you can set yourself up anywhere and anyhow you want.
Michael Bloomberg is a gifted politician. And leader. Many would say he only “inherited” Rudy Giuliani’s New York, and continued the progress then in progress. But progress is a process. Bloomberg has continued the process so effortlessly that people think he is doing very little, when in reality he is doing quite a bit. Like all gifted performers, Bloomberg makes the process look easy, which is why people fail to credit him.
And I don’t that it is only New York City’s Jewish population is happy with Bloomberg. In the aftermath of 9/11 the City is prospering as never before.
Of course, “Mayor Mike” has now stirred up a storm of protest over his switch from Republican to independent. What does the change mean?
I believe it means Bloomberg may seriously be considering a run for the White House. And, unlike John Podhoretz, Mayor Bloomberg does believe that a Jew can be elected president. Bloomberg does not believe Americans are anti-Semitic.
If he does run Bloomberg will no doubt make the process seem effortless, easy and natural. His religious heritage will be no more of an impediment to him as a national candidate than it was as a local official.
Mr. Podhoretz, Mr. Bloomberg is not a member of any “tribe.” Rather, Bloomberg is part of the greatest “club” in history: the American People.
Welcome to “The Club.”
Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and media critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright by Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers regional, national and world politics with forty years of personal experience. Columns also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com. Comments? E-mail: AndyMart20@aol.com. Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Web sites: ContrarianCommentary.com; AndyforUSSenator.com.