One of the unspoken, often misperceived, principles of American democracy is that we create our own criteria for voting. If a woman wants to vote for another woman because they are of the same sex, that’s her right. If an African American wants to vote for a candidate because he or she is black, by all means go right ahead. I often consider whether or not I could vote for some of my friends strictly on the basis that they are my friends. (Don’t worry, Dad, I have not voted for you just because we are related.)
The most stark, first-hand encounter with this came on Election Day 2008. I was with my dad campaigning in front of a McDonalds when a black man who was down-on-his-luck, at the very best, approached my dad. They shook hands and dad urged him to go vote for him, as well as Barack Obama. The man said he had already voted, and not to worry, he voted for him … but not Obama. Curious as to why this voter crossed party lines, dad asked. The man said, “Because this country was founded by white men, and it should be run by white men.”
I have watched a liberal journalist on TV ask a gay Republican how he could be part of a party that does not believe in his right to full equality. He responded by saying there are more important issues to him than those that reflect his sexual orientation. This is an example of the “issue voter,” whom society professes to admire because we all should vote on the issues. (There have been sufficient studies and books written that demonstrate voters largely base their votes on emotion — not issues, not sex, not color, not religion — but emotions like fear.)
In a moment of honest introspection I am no different. In fact, I believe the only time I’ve ever qualified as an “issue voter” is when a candidate’s views on an issue disqualifies them from my personal voting criteria. That said, I do not understand how anyone can vote for Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee; particularly Jewish Americans. I am further wondering if there are enough redeemable qualities that any other GOP candidates could possibly possess that would re-qualify them if they do not completely repudiate Huckabee’s comments. At the moment, however, anything short of absolute denunciation is a disqualifier for me.
Huckabee’s said Saturday, “This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history. It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
I’d be happy to debate the merits of the deal with anyone or create a list of actual feckless foreign policies — a list that would probably begin with the invasion of Iraq, which, not coincidentally, emboldened Iran and in many ways put us in this position in the first place.
But this is not really about American foreign policy, the 2016 election or politics at all. Huckabee’s offensive comment (like the plethora provided by Donald Trump) and the response of other GOP presidential candidates and conservative media pundits, presents a breathtakingly shameful display of what is now considered tolerable discourse and the normal course of running for president. Much like it is unfair to tell someone “don’t be offended,” if your natural reaction is not to be mortified by the “oven” metaphor, I’m not sure what to say other than I’m sorry — sorry you have become so desensitized to the level of vitriol that is not only now tolerated, but expected from political discourse.
This is not about politics. This is about what is commonly regarded, and should be expected as human decency, dignity, class, respect, maturity and patriotism. This is about a presidential candidate, a leader within the Republican Party and a conservative media commentator setting a good example, being a leader, using his position for good and being part of the solution. Huckabee’s comments are an abhorrent violation of all of these. To not fully denounce his comments sends us further down the perverted political abyss of modern America.
My dad is Jewish. My grandmother, aunt, uncles and cousins are all Jewish. My grandfather, Stanley Yarmuth, after whom I am named, was a Jewish prisoner of war in World War II. I have visited both the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, as well as traveled to all corners of Israel. To say that Huckabee’s comments are personally offensive would be a tremendous understatement. But you don’t have to be Jewish to be offended, because what Huckabee said was offensive on a human level.
This is one of those moments when we need to be humans first, Americans second and any party affiliation or ideology an extrasolar third. Mike Huckabee will never be president, nor will he be the Republican nominee. As his candidacy will ultimately be a mere footnote in political history, it must also become a footstool — one that we use to step up, not one over which we trip.