Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On Self-Congratulation

Sixteen years ago, Al Gore picked Joe Lieberman as his running mate. Journalists were excited. This was diversity! Gore was actually capable of making a brave decision. Even I, naive Nader supporter -- I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! -- was impressed.

In retrospect Gore's decision to pick Lieberman doesn't seem so brave. Jews had been a major presence in mainstream American civic life for generations. They had seats on the Supreme Court since the 1910s. They occupied a disproportionate number of Senate seats. Anti-semitism was not (and is not) dead. But it was a lot easier for Gore to pick a Jewish man as his running mate in 2000 than a gay person or hispanic woman.  

It's great that we've elected a black man president and will probably elect a female president. I think we could elect the child of Mexican-immigrants or an American Indian, and maybe, just maybe, a gay man, all depending on the candidate. 

But could we elect an actual self-professed Muslim? A transgendered person? I don't think so. We shouldn't congratulate ourselves for being tolerant when it's easy. We should try to be welcoming when it's hard.  

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I don't feel like writing about Sanders. I admired his campaign for awhile, but I can't respect his recent attempts to employ the most un-democratic mechanisms in the primary process in his favor. With that said... 

Sanders campaigned to win. This wasn't, in his mind at least, a symbolic campaign. And he did something people who want to be president don't do. He defended the rights of the Palestinian people.  Now Sanders hasn't been a perfect advocate for minorities in his career. But with that stance he allied himself with a group Americans have been taught to revile. There but for the grace of god went he. Note to everyone: Sometimes Jews make the best Christians.

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