Context is critical. Things that matter often happen in relation to something else. Choices are made. Decisions are thought out. Consequences are assessed. Very rarely do things happen in a vacuum.
Last week’s New York Jewish Life cover story on exclusive poll results concerning President Trump and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continue to generate strong feedback. Our poll of likely voters in our distribution area revealed, among many fascinating points across a range of political and social issues, that our diverse readers would mostly still vote for Trump instead of Clinton if the election was done over. Though Manhattan favored Clinton 73-20, which is consistent with the ideological direction of the neighborhoods NYJL is in there – Upper West & Upper East Sides, and the Lower East Side Co- ops, Brooklyn would overwhelmingly cast their votes again for Trump – 76- 14. Queens Jewish communities, in the most diverse county in America, also stayed with Trump in our poll 60- 36. Our distribution areas in Nassau County, spread out over the South Shore and North Shore, split evenly 46-46.
I have to say, I was more than a little surprised at these numbers. Given the chaos taking place in Washington, dangerous uncertainty overseas, ongoing revelations of possible conflicts-of-interest in the Trump family, and steady messaging against Trump from all over, I had figured the numbers would be different than they were.
Closer to home, I assumed the rise of anti-semitic threats and violence since the emergence of the Trump phenomenon would have generated concern enough to dent his numbers. My friend Miriam was not happy, and told me so on Facebook. Longtime Clinton loyalist Risa questioned the methodology of the poll. Colleague Adrienne was shocked. Co-worker Howard said he could have been knocked over with a feather on reading our story. And don’t get me started on the call I got from my mother. To them and others, but concededly not to my mother, I cautioned that their distaste for the President wasn’t the issue. The poll question, I pointed out, was a do-over match up against Secretary Clinton, not a popularity question on President Trump. It was a choice.
Elections are about choices and consequences, like so much of life. Sometimes choices are of no real consequence, like what to order in for dinner. Sometimes choices are of enormous consequence, like where to live or where to send children to school. Sometime choices have large consequences at rst, but then change to something less serious over time.
Choices are about the match-up. This or that, now or later, him or her, yes or no. Sometimes you can fudge it, and have some of both, but sometimes you can only have one and not the other. Elections are like that.
We saw this in the United Kingdom recently, twice. Once on the Scottish vote on whether to leave the UK, then on the vote for the UK to leave the European Union. In the Scottish vote, the energy seemed to be on leaving, but then a silent majority voted to stay. On whether to leave the EU, the divide came down to London vs. everyone else, with a slim majority voting to leave. Like our presidential election, messaging in the EU campaign focused on concerns around immigration, economic uncertainty and rage at urban elites, and national security. Trump won the swing states that put him over the top in the electoral college by a handful of votes, while losing the national popular count.
The election is over, even though the campaigning seems never ending. Voters made their choice months ago. No matter how pro-Hillary a community seemed to be, no matter how anti- Trump a community presented itself, our poll numbers re-elected the choice we asked our readers to reconsider.
When elections come around later this year for Mayor, and then in 2018 for Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, and the entire State Legislature, New York Jewish Life will insist that the issue isn’t about popularity, but about voting for this person or that person. When this paper discusses tax policy or legislation on social issues, it will be presented in the context of choices—this direction or a different way? When we pro le individuals making a difference in the arts, philanthropy, or social service, we will ask about the choices they’ve made.
New York Jewish Life isn’t an academic journal, though those are vital and necessary. We will take positions. We will make choices, just like you do. Please keep the comments coming.