Continuing our (intermittent) series of posts discussing Larry Sternberg’s insightful book (Why Jews Should NOT Be Liberals (2001, rev. 2006)), consider the danger of supporting the actions/programs espoused by the current majority, without (or despite?) considering whether they actually make sense or if similar programs have a history of success. It’s something worth considering, no matter who we are.
Do I, as a registered Republican, support every program put forth by Republican leaders, especially when they are “in power”? I don’t think so, but I admit to being less critical or suspicious of a program if it is sponsored by big players on the political Right. In recent years, though, I’ve tried to pay more attention, be better informed, consider the consistency with conservative principles, etc., so I don’t fall for the bad ideas from either side.
Here is Sternberg’s take on why many of his fellow Jews (i.e., the liberals/progressives) have fallen for this — namely, a reluctance to stand out from the crowd….
The notion that we Jews will somehow curry favor from a country’s majority by blindly backing programs momentarily favored by that majority conflicts with our tradition of independent thought. When the evidence is clear that these programs do more harm than good, why can we not use our own common sense and change our thinking. It is a fact that we gain the respect and admiration of others, mostly by standing up for our true principles no matter how unpopular they may be at the moment.
The problem here is that, too often, we do not recognize what our true Jewish principles are, and our Jewish leaders are not very good in explaining them. So it is left to our religious leaders to show us the way, but alas, it appears there are few of them who seem to see the light. But we Jews have survived through the centuries by never losing our optimism that better days are ahead. We must continue to hope that Jews in America will soon see what their best interests are and vote accordingly.
The terrible calamities that have fallen upon the Jewish people in our own “enlightened” 20th century did not come about because Jews stood out from the crowd by backing unpopular programs or issues. It would not have made any difference to a Hitler or a Stalin whether or not Jews favored or opposed a higher minimum wage, or granted monopoly powers to a union, or were for or against abortion. No, we were singled out only because we were Jews, and we were considered to be a threat to those dictators, largely because of our tradition for independent thinking. If we are to prevent any repeats of this type of persecution, then we must be ever on the alert to resist any government from obtaining excessive power and control over the individual, no matter how attractive those programs of the moment may appear to be.
Today’s liberal philosophy, when stripped of all its camouflage, is one that grants greater and greater powers to a central government. Many of the current liberal programs are ostensibly designed to correct some evil or solve some pressing social problem. From the “war on tobacco” to the “war on guns” to the coming “war on fat in our diet” [Note: Sternberg called that one, eh?!] to whatever the facile minds of the liberals can conjure, all of these schemes result in limitations on the freedom of the individual to live his or her own life. This has never been in the interests of Jews throughout their history and it is time that American Jews recognized that truism. If for no other reason than enlightened self-interest, American Jews should reject today’s liberal doctrine.”
Indeed. Jew or Gentile, religious or non-religious, we must always be wary of “cure-all” programs that may sound good and beneficial on the surface (e.g., universal health plans, gun control, cap-n-trade) but, upon further examination, prove to be a means of government control and, ergo, restriction of individual (and corporate) freedoms. (And they’re usually REALLY expensive, too!)
It is somewhat ironic that liberals are now very concerned about the possible loss of individual freedoms under the Patriot Act enacted after 9/11/01. [Remember, Sternberg wrote this in 2004/5, when it was a hot(ter) topic.] It is true that this act gives government new powers to intrude into the lives of our citizens, along with the ability of our intelligence agencies to share information. There was a general consensus that intelligence failures may have contributed to our inability to prevent the attack, and this is why the Patriot Act came into being. To date, there have been few, if any, instances of abuse of these powers. American Jews should be ever watchful for such abuses. Liberals, however, always seem to be able to choose which freedoms they support, so long as their own oxen are not being gored.”