Thursday, April 09, 2020

Bernie Drops Out

Bernie Sanders has dropped out of the 2020 presidential race.

There are half a million commentators on this, covering every possible niche, so I'll just focus on one thing.

Bernie Sanders was Jewish. And his presence at the highest echelon of American politics mattered to us.

This might surprise some, because a commonly-expressed sentiment on segments of the Twitterati was that the actual Jewish community didn't trust or even hated Sanders. That's simply not true. Sanders may not have been the first choice candidate of Jewish voters, but his favorability ratings were still net positive. He had many passionate supporters in the Jewish community, and even those of us who didn't back him in the primary still would have overwhelmingly checked his name had he have been the 2020 nominee. One of my main regrets that he didn't win the nomination is that we will never have true occasion to return to this bookmarked tweet.

The far worse claim was that Sanders was not even a "real Jew" or a "Jew in Name Only". This was nothing short of grotesque. Like many of my co-religionists, I saw Bernie's Jewishness clear as day. The mannerisms, the accent, the passion, even the democratic socialist politics: these all rang perfectly familiar as evoking Jewishness -- of a particular kind, yes, but no less distinctive. One can have legitimate grievances with particular surrogates or spokespersons; one can wish he had been more vocally Jewish (although for me his voice is one of the most Jewish things about him) for longer. But it's also the case that he wrote one of the better meditations on Jewishness, antisemitism, and politics that I've seen from any politician.

It is fair to say that Bernie Sanders does not reflect the preferences of the median American Jews. But if one says that, then one must be equally forthright in saying that hating Bernie Sanders is also unreflective of the median American Jew. It is a crude caricature of identity politics that suggests it means complete blind allegiance to anyone and everyone who happens to share your faith or your phenotype. What it actually means is far more nuanced. I didn't have to agree with Sanders on everything -- I didn't even have to vote for him in the primary -- to be proud that he was running and proud for what his successes meant for my community.

And I am proud. He was and is a valuable member of my community. I thank him, and wish him nothing but the best.

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