November 14, 2018

Gender solidarity is regressive

In 2000, when Sen. Joe Lieberman was the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate, almost every member of my extended family (for the record, not my immediate family — neither of my sons was of voting age) voted for the Gore-Lieberman ticket. Even the few relatives who generally voted Republican voted Democrat. The reason? Pride in potentially having a Jew as vice president of the United States.

I voted for George W. Bush. That a Jew might be vice president struck me as being less important than the fact that if that happened, Al Gore would be president and the Democratic Party would use its control of the White House to further expand the already wildly oversized government and to name more judicial activists to the Supreme Court and the lower courts.

In other words, Jewish “pride” didn’t trump my value system.

I have always been a deeply committed Jew. I grew up a yeshiva boy in an Orthodox Jewish home and community, was sent by Israel to the Soviet Union for a month to smuggle in Jewish items and smuggle out names of Jews who wanted to emigrate, co-wrote one of the most widely read introductions to Judaism in the English language, directed a Jewish institute (the Brandeis-Bardin Institute) for seven years, among much other Jewish work.

But I have never much related to the notion of ethnic Jewish pride. I remember receiving the book “Great Jews in Sports” as a bar mitzvah gift. I had no interest in the book. That Benny Leonard was the lightweight boxing champion of the world or that Hank Greenberg of the Detroit Tigers was one of the greatest baseball players of his era meant little to me as a Jew.

At 13, I realized that I marched to the beat of a different drummer. I didn’t know then what that beat was, but I did know shortly thereafter that there were actually two beats to which I marched. 

One was that I was a religious, much more than an ethnic, Jew. That’s why the Torah inspired me much more than famous Jews did. 

The other was that I shared the late, great thinker Viktor Frankl’s view of mankind. In his modern classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Frankl, a Jewish psychoanalyst, wrote about how his time in a Nazi concentration camp shaped his thinking. After incredibly surviving the war, during which members of his family were murdered, Frankl wrote that he was once asked, “Do you hate the German race?” 

“No,” he responded. “There are only two races, the decent and the indecent.”

That has been one of the central values of my life. The only division that has ever mattered to me is that between the decent and the indecent, the good and the bad. So as much as I have been devoted to Jews and Judaism, from being a leader in the Soviet Jewry movement to defending Israel on the radio, in columns, at Oxford, on YouTube, etc., I have never been a “Jew  fan,” but rather a “Torah fan,” an “Israel fan” and a “good-people fan.”

Likewise, I am an “America fan” because America represents what Abraham Lincoln said it represents — “the last best hope of Earth” — much more than because I happen to have been born in America. I have come to love America for its unparalleled liberty, its deep but moderate religiosity, its acceptance of people of every background, including and especially Jews, its moral commitment to liberty around the world, and much more.

So I am unmoved by the notion that women should vote for Hillary Clinton out of female solidarity. That is tribalism of the most immature sort. And if I am not a Jewish tribalist — which at least I understand — how could I in any way respect gender tribalism? When former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said at a recent Hillary Clinton event that “there is a special place in hell” reserved for women who don’t help each other — meaning, in this case, not voting for Hillary Clinton — she earned intellectual and moral contempt.

All those who advocate female solidarity in supporting Hillary Clinton believe the opposite of Viktor Frankl. They do not divide the world between the decent and the indecent, but between the right gender (female) and the wrong gender (male). The decency of the candidate is of no consequence.

Therefore, all those parents who yearn to tell their daughters, if Hillary Clinton is elected president, “You see, you can aspire to the greatest heights,” might wish to reflect on the other message they are conveying to their daughter: “Mom and Dad believe that gender trumps character.”

That’s the progressives’ message. But it’s a morally regressive one. 

Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio talk show is heard in Los Angeles on KRLA (AM 870) 9 a.m. to noon. His latest project is the Internet-based Prager University (prageru.com).