In case you haven’t noticed — or alternatively, you’ve noticed too much and have tuned out the endless headlines and reports over who said what and who insulted whom — the presidential election season, that quadrennial bacchanalia of wall-to-wall coverage, jingoistic slogans, sleazy ads and fever-pitched rallies, is firmly upon us.
Dear readers, welcome to 2016.
With just over a month to go before Republicans and Democrats pick their favorites in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries, the JT is kicking off the election year with a look at how Marylanders, who, despite the fact the state’s primaries aren’t until April 26 are heavily invested as campaign donors and volunteers, are sizing up the race.
This promises to be an election for the record books, with a caustic businessman atop the GOP heap despite all predictions to the contrary and a former first lady beating out a Democratic field that includes a self-described socialist with a lower-case “s.” And yet, it seems that all anyone’s been hearing lately is the parsing of Yiddishized quasi-insults and the ravings of caricatured candidates speaking in 60-second sound bites, not detailed analyses of serious policy proposals.
That’s unfortunate, and the JT is committed to doing its part to help educate anyone willing to read. We’re not going to be able to digest an entire race in a single article, but over the course of the next 10 months, we’re going to devote a lot of energy to explaining why what the candidates are saying is important — to Baltimoreans and to Jews.
As it turns out, Jewish Marylanders have a lot riding on this election. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a former mayor of Baltimore, has a lot of friends in the community, for instance, but he hasn’t gotten the type of traction that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Jewish “democratic socialist” who is calling for a $15 national minimum wage and vows to declare war on Wall Street, has in rallying the left wing of the party. And then there’s Hillary Clinton, the popular former secretary of state and first lady who seems poised to become the first woman ever elected president.
On the Republican side, even though Donald Trump — who enjoys the backing of Pikesville resident and Baltimore County Republican Central Committee member Ruth Goetz — seems to have sucked up all the air with his tough-on-immigration stances and stream-of-consciousness delivery, polling data suggests that if bottom-tier candidates drop out in the next couple of weeks, potential voters may coalesce around an alternative. Who would that be? Dr. Ben Carson, the former Hopkins neurosurgeon who wowed audiences with a National Prayer Breakfast speech that took aim at the president sitting right beside him? Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the rising establishment star who as the son of Cuban immigrants might bring Hispanic voters back into the Republican fold? Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the son and brother of two former presidents who brings a certain policy gravitas to governing? Or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the conservative firebrand who speaks eloquently of constitutional principles?
This race, in shattering so many preconceived notions before the ball dropped over Times Square, has already made predicting its outcome a fool’s errand. So I’m not going to handicap it. But this much is for sure: With an economic recovery fighting tooth and nail to cement itself, an international arena repolarizing around emergent loci of power and a growing population questioning what it really means to be an American, this may well be the most important election in this generation’s history.