by Shlomie Boehm
Our community is being invited to a party. Valuable party favors will be distributed. There is just one caveat — the community must show up en masse, for ten to fifteen minutes per person. I am talking about the November 6 elections.
Just a few days remain until the 2012 elections, and political fever has gripped the country in a manner unprecedented since perhaps the Civil War. Everywhere you turn people are debating the pros and cons of candidates, frequently with passionate views on both sides of the debate. The presidential race is currently viewed as a dead heat, and many local New York elections, as well as local elections around the country, are similarly a dead heat. Candidates, particularly for State Senate and Assembly positions, as well as candidates running for the United States House of Representatives, are so desperate for every vote that they are happy to meet with even small groups of constituents in the hopes of garnering those one or two elusive votes that may decide their campaigns. Importantly, close elections are wonderful news for bloc constituencies, such as the Orthodox community.
A “bloc constituency” is a group of voters that share strongly held common concerns that motivate them generally to vote for the same candidate or group of candidates in an election. For example, Israel, tuition credits, and traditional values constitute just some of the many concerns that unite members of the Orthodox community. Therefore, politicians logically expect that our community will support the candidate most likely to champion our community’s concerns. Political candidates love bloc constituencies because it allows them to win over a large number of voters by virtue of taking a political view on just a small handful of issues. And, politics being politics, many candidates are flexible when it comes to recognizing that, lo and behold, those very causes and concerns of the bloc constituency coincide with beliefs and issues that have always been near and dear to the candidate’s heart. But, of course, there is one critical condition; the bloc must actually vote!
It would seem blindingly obvious that members of our community each have a tremendous incentive to vote. The Orthodox community is a classic bloc constituency, and in many communities represents a sufficient number of voters to make or break an election. As a linchpin bloc, the tradeoff for our vote is substantial. In reciprocity for its vote, the bloc would expect the candidate, when elected, to champion the bloc’s various concerns. Otherwise, of course, the bloc can be expected to change its loyalties in the next election. So, our bloc elects a candidate, and we then have a voice on Israel, on tuition credits, on traditional values, and on whatever issues may be most important for our community! Naturally, depending on the size of the bloc and on the composition of other voters in the relevant district, it may be impractical for a particular candidate to champion all of the causes and concerns of the bloc, but at least the candidate will champion as many of the bloc’s causes as is practical.
Unfortunately, whether due to laziness, apathy, or sheer lack of common sense, many members of our community too frequently have slept through the voting bloc party, at an incalculable cost to our community as a whole. If we do not show up to vote, then we are not a bloc vote, we are not a vote at all, and our politicians have limited incentive to heed our concerns. Failing to vote is inexcusable. Our community can’t afford to leave money on the table and to mute our political voice out of incompetence or laziness.
VOTE. Persuade your family and friends to vote. Assist in bringing the elderly or disabled to vote. Rabbonim and community activists, convey to your communities the moral imperative to vote. Simply put, all eligible voters, male and female, should vote in their capacity as contributing members of a democratic society, but if for some reason that does not get you to the voting booth, let this persuade you: if you neglect to vote, you are effectively failing our community and blocking our community’s access to the funds and political voice that we so desperately need.
All I am requesting, on behalf of our community, is for a few minutes of your time. If your vote could obtain additional money for schools or for members of our community, if your vote could help achieve political support that saves lives in Israel, if your vote could help preserve traditional values in our society, all for just the merest modicum of effort, of hishtadlus, necessary to vote, how can you say no?
So, please consider this a formal personal invitation to our community’s voter bloc party on this coming November 6. I look forward to seeing you there.
Shlomie Boehm is an attorney, and lives in Kew Gardens Hills in Queens, New York.
A modified version of this article originally appeared in Hamodia.