The theme of Yom Kippur seems to have taken over the presidential election.
Some may see this as confirmation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but it has more to do with the power of Judaism than the power of Jews.
The theme of Yom Kippur has been around for a long time, but it may be that the importance of admitting sins and asking forgiveness precedes its development among Hebrews, Israelites, Judeans, or Jews. The idea has been taken over by Christianity in the form of mea culpa and the ritual of confession.
An advantage of the Jews is that Yom Kippur comes around only once a year. For practicing Catholics, the rite of confession looms weekly or whenever the spirit makes itself felt.
What's relevant now is the correspondence of Yom Kippur with the publication of Donald's greatest gaffe (to date), his abandonment by party faithful, and his efforts to explain, apologize to at least half of humanity, and to otherwise squirm through a campaign that has been described as morally and politically, if not financially bankrupt.
Hillary is in better shape, but also needing to confess the sins apparent in a leaked document concerning her concessions to bankers that seems to violate a good part of what she has been selling over the course of her career as the essence of what Democrats should believe.
On the eve of the second debate, the web site of election guru Nat Silver gave Hillary an 81.6 percent chance of winning, and included headlines reading
"The Bottom Could Fall Out for Trump" and
More recently, Silver has upped his prediction to 83.5 percent, and it inches up every time I look."Republican Officials Are Stampeding Away from Trump"
One can ponder the weight of Trump's comments about women as opposed to how he earlier was targeted for comments about African Americans and Latinos.
The New York Times reported on upscale African Americans offended by Trump saying that Black neighborhoods are "war zones," that their residents struggle to get by on food stamps, and that they see nothing but failure around them.
The Huffington Post began an article about Trump's posture on Latinos by noting the expulsion of an Hispanic journalist from one of his press conferences, and proceeded to describe Trump as saying that
- Latino immigrants are criminals, rapists, and killers
- The Mexican government sends its criminals to the US
- Jeb Bush was less desirable as a candidate on account of a Mexican-born wife
- Praising the passion of supporters who beat a Hispanic man in his name
- Linking Hispanics and Blacks with US violent crime
Trump got into trouble for his ethnic/racial comments, but nothing compared to the more recent response to his sexism.
For that we may conclude that racism is almost as American as apple pie, but something closer to chivalry is required of a candidate's posture toward women.
The initial response of commentators to the second debate was that Trump managed to shuffle the discussion away from his views on sex.
Prior to the debate, Trump had a press conference along with several women who had suffered from rape and sexual harassment from Bill Clinton. During the debate, he repeated his charges against Bill and Hillary, one for being a sexual predator, and the other for harassing those making charges.
Post-debate, there have been as many views as commentators. They range from seeing Trump reviving his campaign, to those who lament the surplus of personal attacks in the comments of both candidates.
Predispositions are also apparent in the post-expose polling. While most categories of women reacted badly to what they heard about Trump, White women with less than a college education are still in his camp, with a sizable margin of 52 percent for him and only 40 percent for Clinton.
Both candidates spent considerable time at the debate avoiding moderators' questions, and accusing the other of lying.
Similar criticism about avoiding substance for the sake of personal attacks could be made about many, and perhaps all of the individuals who became President of the United States, and the heads of many other countries. It's part of the political profession. Hillary rebuffed one of Trump's accusation about a duplicitous comment she had made by saying that it had been a comment about Abraham Lincoln. She went on to defend politicians who have to say one thing to one group, and something different to another group.
This debate was more about one another's personality than any focused discussion on policy details. And when they did talk about policy, it was largely a recitation of slogans for or against a general line of action.
That is more a comment on the nature of politics and policymaking than a criticism of one or another candidate. The grubby details about policy options are best left for committees of professionals or advisers.
The sharpest commentary may be that coming from a team of Atlanta high school debaters asked by CNN to watch the performance and grade the participants.
A majority gave their nod to Hillary, for her more detailed answers to the moderators' questions. Yet a few thought Donald had done best. He did not answer the questions put to him, perhaps because he had not thought about the policy questions. But he used the questions to speak to his supporters, and the high school debaters thought that he did that well.
An Israeli commentator objected to Trump's repeated criticism of Clinton being supported by individuals like Sydney Blumenthal and George Soros. Trump didn't say "Jews" or "rich Jews," but it sounded like that.
On other occasions, he has trumpeted his Jewish son-in-law and his daughter who converted to Judaism. Yet his several comments about men known to be Jews, who support Hillary, may have been part of his not so subtle racism appealing to uneducated Whites who don't like Blacks, Hispanics, and most likely Jews.
Not a word from Donald about Sheldon Adelson, said to have donated $25 million to his campaign.
Post-debate polls show a widening of Hillary's lead. And leading Republicans are continuing to denounce their party's nominee.
There have been calls from senior Republicans that Trump resign from their ticket, or that the party find some way to replace him.
It depends on him, and his ego is a caricature of what moves most politicians, telling us that there is no chance of a resignation. He's made of the stuff that would rather sacrifice the party than himself,.
Since the debate he has declared independence from party leaders and began what has been described as a political civil war likely to cost Republicans dearly in races for Congress and state offices.
Most recently, American papers are headlining a number of women who say that Trump had forceably groped or kissed them.
Ha'aretz cartoonist depicted Trump's plane plunging into Trump Tower.
What remains for many Americans is a need to judge who scores higher on their personal sleaze index, and to select the other. Or to find another candidate among the minor parties on their state ballot. Or to stay home.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political ScienceHebrew University of Jerusalem