You know the old adage. Two things are inevitable: death and taxes. In some Orthodox communities, you can add a third item. Every election season, a letter signed by Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, urging people to vote, will be trotted out by activists.
Issued before the 1984 presidential election, Rav Moshe’s letter argues we should vote to show appreciation to America and contribute to national security. But are we enhancing national security or expressing gratitude when we vote for candidates who support immoral legislation? Is that what the saintly Rav Feinstein had in mind?
And why don’t these activists publish Rav Moshe’s other letter in which he called on all New York City Council members to vote against homosexual “rights” legislation. He even argued that influencing legislators to do so is a “sacred obligation.” He requested that people fill the halls of the City Council every day of the hearings on the proposed legislation, thus “manifesting to all non-Jews that G-d’s people loathe abomination.”
Additionally, in 1977, Rav Moshe signed a strong letter to every Dade County, Florida commissioner, demanding that they oppose the nation’s first homosexual “rights” ordinance.
Knowing these facts, can one imagine that we should vote for candidates advancing abominable policies far more dangerous than those Rav Moshe directed us to protest? Is that how Rav Moshe wanted his name to be used?
These activists sometimes tell us to vote for the lesser of two evils. But did Rav Moshe believe in this strategy? If yes, where does he advance it? In Yiddish we say, “Don’t be G-d’s lawyer.” If we no longer merit moral representation, let Him decide. We can write in a candidate.
To the objection, “If we don’t vote, politicians will write us off,” I would respond with an autobiographical snippet:
In 1984, I emerged from kollel to challenge leftist Congressman Stephen Solarz. Despite him spending almost a quarter of a million dollars (in 1984!), I received b’ezras Hashem over a third of the votes. Subsequently, Solarz became staunchly anti-communist, sponsored the army yarmulka bill, poured fortunes into Orthodox communities, etc. Oh yes, and he removed his name from pro-homosexual legislation.
The lesson: Politicians only take charge if you allow them to. Challenge them, primary them, drain their financially, vote against them, show how much support a decent challenger might receive, and they’ll likely back down or moderate their stance.
Aside from the practical wisdom of this strategy, imagine the Kiddush Hashem if tens of thousands of Jews wrote in a common protest candidate name (e.g., “Mr. Morality”) on their ballots. This achdus for Torah would resonate in Heaven – and here on earth among tens of millions of devoutly religious non-Jews who don’t understand why so many Jews promote immoral causes. The media coverage of such a protest vote would also partially redeem decades of chillul Hashem resulting from trading principle for money.
If a candidate sponsored laws against circumcision or offended your spouse, would you reward him with your vote? If a candidate favored charging $25 for the extra pre-Pesach sanitation pickup, how many voters would shun him for good? Now let me ask you: Is standing up for divine values not worth infinitely more than $25?
Every election, major religious Christian organizations prepare lists that rate candidates from a moral perspective. Why is that not standard practice in the frum community as well?
Many rabbinic manifestos and statements over the last few decades have forbade voting for candidates who support immoral legislation. It is high time that we started paying attention to these statements. And it is time that we remember, not just Rav Moshe’s letter on the value of voting, but his other letter on the dangers of immoral legislation.