Friday, October 22, 2010

Buy My Vote

Buy My Vote Jonathan Feldstein OK, not really. My vote is not for sale. Seriously. Unless the offer is one that’s just too good to refuse. No, I’m just joking. Seriously. That was a joke. Really. But you can help me decide on whom to vote for. I was very pleased to get my absentee ballot this week and I am planning to exercise my right to vote for NJ’s Ninth District federal election. Since I am 18 I have always voted in local national elections, in New Jersey, and for a time in Georgia. This has continued since I moved to Israel in 2004, and the next election is just around the corner. But I am not sure who to vote for. Having lived in the Ninth District for a dozen years, I am familiar local issues and with incumbent Congressman Steve Rothman’s record, particularly on things that matter to me the most. I also generally have a sense that Congressman Rothman is a decent and honest person. That makes a lot of difference. In the last few years, I am less aware of his voting record and particularly not aware of how he lines up with the current Obama Administration and its’ policies. Candidly, I am not a fan of many of the Administration’s policies, and I am wondering if as a Democrat, Congressman Rothman has been fully supportive of the party line, whether his voting record has differed with that of the Administration’s policies and expectations, if he’s differed with Obama, on what, and how much of a vocal advocate he’s been standing up against Administration policies with which he disagrees adamantly, if any. My vote, and my interests, are based on many things, the economy, security, diplomacy, education, taxes, social security, etc. But I’d be a liar if I were not up front that among the top of my agenda is how any candidate stands, and votes, vis a vis Israel and the Middle East, and whether that candidate is sophisticated enough to see the big picture. Knee jerk support for Israel is fine and something I’d never dismiss. To the contrary, any candidate anywhere recognizing that Israel is the only democracy in the entire Middle East, and America’s best ally here, if not in the world, wins my respect. However, noting here is black and white and I want a candidate who understands the nuance and cultural issues that make this region unique. Visiting Rothman’s Foreign Policy page,, it’s interesting to see that eight of the first ten items relate to Israel and the Middle East and Rothman’s position is strong. Yet, I recall that it wasn’t until former NY Mayor Ed Koch called NY Senator Schumer on the carpet for not speaking up against the Obama Administration’s incessant pushing Israel into a corner, and consequently pushing Israel and the Palestinians further from peace by raising the bar on issues that need to be negotiated, that Senate leader Schumer actually took a stand. What’s Congressman Rothman been doing these past months and how has he, a long time and well known supporter of Israel, stood against the Obama Administration’s unprecedented and one sided pushing of Israel? Rothman’s Republican opponent is Michael Agosta, a man I have never heard of until my ballot arrived. So I checked him out a bit. . I read his policies, his background, and I believe I have a sense of what motivates him and that he’d be a fine representative of mine in Congress. He lacks Rothman’s 14 years of experience, but then if that were an impediment for anyone advancing professionally, I’d still be stocking shelves in a NJ hardware store. Israel is not the only important issue. Taxes are important, particularly the federal estate tax. I know firsthand, from sending a not insignificant check to the government after my mother died. Repealing the tax cuts that have been phased in over the past decade is a very bad idea. Similarly, the overall global economy is important and the steadily declining value of the dollar is very bad. That’s tied to many things, including diplomacy, and I want an elected official who will help the US stand strong and proud, not in anyone else’s face unnecessarily, but not appeasing others, weak or showing cowardice. The balance between civil rights and security impacts us all because threats to Americans are bad for the world. Iran must be stopped dead in its tracks of building nuclear weapons, by any means necessary. It is the 11th hour. Rothman brings experience, seniority and an understanding of the issues. But just by virtue of being a democrat, he’s tied to a Presidential Administration that I have become less and less a fan of, and if I vote for him, in a way that’s a vote for the Obama Administration, especially if Rothman has not stood up and differentiated himself from Obama on major policy differences, if there are any. Agosta seems to be a salt of the earth guy whose policies are appealing and who, if I support, also sends a clear message to the Administration that I don’t mind sending. But I don’t want to send a message just for the sake of sending a message and am as yet undecided. I recognize that all polls indicate sweeping change in Congress next month, not the kind of change that Obama campaigned on for sure. So maybe my vote won’t make any real difference. Voting to send a republican to Congress in a district that has been democratic for a generation or more may break the democratic control of Congress, and it also may create legislative deadlock. Or, it may bring the Obama Administration more toward the center and actually start to work with the other side of the aisle once the “other side” is much bigger than his side. This is something he campaigned on two years ago but has yet to deliver on that in any significant way. I know enough to ask these and other questions, but I can’t say for sure what the answers are. To that end, I invite and welcome the feedback of readers who have a serious thought on this and the issues I mentioned, and any others that may be relevant. I will weigh serious input seriously. I’d especially welcome feedback from people who live in the district. This will help in my decision making, and also be interesting to see the nature and number of responses. Please send responses to, or via my blog at Facebook works too. There’s bound to be someone reading this whose inclination it will be to say that because I no longer live in the district, or in the US for that matter, I shouldn’t vote. I reject that categorically. Not only do I have the Constitutional right to vote, any suggestion that I don’t because I live overseas opens up a huge can of worms about creating second class citizens in any number of categories and violates the rights of all of us. I always have been, and remain, a proud and loyal American. I have worked and paid state and federal income taxes for three decades. I’d like to be able to have the benefit of Social Security which I have paid into for far more than the 40 quarters needed. Not only am I a citizen with the RIGHT to vote, I am an ongoing shareholder with a vested interest in the interest in the outcome of every election and their results. So, even if you may think it, please don’t tell me I don’t have the right to exercise my vote. I wish both candidates well. I invite them to visit my home in Israel when they come for a tour to meet with myself and other constituents, to discuss issues and their respective policies, and to influence my vote and my confidence in them as my elected leader in the next election.