Possible First Spouses Reflect Vagaries of Presidential Campaign

First Spouse… who will it be… Melania Trump or Bill Clinton?
Jewish Journal collage
First Spouse… who will it be… Melania Trump or Bill Clinton?

Published March 03, 2016, issue of March 03, 2016.

Super Tuesday has come and gone, confirming that former senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, barring an earthshattering event, will be facing off against loose talking billionaire presidential sensation Donald Trump.

For all our readers, Jewish and otherwise, this election holds vital and potentially important keys to the questionable future we face.

Mind you, we don’t appear to be confronting a new day as the Jews in Spain faced after Queen Isabella converted to Roman Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, ending 500 years of peace and comfort for the Jews of Spain. After Isabella’s conversion, Jews were given a choice; convert or be exiled from Spain.

Many Jews converted. Many entered a new diaspora. Many more remained and went underground with their Judaism and came to be called Marranos.

No such experience is expected in America for Jews, although American Muslims feel apprehensive about the possibility of a Trump presidency – for which only Trump can be blamed.

The rising worldwide narrative about Israel as an apartheid state, as an occupier, as a threat to the world order is what should concern American Jews and Jews everywhere.

Donald and Melania Trump
Donald and Melania Trump

In addition, Jews and non-Jews should be fixated on assertions being made by Bernie Sanders and now echoed by Hillary Clinton and Trump and nearly all the candidates – that America’s economy is rigged, that its political process is owned and manipulated for profit by Wall Street and the very rich, that our health care delivery system is a failure, as is the health care for veterans provided by the VA, that college education leaves most of us in debt, that social security is broken, that our national infrastructure is rotting and collapsing before our eyes, as the public school system has done with educating our young. And on and on.

These are among the reasons why the American presidential election is so important to all of us, Jews and non-Jews alike. In fact, we would make the arguable claim that the presidential campaign is about the most significant and compelling local story right now.

The Jewish connection to Israel has never been more compromised by divisions among us than it is today. America remains Israel’s main ally in the world. For all the fallout swirling about because of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s perceived mutual animosity, whomever becomes the next American president is of paramount concern.

If Trump or Clinton are elected, either Melania Trump or Bill Clinton will be the next First Spouse.

Shown next to one another on our cover for this edition are Melania Trump, the billionaire’s third wife, along with Hillary’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.

If the Jewish Journal was a humorous magazine, we could call the front cover something like: “First Ladies?”

But we are not a humor magazine – and some of our attempts at humor have not succeeded as hoped.

Perhaps we could call the front cover: “The First Lady and the First Gentleman?” although we are certain not all our readers would go along with such appellations. But this is not the point.

This week’s multi-state vote only served to confirm what we already know: The likely first spouses are an odd couple that reflects swirling currents of old meeting new, of change and unchange. Hillary won seven of 12 states on Tuesday, including Massachusetts. Even here, Bernie Sanders, the change agent for the Democrats, was told that his services aren’t needed - other than in the role of party conscience. Voters sent a clear message that, while many may be enjoying their flirtation with “Feeling the Bern,” most want to play it safe and stick with the status quo.

Former President Bill Clinton and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton
Former President Bill Clinton and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton

Barring a bomb dropping on the Clinton campaign – a health scare or email eruption, say – Hillary is the de facto Democratic nominee. For Trump, things are not so simple. First, while he had a big night, he didn’t win 10 of 12 states as polls had suggested he might. There was some talk of him winning Texas, the home state of opponent Ted Cruz, or even of winning all twelve states. Given these high expectations, along with the long threatened but only just mobilized resistance to a Trump candidacy by the party elites, Trump is at a difficult moment even as his campaign has reached its pinnacle of power.

The power brokers of Republican politics have been waiting for Marco Rubio, the first-term senator from Florida who is their preferred alternative to Trump, to start winning some primaries.

At that moment, they have fanaticized, Rubio will be lifted by a rush of institutional support desperate to stop Donald Trump. But Rubio won only one state on Tuesday. And Ted Cruz, who the elites hate as much as they fear Trump, resurrected his campaign by winning three states, ending speculation that he might drop out if he lost his home state of Texas to Trump, as many had predicted. But Trump failed in Texas, putting Cruz into second place in total delegates and upsetting plans for mounting a stop Trump movement around Rubio. Ironically, Trump’s position was strengthened with the Cruz resurgence as Rubio’s position became tenuous. Now, Rubio has to decide whether to leave the race to dodge a potentially career-damaging loss in his home state on March 15, where most polls now show Trump leading by upwards of 20 points.

It was fitting that the movie “Spotlight” won best picture at the Oscars last Sunday. Spotlight told the story of how the Boston Globe broke through the political shield keeping the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal from exploding onto center stage. In the rigged system the film portrayed, it was only after an out of town Jewish editor took the helm at the Globe that noble journalistic practice could replace the politics of self-preservation at the city’s paper of record.

Rigging is the currency of the powerful, and cutting it apart has been the focus of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Ultimately, the powerful on the Democratic side have successfully held off the forces of uprising – or the forces of de-rigging, as it were. Republican power-brokers are still circling their prey, rigging in hand.

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