Jewish World Review August 16, 2000 / 15 Menachem-Av, 5760
The certain way to
measure the Lieberman
BECAUSE OF Joseph Lieberman, public opinion polls
this year are going to play the most fascinating role
they have ever played in a presidential campaign.
Not because of what they will tell us, in the months
and weeks before Election Day, about what the
American people think about having a Jewish
candidate on the Democratic ticket. We already
know what the polls say about that -- the American
people are telling pollsters that they think a Jewish
vice presidential candidate is just fine. That a
person's religion should make no difference in a
And chances are that the polls will continue to
show this all the way up to the day of the voting.
Count on it: Every poll will show that the huge
majority of Americans say that a candidate's
religion is not a factor in presidential politics.
So why will the polls be so important this year?
Because of what they will tell us after Election Day.
Not the "what do you think of a Jewish candidate?"
polls. But traditional polls -- "Which candidate will
you vote for?"
Take a look at what the polls say in the week
before the election -- what the projections are for
the percentage of Americans who will vote for
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, what the
projections are for the percentage of Americans
who will vote for Al Gore and Lieberman.
Then take a look at the actual results on Election
Day --the real numbers.
If there is an unusually large difference between
what the polls predicted, and how the real vote
came out -- and if the polls project a much larger
vote for Gore-Lieberman than Gore-Lieberman
end up getting on Election Day--then you will have
a pretty accurate and scientific measure of
Because a unique feature of the secret ballot, as we
have it in the United States, is that no one will ever
know how an individual person voted. A person
might be approached by a pollster and -- afraid
that he or she will appear anti-Semitic -- say that he
or she is voting for Gore and Lieberman.
Then, alone in the voting booth with the curtain
drawn, the person can vote the other way.
Not that voting against Lieberman is necessarily a
sign of anti-Semitism -- it most definitely is not, or
at least it should not be. You can be against the guy
because of his position on issues, his general
ideology, or simply his campaign style -- and let's
face it, in the early going he has shown a certain
capacity for coming off as sanctimonious and
The true sign of how people feel about a Jewish
candidate will be in the difference between what
voters tell the pollsters--and what they then do
behind the curtain. What will matter is not which
ticket wins and which loses--what will matter is if
there is a big difference between what people say
they will do, and what they actually do.
As for George W. Bush, his best move when the
first ugliness about Lieberman's religion surfaces --
and trust me, it is a question of "when," not "if" --
will be to say that he doesn't want the support of
anyone who hates one of his opponents because of
that opponent's religious faith. It will be even better
if Bush means it.
He comes from a family that means it. I was talking
with his dad, the former president, once -- we were
talking about the World War II generation, and
what they have accomplished -- and former
President Bush told me that he and his wife had
been on vacation in Hawaii after he had left the
presidency, and early in the morning went for a
walk on the beach.
"It was a very rich area," the former president told
me. "Maui. And someone, on the beach, had
carved deep into the sand a swastika -- and in the
middle of it a Star of David, and next to it another
"I got so [expletive] mad -- it was 6 in the morning,
and I was walking with these [Secret Service]
agents . . . I was almost just crying."
He said he thought about his fellow Americans who
had given their lives to defeat the Nazis, and here
someone had carved a swastika into the sand, and
he said he went and got a rake: "I said, `Let's clean
this up, Barbara. . . .'"
He smoothed the sand out, he said, and then
continued on his walk -- bothered in his heart the
whole way by what he had seen.
Anyway . . . the polls this year will tell a story all
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
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