The Campaign That Never Ends: Reflections on the 2012 Elections
by Pinchas Allouche
A Gripping Fascination
As the dust settles and the fog lifts from this tumultuous year of election campaigns, we are left to wonder how our country will evolve. Will the economy bounce back? Will our schools make progress? And how about the US relations with Israel; will they grow weaker or stronger? Will the new administration support an Israeli strike on Iran?
No one truly knows. Perhaps, this explains the gripping fascination that provoked our psyche during this election year. The intensity of emotions was palpable. The explosive passion for one candidate or the other inundated the streets of our country. Over 55 million people were glued to the presidential debates, the media coverage on the respective campaigns never ceased to amass an impressive number of viewers and listeners, and the turnout on election-day was considerably higher than expected. This begs one question: Why? Why were the boisterous noises of this election campaign so dominating? Why were we magnetized by the daily polls, the gaffes and the statistics? Why did we so often give in to our relentless urge to report about the political news of the day on Facebook, Twitter and other social arenas?
Yearning for Leadership
Some social pundits may say that it was the appeal to vote and make a difference that drew our attention so fiercely. Others may say that we were lured by the appearances of the candidates that emit characteristics that we strongly empathize with or profoundly desire, such as integrity, intelligence and even, charisma.
Nevertheless, I dare to suggest an alternative take on this phenomenon: it was our yearning for leadership that allured us to the candidates and their respective parties. And understandably so; after all, our generation has repeatedly suffered from treacherous leaders – in politics, in sports, in culture and in many other realms of our lives – that fell so low shortly after climbing so high. Thus, as we followed our candidates’ every move, as we listened to their every promise, as we acted upon their every call, we hoped and prayed that veritable leadership can be restored, that people of merit can once again become leaders of spirit.
But our search for this leader ought not to focus solely on the outside. For this optimal leader exists deep within the chambers of our souls. And, day after day, he hankers to emerge and fulfill his high calling and noble potential to live a life of divine meaning, a life empowered by our heritage and traditions, a life bolstered by deeds of goodness and kindness. “Behold, the days are coming,” the prophet Amos exclaimed, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of G-d,” (Amos 8:11). It is the words of G-d, emanating from our inner quintessential leader, which we must seek out and realize.
Putting Yourself In a Situation
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, tells the story of how, as a young student of philosophy at Cambridge University, he traveled the world to visit great leaders. When he met with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe asked him about the conditions of Jewish students at Cambridge, and what he was doing to help them. “In the situation I currently find myself…” Rabbi Sacks began to respond, whereupon the Rebbe interrupted him and said: “No one finds themselves in a situation. You put yourself in a situation, and if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation!”
Obviously, there are times in which we find ourselves in situations that are beyond our control. But at almost every given moment, we are presented with the opportunity of putting ourselves in a situation of leadership wherein we are called upon to heed the voice of our inner leader and become agents of light to the world around us.
Will You Vote?
The 2012 election campaign is now officially over. Whether its outcome is good or bad for our country, time will tell. Whether our money is safe in the present and in the future, we shall wait and see. Whether Israel has a friend in the White House, only G-d truly knows.
But there exists a campaign, beyond the limits of time and space, which will never end. The candidate in this campaign may not be as glamorous and flamboyant, but he is ambitious and determined to unleash his unique potential and actualize his G-d given skills and talents. This candidate is on a campaign for a life-term. He refuses to rest or resign. He begs us, each and every day, to give him a chance, to allow him to act, to allow him to speak, to allow him to be. He passionately yearns for your attention, and more importantly, for your election.
This candidate is you. Will you vote for you?