Here is the Man that has the entire World on Lock right now on the cover of December’s GQ Magazine. The Magazine announced Obama as “The Man of the Year”
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The Numbers Are Bending Our Way
Obama’s Path to Victory in November
[While I agree with Bob's important points here, I'm still one wary of the wild card: a Black guy is getting close to being President in the good ole USA, and I'm going to see it as a 50-50 tossup until it's all over. --CarlD]
By Robert Creamer
With Obama inching ever closer to clinching the Democratic nomination, some of his opponents have resorted to a campaign aimed at convincing superdelegates that, no matter how much they like him, “Obama just can’t win.”
In fact, the odds are good that Obama will win the Presidency. And if Democrats execute with precision during the campaign, the odds are good that he will win with a healthy margin. Here’s why:
If the election were held today – before the campaign begins – polling shows that he would have very high odds of winning states with 273 electoral votes, more than the 270 needed to win election. More importantly, he would win this victory without needing the states of Ohio, New Hampshire, Nevada, Virginia or Florida.
The people at the website http://www.fivethirtyeight.com have created a statistical model to predict the odds that a candidate will win each state in the general election. The model is based on a regression analysis of recent polling and sixteen additional political and demographic factors. It assigns a likely vote spread and the numerical odds that a particular candidate will win the state. The model updates its findings regularly based on recent polling data from the state.
As the campaign begins, the model predicts that 22 states, with a total of 273 electoral votes, will go for Obama. These include the obvious states of California, New York, Illinois, Washington, Oregon and most of New England. They also include swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania. As it happens, the model predicts that Obama’s odds of victory are no lower than 63% in any of these states.
But the model also shows that a number of additional states are right at the tipping point for Obama. Obama’s odds of winning Ohio’s additional 20 electoral votes are about even, at 49.8%. His odds in Nevada are 46%. His odds in New Hampshire are 45%. If he adds these three states, his total increases to 302 electoral votes.
These are the numbers before the general election campaign begins. They are based on what voters say they will do today, and on voter turnout assumptions that generally reflect past elections. They are, in other words, based on past behavior. While it is true that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, it is the job of a political campaign to change that behavior. After all, if a campaign were not about changing the behavior of the voters, we should all just go to the beach for the next five months instead of knocking on doors, raising money, making speeches and all the rest.
And the odds are that this campaign, as it unfolds, will result in an even wider Obama victory.
The more people get to know Obama, the more likely it is that he will get their support. But the more they know about McCain, the less likely they are to vote his way.
Polling shows that McCain substantially outperforms a generic Republican candidate in the presidential contest. Though the Bush legacy has greatly tarnished the Republican brand, many people start out thinking that McCain is not a standard-issue Republican. Instead they view him as a “maverick,” an “independent.”
The problem is that the more they get to know him, the more they learn that on most of questions that really matter, especially trickle-down economics and neo-con foreign policy, McCain and Bush are twins. After all, as a Senator, McCain has voted with Bush 95% of the time.
In our polling, as people learn about McCain’s record of supporting Bush’s policies, they begin to drop him quicker than you can say McBush.
Every time Bush attacks Obama the way he did last week before the Israeli Knesset, he does Obama a huge favor. Anything that ties Bush to McCain – including his current fundraising tour for McCain – is a blessing. One of the campaign’s biggest jobs will be to keep Bush in the message frame.
People behave just the opposite as they learn more about Obama. Obama’s initial problem with some swing voters is that while they know he is charismatic, they are worried whether he is safe enough – whether he is really like them – whether he’s really on their side. Barack Obama is a likable, engaging person. The more that voters know of him, the more that they see his family, the more that he becomes part of their everyday experience – the more comfortable they become with him.
In Illinois, where the voters know him best, the same demographic groups that are skeptical elsewhere give him their support.
Obama’s campaign will change the electorate. It will massively increase turnout among minorities and young people.
Based on past history, Ohio has even odds of going for Obama. What happens if there is a huge spike in turnout among African Americans and young people? Obama takes Ohio by a respectable margin. The fact is that there is no plausible scenario where McCain wins in November that does not involve Ohio.
In the fall, Hispanics will not break as heavily for Obama as African Americans, but they are likely to give him a two-to-one margin. Increased Hispanic voter turnout in Nevada will tip that state for Obama and guarantee big margins in Colorado and New Mexico.
I believe that big increases in the African American and youth vote will also place a large number of other states into play including Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana. By placing these traditionally Republican states into play this fall, the Obama campaign will force the Republicans to play defense on their home turf and spread their resources. When you’re on the defense, you’re losing. No traditionally Democratic state will really be in play.
Obama’s massive small-donor fundraising base will give his campaign a huge advantage on this new, wider playing field.
In this political environment, Obama’s persona and message will resonate with swing voters. Eighty percent of the voters think that America is on the wrong track. Obama is change. McCain is the past.
From the beginning of his primary campaign, Obama has had one consistent message: change you can believe in. He appeals for unity not division, for hope instead of fear, and to the fundamental premise that we’re all in this together, not all in this alone. This resonates with voters tired of the division, fear and selfishness of the Bush years.
Finally, Obama’s ability to inspire is a massive general election asset. Not only will it motivate his base, it will also attract independents and Republicans in record numbers. The reason is simple: when someone is inspired they feel empowered. People of all sorts want to be empowered; they want to have meaning in their lives. They want to be part of something big and important and historic.
The one thing we have learned again this year is that anything can happen in politics and those who predict with certainty will almost certainly be wrong. But if we set aside our cynicism – if we commit ourselves to victory this fall – I believe that we will all be part of something historic.
I believe that Barack Obama can win by more than 300 electoral votes and 54% or more of the popular vote. I believe that Democrats can take another 25 seats in the House and five to seven seats in the Senate. I believe that this could be a transformational election of the sort that happened last in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt launched the New Deal that made America the most prosperous society in human history, and committed our country to all of his famous “Four Freedoms:” freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
And what’s most exciting is that more than any election in modern political history, this election will be decided less by the strategies of a few political consultants than by what millions of everyday political activists do to make their mark on history over the next 161 days.
[Robert Creamer is a long time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book, Stand Up Straight. How Progressives Can Win, available on amazon.com]
The Destruction of Commandment Keepers, Inc. 1919-2007
by Rabbi Sholomo Ben Levy
The traditional day of mourning for Jews is the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av because on it the temple that King Solomon built in Jerusalem was destroyed first in 586 BCE and then again in 70 AD. Normally the month of Av occurs in August. However, in 2007 the month of Av came in April for members of the Israelite community because that is when our oldest congregation was destroyed. Psalm 137 says, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget (her skill). Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not.” Similarly, I say if we forget how this once great congregation came to such a pitiful end then we have no reason for having a brain or a heart. Therefore, I have written this article as an epitaph upon the tomb stone of Commandment Keepers Congregation.
Thousands of Israelites passed through its doors and almost every black rabbi in America owes his existence to its presence. Books, articles, and film documentaries have been made about this most famous Israelite place of worship. It was built by a young man named Wentworth Arthur Matthew who at the age of twenty-seven stood on a ladder in the streets of Harlem telling its residents that they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and needed to return to their God. In 1919 he assembled a hand full of men and women who believed enough, loved enough, and were willing to sacrifice enough to build a congregation for God’s honor and glory. Over the next eighty-eight years of its life it would be located at several places in Harlem. When my parents joined it in 1957 it was located above a drug store at 87 West 128th street. In 1962 it moved into a mansion built in 1890 for John Dwight, one of the founders of the Arm and Hammer Company.
In 1942 Rabbi Matthew published a memoir called the Minute Book, it was a summary of the early years of the congregation. In it he described those first decades as the “most gigantic struggle of any people for a place under the sun.”1 By this he was referring to the other black synagogues that did not survive the Great Depression such Beth B’nai Avraham and the Moorish Zionist Temple founded by Rabbi Arnold Ford and Rabbi Mordica Herman respectively. Even Commandment Keepers had lost a residence but the congregation—which is always more than the building that houses it—survived. Their faith in God and love for each other allowed them to overcome forces that had destroyed even Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.
When the congregation moved into its final home, Rabbi Matthew himself painted the number “one” on the vestibule door. In part it represented the address, 1 West 123rd Street, but on a deeper level it represented Rabbi Matthew’s dream that Commandment Keepers would be the first (and possibly best) of many black synagogues to follow. In fact, some of its stationery referred to the congregation as “Headquarters” and it was thought of as such by many of Matthew’s students throughout New York and Chicago until its decline. Moreover, in the minds of many people outside of our community, Commandment Keepers Congregation was synonymous with Black Jews. Because of its unique history it was the only black synagogue in the United States that was recognized as an historic landmark.
The Talmud says “when the parties to a suit are standing before thee, let them both be regarded by thee as guilty, but when they are departed from thy presence, regard them both as innocent, the verdict having been acquiesced in by them.”2 – Avot 1:8. Therefore, if we were to apply this teaching to the parties responsible for the loss of Commandment Keepers Congregation then publicly we would have to say that they are all guilty. Indeed, we are all guilty of things we did or failed to do that might have changed this outcome. However, the scriptural images that comes to my mind is the case of the two woman who came before King Solomon both claiming to be mother of one living child. Here, too, both sides in this calamity claim that they are the rightful leaders and owners of the building. King Solomon’s verdict to divide the baby in half relied upon the belief that the true mother would say the child’s life is more important than her being right. Therefore, she would give up her claim to save the child.
“The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!” – I King 3:26
Thinking about what happened to Commandment Keepers Congregation is like watching an explosion in slow motion. The fire there had been burning slowly and internally almost since the death of our founder, Chief Rabbi W.A. Matthew, in 1973. Reliving what happened there is like performing an autopsy or writing a manual for how to destroy a synagogue from within.
Each side in this internecine struggle thought that they were fighting the enemy when, in fact, they were fighting themselves. Hence, they were committing suicide as they murdered the congregation. On some level this was obvious to everyone except those who were most emotionally obsessed with the battle. Over the decades attempts by respected individuals and organization within the Israelite community to broker a peace were repeatedly rejected by both sides. As Rabbi Hailu Paris describes the squabbling the plagues our community, “Yom Kippurs came and went without any forgiveness.” Conciliatory phone calls were made and letters of reconciliation were written, but they seemed locked in a downward spiral of accusations, confrontation, litigation—somehow believing that the next law suite will finally resolve the problem. Even now, the sale of the building may not be the end of the feuding. The last attempt was made about three years ago. I informed the parties that the Israelite Board of Rabbis was willing to convene at Bet Din (Rabbinic Court) to resolve this issue and finally heal this open wound which has been a blight on our entire community. Both sides rejected this offer; once again putting their individual wants above the needs of their congregation and ignoring the institutions of the Israelite community that they claim to cherish.3
“Two households, both alike in dignity…” The words that Shakespeare used to open his tragic play Romeo and Juliet would be a fair description of the two families that were at the heart of the conflict that destroyed Commandment Keepers Congregation. Both families were honorable and distinguished. One of the warring camps was led by Rabbi David Dore, the grandson of Chief Rabbi Matthew, and the other combatants were led by the late Rabbi Chaim White, one of Chief Rabbi Matthew’s most loyal and trusted students. By most accounts, Rabbi Matthew expected these parties to work together. He never imagined that they would become entangled in a struggle to the death for control of what he built.
Commandment Keepers 87 West 128th Street Rabbi Matthew’s two sons had not followed in his rabbinic footsteps; therefore he naturally placed great hope in David, his daughter’s son. Although he was advancing in years, before the chief rabbi retired he ordained his grandson. Rabbi Dore was only seventeen at the time, the youngest rabbi ever ordained in our community, and the news of his elevation took some by surprise. Still a student at Yeshiva High School, Rabbi Dore was looking forward to his studies at Yeshiva University. He was bright and promising but obviously too young to lead a congregation alone. Rabbi White was a dedicated, faithful, and proud man. He was also a gifted speaker as opposed to a Torah scholar or Baal Tefillah. It may very well be that the source of animus between the two men stemmed from the perception in their eyes that the younger was arrogant and disrespectful and the older was insecure and ill prepared. What is certain is that both men could have benefited from the other’s strengths. Instead, what followed was a series of insults and counter insults that started small and eventually grew, consuming what could have been a strong partnership—or at least a smooth transition—and replacing it with a bitter and ugly feud that continued for almost three decades and ended in self-destruction. Each side claims that the other committed the first intolerable act that justified his subsequent bad behavior.
Tension turned into open rebellion when Rabbi Dore was locked out of the synagogue and effectively banned from the bimah in the early 1980s. From Rabbi Dore’s perspective this was the start of the coup d’état that wrongly deposed him of the position his grandfather bequeathed. Rabbi White regarded that moment as the necessary actions taken by the congregation’s legitimate board to deal with an ungovernable member. Although a few people took sides in this civil war, most people whose history in our community extends back for thirty years or more remember these events like a child who grew up in a dysfunctional family. We did not wish for a winner in the fight between father and mother or our sister and our brother. We simply wanted the fighting to end and prayed that the wonderful times we shared together with the combatants when we were as one unified and harmonious family could return.
Other low points on the road to destruction include a sidewalk bar mitzvah in 1994 when Rabbi Dore’s son was forced to enter manhood on the curb because they were not allowed to use the sanctuary. Almost ten years later another flurry of law suits occurred and the altercations became more violent as Rabbi Dore claimed that he was pushed to the floor inside the building following a prayer service by someone close to Rabbi White. Police were brought in on several occasions including one in which people close to Rabbi Dore hired a locksmith to enter and temporarily occupy the building. As late as 2006, several people including Rabbinit White were physically assaulted on the Sabbath while trying to enter the synagogue. These incidents did not occur frequently but their severity and unpredictability created a climate of hostility that weighed on the declining congregation like death itself.
During this long embattled period, Rabbi Dore entered into a self-imposed exile during which he virtually cut himself off from the rest of the Israelite community. Except for an occasional funeral or wedding he was rarely seen. He was not a member of the Israelite Board of Rabbis, he did not teach in the Israelite Rabbinical Academy, and he did not generally worship at black congregations. In contrast, the White family—particularly Rabbi and Rabbinit White—remained engaged in the Israelite community beyond Commandment Keepers Congregation. It may be that Rabbi Dore and his supporters assumed, incorrectly, that any person or synagogue that welcomed the Whites was ipso facto against the Dores and vice versa. Without a doubt the family feud at Commandment Keepers was a blight on the entire community, but there was very little that people outside the congregation could do to ameliorate the situation. The families of Rabbi Yehoshua Yahonatan and Rabbi Levi Ben Levy urged the parties to seek a compromise, but during most of the period these rabbis were building new congregations in Brooklyn, Queens, and Mt. Vernon.4 It was hoped that when a new rabbi was appointed, Rabbi Zechariah Ben Lewi, following his ordination in 2000 that he might be able to usher in a new period of reconciliation—since he was not a party to any of the earlier fighting. Sadly, things declined even more precipitously as members who stuck with the congregation through earlier storms grew weary and frustrated. As one of these members described it, near the end “it wasn’t the fighting outside that turned me away, it was the fighting inside.”
David Lee, the Gabi of the congregation and a fierce supporter of the Whites, told the Israelite Board of Rabbis that the decision to sell the building in April 2007 for a reported $1.6 million dollars was not easy. Since he and other principles to the original dispute are now in their seventies and eighties, it may be that they feared that the building might have fallen into the hands of their nemesis should they die or retire. Rather than see this happen, they sold the synagogue without so much as a memorial service, which is requisite when a synagogue is closed. Members were not even told of the last service or given an opportunity to pay their last respects. No efforts were made to find homes for the Torahs, religious articles, or financial proceeds from the sale within the Israelite community. Needless to say, the manner in which all this occurred added a degree of sadness that is worse than had the building burned down because that would have been an accident but this was done with an element of spite and hate—the two things that really destroy a congregation.
In retrospect, the handwriting was on the wall. Like Babylon our hearts and actions were measured and found lacking. Therefore, as tragic as this is, I yet believe that it is a warning from a merciful God asking us to look at how we behave. We should be embarrassed by the spectacle that we see in the mirror enough to change. In this conflict there was no mother who was willing to sacrifice her desires in order to save the child. Learn from this warning. Do not let divisions fester in your congregation. Our problems will never be solved by courts, police, or any outside bodies. We must love each other, support each other, and trust our own institutions. If they are weak then we must work to make then stronger as if our survival depends upon it because it does.
We did not lose this part of our foundation to a tragic fire, nor was it due to a lack of financial resources, nor were racist or anti-Semites to blame. No! We loss that building because self-interest became more important than devotion to Hashem and love of each other. Thus, the memory of that building has now become a monument to self-destruction.
Author with father, Rabbi Levi Levy, on bimah of Commandment Keepers, 1967
1Sholomo B. Levy, African American Lives
2The full Hebrew quotation is:
:אַל תַּעַשׂ עַצַמְךָ כַּעוֹרְכַי הַדַּיָּנִין. וּכַשֶׁיִּהְיוּ בַּעַלַ דִינִין עוֹמְדִים לַפַנֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בַעַינֶיךָ כַּרְשָׁעַים. וּכַשֶׁנִּפַטָרִים מִלַּפַנֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בַעַינֶךָ כַּזַכַּאִין, כַּשֶׁקִּבַּלוּ עַלַיהֶם אֶת הַדִּין
Various translations are possible but the point will always be the same.
3The Torah actually commands us to create our own courts to settle these matters. “Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” – Deut 16:18
4Rabbinit Leah Yehonatan remained on the Board of Commandment Keepers until the end and Rabbi Yahonatan had the status of emeritus, but even they were omitted from all discussions and votes on the sale of the building, which raises a host of other question about legality and propriety of the sale