DENVER - Political experts keep telling us there are no undecided voters this time around. Such received wisdom is reason alone to go look for them.
With less than a month left before the U.S. presidential election, statistically there must be at least a handful of undecided voters inside the walls of Cherry Creek, an upscale mall in Denver, Colorado.
But how do you spot undecided voters? Close to the children’s play area you can find soccer moms, the mostly suburban, upper-middle-class women, whom pollsters say are as likely to vote Democrat as they are to vote Republican. Stay-at-home moms love malls: they are cool in the summer, cozy in the winter. In the play area, they can watch over their children, and chat away on their cell phones.
Some shoppers are almost angry when asked if they are undecided. “No way! I know exactly who I’m going to vote for,” says a man without even stopping to answer the question. Those who have made their choice seem exasperated. They are tired of the negative ads, and believe the real issues aren’t being addressed. Most can’t wait for the campaign to be over.
Sometimes they just hate one of the candidates. “I will never, ever, vote for Obama,” says Jane Dellarue, 65, as she repeats the Tea Party positions (death to socialism and taxes, long live the American health-care model).
Republican nominee Mitt Romney doesn’t trigger the same level of hatred, but many people were annoyed with his performance during the first presidential debate; they thought he acted like a “playground bully.” “He flip-flops, always changes his mind and contradicts his own stances,” adds Elisabeth Young, 32. But even Obama supporters admit Romney showed “a human side” during the debate they hadn’t seen before.
In between the Pacsun and Century 21 stores, we meet voters who are less flustered, but just as sure of their choice - two teenagers who look like they skipped school to hold hands in the mall. “Obama,” says the girl. “Obama,” adds the boy. And yes they are old enough to vote, they say.
Three voters, two choices
And then finally, our first undecided voter comes along. Jane Waters, 56, voted for Obama in 2008 and so did her husband. She’s still undecided but her husband “has completely crossed over” to the Republicans. “He even started watching Fox News. I can’t believe it,” she adds. He’s a businessman, she is a consultant. Clearly, they haven’t taken much of a hit with the economic crisis. After watching the October 3 debate, Jane was “impressed” by Romney and thought Obama looked “apathetic.”
But “neither one has a viable plan.” The good news for the Democrats: she is very worried about Republican attacks “against women’s rights.” Statistically, Jane Waters represents Barack Obama’s best chance for reelection.
Undecided voter No. 2 is a man: Brandon Allen, 34, a real-estate consultant. He voted for John McCain in 2008 for what he describes as "personal reasons." This time he wants to vote for the best economic plan. For him, the debate showed Mitt Romney “under a more positive light,” but it didn’t really win him over. “What I want to see is a plan. You have a plan? Show me a plan!”
The problem is that neither candidate wants to unveil his whole plan, for fear of losing their base. Romney cannot say which tax cuts for the rich he would get rid of and the President cannot say what concessions he’s ready to make in order to reduce the deficit.
Scott Anderson, 46, is a yoga teacher and undecided voter No. 3. He chose Obama in 2008, but this year he isn’t excited about his options. “I don’t trust Romney. He has been reincarnated three times already.” But he isn’t too happy with Obama’s first term either, so he doesn’t really want to give him four more years in office.
With just a few weeks left, he doesn’t seem in a hurry to make a decision. “I don’t feel that voting for either one of the candidates is voting for a solution.”
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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