Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Steve Levy and the Religion Card

It is now clear that David Paterson will not stand for reelection to the New York Governor's office (and may even depart from the office before the election). The two announced candidates for the Republican nomination are Rick Lazio and Steve Levy.

This posting is purely speculative, purely "what if" conjecturing of an eventuality which at this point seems far less likely than not to ever occur, namely, the playing of the "Religion Card" in the political campaign.

Steve Levy is the son of a Jewish father and a Italian (Sicilian, I believe) Catholic mother. He was raised as a Catholic (including Catholic school in the earlier grades). To what degree he practices his Catholicism and/or the standing in which the Catholic Church holds him I neither know nor care, other than he married his wife in an Episcopal church. To the best of my knowledge, he has never purported himself to be Jewish.

Steve Levy has served as a County Legislator in Suffolk County, New York, and as a New York State Assemblyman. He is now the County Executive of Suffolk County. I have had occasion to shake hands with him at several Bar Association events, but that's as far as my personal familiarity with him goes. My objections to him are strictly political and not personal (for the record, my vote here now leans towards a Catholic named Lazio).

In Suffolk County, Levy's religious affiliation is, by and large, irrelevant. The Catholics in the electorate do not seem to care that his father is Jewish and that his name is Levy. The Jews in his constituency (who, with a few exceptions including myself, do not heavily practice their religion) don't really care that Steve Levy is Catholic (except for a few isolated exceptions who get themselves indignant about that kind of thing). It's a matter of everyone knows but nobody cares.

To be sure, Steve has visited Israel. In New York (at least New York City and Long Island), politicians of all religious backgrounds frequently do the "3 I's" (that is, visit Ireland, Italy and Israel).

As long as Steve Levy has a purely Suffolk County constituency, religion is a non-issue.

But now that Steve Levy is running for statewide office, I can envision a few conceivable situations in which the "Religion Card" might, perhaps, come into play. Again, the card may well never be played, which would suit me just fine.

If, for example, Steve tries to get the votes in Monsey or Williamsburgh or Kiryas Joel or New Square, or even Borough Park or Kew Gardens Hills or the 5 Towns, et cetera, he would have to be careful to not explicitly tout his Jewishness or else the issue will explode in his face. The typical voter in those areas would think that Steve Levy is a nice Jewish boy from Suffolk County, and might treat him as such. [Several of my friends and relatives from outside of Long Island who have read of Steve were of that mind until I set them straight.].

It is unlikely that Rick Lazio would bring up the issue because Rick is also a Catholic boy, and he has nothing "better" to offer voters in the aforementioned heavily Jewish areas. Most of the voters in those neighborhoods understand that Steve Levy himself is not to blame for his not being Jewish, and it would make Lazio look worse than Levy.

Likewise, an outsider to the Republican primary (i.e., a Democrat) would have little to gain by bringing up the issue.

But suppose the issue is brought up not by Levy or Lazio or any other candidate of any party, but by some loose cannon in the camp of one candidate or the other? Recall that during the 1884 Presidential election, it was the Rev. Samuel Burchard who, perhaps unwittingly, irretrievably sabotaged the campaign of James G. Blaine when he uttered his infamous "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" speech (Blaine was not exactly friendly towards Catholic education, and Jewish education is a big issue in the communities mentioned above, so the parallel hypothecized here would be strikingly apropos were it to occur).

Figuratively, the highways of America are littered with the bones of those who have tried to prognosticate political campaigns. I reiterate that the "Religion Card" will likely not be played in Steve Levy's quest for the Executive Chamber in Albany. But then again, some ideological descendant of Samuel Burchard might prove me wrong.

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