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The Four Sons: 2016 Presidential Elections

Updated on April 21, 2016

Four sons in the Haggadah. Four candidates with a chance of securing the American presidency (sorry John Kasich) with each one embodying in one way or another, the consciousness and ideas of their corresponding character. I have tried to treat all candidates with equal disdain to mitigate accusations of political biased.

The Wise Son: Bernie Sanders

"And the wise son, what does he say...he says...what are the testimonials, statutes and laws Hashem our G-d commanded you?"

The oldest contender with a cult following amongst intellectuals and leftie luvvies alike, Bernie naturally echoes the perspective of the wise son.

Just as the wise son asks openly and holistically about all these "laws and customs", Mr Sanders campaign speeches are candid and upfront, posing bold questions about the fundamental workings of American society.

Why is there institutional inequality?

Why do corporate interests override the public will?

Why are thousands of Americans working full time yet not earning enough to provide for a basic quality of life?

And just like the wise son's question is framed with a certain optimistic confidence, the Sander's campaign reflects a tangible sense of opportunity and hope. But of course, the wise son is not necessarily the good son. Some commentaries criticise his seeming intellectual detachment from reality. Similarly, whether the American population genuinely "feel the Bern" or ultimately he'll be confined to the annals of history along with the likes of George McGovern and Ted Kennedy as just another one of those idealistic left-wing populist no-hopers remains to be seen.

The Wicked Son: Donald J. Trump

" And the Wicked son...what does he say?....He says...what is this service of yours?"

As much as I endeavour to steer clear of cliche, the Donald cannot help but be categorised as anyone but the wicked son.But hear me out.

I do not cast him as wicked because of some ill-judged comments on abortion and war veterans.

Or even on account of his seemingly strict prospective immigration policies.

Trump apes the wicked son as just like he excludes himself, asking "what is this service of yours?", from the outset Trump has campaigned as a political outsider. He excludes himself from his fellow "Establishment" contenders, "lyin Ted" and "crooked Hillary".

The average Trump primary voter, when asked about their electoral preferences, nine times out of ten will not cite an unsubstantiated dislike of Mexicans. Rather the outspoken businessman's appeal lies in his aloofness from Washington. The lobbyists, the donors, the intrigue. Trump is above all that. Hence after almost every derogatory comment, Trump's campaign gets a spike in the polls. It is further proof of his outsider platform, that he sits beyond Establishment politics. Don't get me wrong, Trump also takes after the wicked son's smug cynicism too. But principally, Trump's attraction is that whilst he may be full of hot air to his opponents, he's a breath of fresh air to his supporters.

Yet just like the wicked son, the results of Trump's philosophy are touch-and-go. After a somewhat unpleasant tweet about fellow contender Ted Cruz' wife and attempts to defend his campaign manager for alleged assault, Trump lost the Wisconsin primary. He may have won New York since but just like the wicked son,Trump will get a kick in the teeth at the nominating convention if he continues to come across to large swathes of the population as providing nothing more than abusive rhetoric.

Simple Ted
Simple Ted

The Simple Son: Ted Cruz

"The Simple Son....What does he say...What is this celebration about?"

From the glib "Choose Cruz" campaign slogan to the straight-talking foreign policy promises of "carpet bombing ISIS into oblivion", Texas senator Ted Cruz does not market himself as a complex character. His hard-line social and fiscal policies like minimising federal intervention in education and repealing Obamacare smacks of conservatism, pure and simple.

Like the simple son, the sophistication Cruz lacks is somewhat made up for by a passionate sincerity. Unfortunately, there are no narrow paths to the White House, and should Cruz win the nomination and put forward a strong candidature in the General Election campaign, he may have to broaden his outlook.

The one who does not know how to ask: Hillary Clinton

"As for The One Who Knows Not How To must open up [the conversation] for him."

----or for that matter, her.

There is a certain irony in placing the most experienced candidate in the seemingly most ignorant category. Yet Hillary Clinton fits this bill.

Yes, she has been First Lady for eight years, Senator for nine and Secretary of State for goodness knows how long. Yes, Clinton may have huge bases of support across America ranging from her strongholds in New York to her networks of fans in California and I don't doubt that she's a role model for scores of aspirational women.

Yet I still find her complete anathema.

Just like the child that does not know how to ask remains expressionless, like a blank canvas, Hillary's campaign is colourless. Emotionally silent.

Her endless victory speeches as she tramples over Sanders in Nevada, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusets, Tennesee, Florida, Arizona and most recently New York, seem clinical and fake.

Her theatrics and gestures staged.

You can watch her speaking in New York (right) and decide for yourself but as far as I'm concerned she has all the sincerity of a potted plant.

Granted there may be a "real Hillary" beyond the artificial facade and just like the child that does not know how to ask, it just has to be prompted. But until then, a Clinton presidency, however likely, seems nothing to get excited about.


All four candidates, like the four sons, have their qualities and their flaws. However, unlike the notion of the story of the Four Sons in the Haggadah where the reader is encouraged to adopt attributes from all the different characters, American voters will have to select just one, warts n'all and live with it for the next four years.Was it Winston Churchill that once said "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried"?

I am inclined to agree with him.

Happy Pesach


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