Campaign 2000's white noise of candidates, pundits and paid advertisements has all but drowned out one important set of facts: What's really at stake in this election?
The polls have one answer, but the voters - Mr. and Ms. Average Citizen - seem to have another. For that, The Journal went out into the community to find out what voters will care most about - or won't care about - come Nov. 7.
Sandra Klasky, a past president of The Jewish Federation Valley Alliance and pro-choice advocate, said she was worried about the election's effect on the balance of the Supreme Court.
"I don't think people understand the appointment of the justices, the implications of their rulings or how it affects all of our lives. It's no secret the next president is going to appointment [as many as] three justices, and that could definitely affect Roe v. Wade," she said. "We fought for years and years to get [abortion rights] away from the states and make it federal law. To lose that by making it become state by state is totally unequal and unfair."
The national election is not the only item at stake, points out Wilford H. Ross, an attorney for 20 years and an administrative judge in the U.S. Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals in Woodland Hills.
"The local and state races are very important this year," said Ross. "Some of the propositions on the ballot are very bad; for example, Proposition 36. I see this situation all of the time as a judge. You can send someone for treatment a dozen times, but unless they want to get off drugs, unless they hit bottom you can't change anything."
Ross said Proposition A, a Los Angeles County charter amendment altering the county's Board of Supervisors, is also a concern.
"To increase the number of county supervisors without setting term limits is like giving [State Sen.] Richard Polanco a retirement job. We'll end up with nine dukes instead of five," he said. "It's too bad all these ballot propositions are so confusing. What I tell my friends is, when in doubt, vote no. Then you won't be mad if the measure passes and there are all these hidden agendas you didn't know about."
Despite the plethora of ads for state initiatives, however, most people said they were focused on the different directions in which a win for either Gore or Bush would take the country.
"We are in the middle of a culture war," said Dr. Arthur Fass, a Northridge podiatrist and L.A. chapter president of the conservative group Toward Tradition. "George Bush calls it a difference in philosophy, and the difference is very simple: Do you want the government to control people's lives and decide what is best for them, or do you want people to control their own lives?"
Given that, Fass said he believes strongly that Bush is the better choice for the Jewish community.But Jacque Hay, a Valley businessman, staunch Democrat and well-known local activist who founded the Sephardic congregation Em Habanim, said a Bush win would be disastrous.
"I have an incredible fear that if Bush gets the advantage we're going to go back to that 'save the rich, forget about the poor' attitude," said Hay. "There are social and political views that the Republican Party holds that are 180 degrees different from my beliefs. Even though I'm an Orthodox Jew, I don't feel I have any right to decide on abortion or affirmative action. And who supports Bush? The religious right, people like Ralph Reed and other very dangerous people. Gore has his problems, but he's a good man. His choice of Lieberman as a running mate was a real turning point."
Hay said he believes in the end, Gore will be able to turn the tide in his favor, if only by the strange twist of U.S. electoral politics.
"I think Gore is going to win. The popular vote may go to Bush, but I think Gore will take the electoral vote," Hay concluded.
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