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April 05, 1996 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-04-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Editor's Notebook

Community Views

The Numbers Games
On Election Day

There Is No Fear
In Just The Numbers

ALAN HITSKY ASSOCIATE EDITOR

RICHARD LOBENTHAL SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS

My daily newspa-
pers weeks ago re-
lied on exit polls to
tell me how De-
troit voters decid-
ed the Tiger
Stadium issue.
The electronic
media, only min-
utes after the polls
closed March 19, projected that
the new stadium proposed for the
Fox Theatre district had won by
a convincing 3-1 margin. Neither
the daily papers, nor radio and
television outlets, bothered to re-
visit the issue and give us the fi-
nal tally.
The Jewish News almost made
the same mistake in our cover-
age of the West Bloomfield elec-
tions. An edited version of the
story stated only that
the referendum on
SMART bus service in
the township passed by
a margin of 565 votes.
Was that 566-1, or
40,000 to 39,635?
It turns out that in
both cases, in Detroit
and West Bloomfield,
the actual numbers car-
ry additional messages.
In Detroit, 140,155
voters turned out. They
voted to defeat the
Tiger Stadium Fan
Club's Proposal A
(25,009 to 108,425) and

to approve Tiger owner Mike B-
itch and Mayor Dennis Archer's
Proposal B for a new downtown
stadium (111,663 to 28,492).
They also voted in the presiden-
tial primary and passed Propos-
al L, renewing millage for the
Detroit Public Library system
(105,358 to 21,349).
Notice that more people were
concerned about the stadium pro-
posals than were worried about
the libraries.
In West Bloomfield, 8,960 vot-
ers turned out to vote on the
SMART buses and in the presi-
dential primary. The bus pro-
posal won by that 565-vote
margin, 4,511 to 3,946.
So?
So take a good look at the
numbers:

Detroit, with a population of 1
million, has 602,400 registered
voters. Some 140,155 voted last
week. Those who bothered to go
to the polls were 23.26 percent of
the registered voters and only 14
percent of the total population.
West Bloomfield has a popu-
lation of 54,516, according to the
1990 U.S. census. It has 38,365
registered voters and a history of
high-percentage turnouts for
elections. But the 8,960 who vot-
ed last week were 23.35 percent
of the registered voters and 16.44
percent of the township's popu-
lation.
Notice the similarities — only
14 percent of Detroit's population
and only 16 percent of West
Bloomfield's bothered to vote.
You may argue that the
Republican presi-
dential nomina-
tion was a
foregone conclu-
sion by March 19,
and you may be
right. But the new
stadium and the
SMART buses
were bread-and-
butter issues, a
chance for the tax-
payers to have
their say on pro-
posals that are vi-
tal to the entire
community and
affect their wal-
lets.
Tiger Stadium:
Or were they
The rest
vital?
don't care?
Maybe most
voters in Detroit
don't use Tiger Stadium now, or
plan to use a new Tiger Stadium
in the future. Maybe the closest
most residents of West Bloom-
field get to a SMART bus is
watching the smoky exhaust on
Orchard Lake or Maple roads.
But all citizens should be inter-
ested in the future of their com-
munity, and take advantage of
an opportunity to shape that fu-
ture.
In November 1992, Michigan
voters reversed a downward spi-
ral. Some 63.1 percent of the vot-
ing-age population, or 4.3 million
people, turned out to cast ballots
for Bill Clinton, George Bush and
a host of other candidates. In No-
vember 1988, 55.2 percent
turned out for the presidential
election.
I hope we can continue that
trend next summer and in No-
vember. Leaving the fate of our
community or country to the

hands of a small minority makes

me shudder.
Hopefully you will shudder,
too, all the way to your neigh-
borhood voting booth, and
not leave the fate of your coun-
try to bleeding-heart liberals like
me. 0

This seems to be
the time for the
annual "anti-
Semitism is dead
and only kept
alive by defense
agencies for fund-
raising purposes"
orgy.
Kicked off by a
Jan. 29 article in New York
Magazine, it continues even to
"interpreting" a reduction in
anti-Semitic incidents as re-
ported in ADL's annual audit of
these things.
Ronald Reagan said that civ-
il rights was a dead issue, and
only black civil-rights agency
professionals kept it going so
they could get paychecks. This
was a man who refused to meet
with the NAACP or the Urban
League and who was hostile to
civil rights efforts so one knew,
at least, where he was coming
from. But why the Jewish thing?
And from Jews? Who benefits?
ADL has said time and again
that a one-time drop or increase
in numbers in the annual audit
tell the reader absolutely noth-
ing. Too many variables; no ob-
vious trend; it could be anything.
Besides, we say, the number
of swastikas that are painted on
bridge abutments hardly as-
sesses the dimension of anti-
Semitism in America; and ADL
never said that it did. Audits re-
flect the number of incidents re-
ported, not the throwaway lines
that aren't called in nor the
change in quality of interactions
nor little things we overhear nor
the feelings we develop from all
this.
No, anti-Semitism in Ameri-
ca, the "comfort quotient of
Jews," the security of democra-
cy and minorities within it — all
those issues — are not the
purview of surveys or magazine
articles.
If Pat Buchanan Makes Jews
nervous, it's not because he's ac-
cused of painting a swastika; if
anti-Israel or anti-immigrant
sentiments are on the upswing,
it's not because of neo-Nazis; if
the religious right seeks to im-
pose a theocracy in America, it's
not because they support. the
KKK; if the college campus has
now become the place most in-
hospitable to Jews, it's not be-
cause it has been taken over by
Aryan Nations.
The nuances of anti-Semitism
are not the stuff of magazines,
and neither are they what you
learn from incidents. Incidents
are only the supporting data.
But the debate is an oppor-

Richard Lobenthal is the
director of the Anti-
Defamation League in
Michigan.

tunity for Jews to assess the
state of anti-Semitism. Howev-
er outrageous and outraging a
swastika graffiti is, the message
is one of terrorism that makes
Jews feel nervous.
That swastika is a symbol
used by people who benefit from
harassing Jews, and that's one
of the larger questions: Who are
they? How do they benefit? Why
do they need to? Are they con-
tinuing either by daubing
swastikas or finding other plat-
forms? Are they disadvantaging
Jews other than by making
Jews nervous? Why do Jews
keep responding with nervous-
ness? These are the questions
we need to ask.
In the meantime, the varia-
tions in numbers — increase in
this and decrease in that — are
all fine-tuning. It's interesting
and informative, but in the end,

it only tells us why we feel what
we feel. And nothing more. Ex-
cept that those niggling little
numbers reflect actual phone
calls from actual people; in-
stances, experiences and dis-
crimination and prejudice
actually undergone and felt by
real Jews.
To beat up on defense agen-
cies falls somewhere between
opportunism and demagoguery.
Defense agencies respond to the
needs of the community, and
any agency that goes to a con-
stituency annually for support
has an annual test of its mean-
ingfulness.
It's clear that we Jews feel
the need for defense agencies.
We fund community relations
councils across the country, the
ADL, the AJCommittee and all
the other national agencies, to
the tune of millions of dollars.
That tells us more about our
feelings, about our status, than
all the magazine articles in the
world. I

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