Taking the temperature of the country after a presidential election, especially one as controversial as 2020, that saw arguably the most divisive president in the nation’s history ousted after nearly four years of vitriol, could be considered a fool’s errand.
Slicing into the issue, the Herald spoke to Woodmere resident Cindy Grosz, a politically involved activist who sought the Republican nomination for Congress last year and has now organized a grassroots group Jewish Vote GOP; Michael Turi, of Woodmere, who leads the Five Towns Democratic Club; and Karen Levine, who along with Skylar Bader and Deanna Davoudiasl, guide Indivisible Nassau County, a progressive grassroots group with chapters across Long Island.
Grosz, an unapologetic Donald Trump supporter, is a lifetime Republican who grew up in the Five Towns and is friends with Woodsburgh resident David Friedman, the Trump Administration’s ambassador to Israel. Grosz remembers when President Ronald Reagan visited Temple Hillel in North Woodmere in 1984 and ate at the Friedman home. David’s father was temple leader Rabbi Morris Friedman.
“I believe in the policies of America First, rebuilding our economy,” Grosz said, explaining her support for Trump. “He represented the anti-establishment in D.C., he is not a career politician. Pre-Covid the economy was good and there was a record number of jobs. She also pointed to the Abraham Accords that established relations between Israel and Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
After the 2016 election that elected Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton there was much gnashing of teeth by voters, mostly Democratic, who did not want to believe that Trump was their president.
Four years later, Trump took it a few steps further. First insisting that his supporters should not vote using the mail-in ballots that became more popular because of the coronavirus pandemic. Then challenging the election results vigorously without any substantial evidence and using language that subsequently incited a breach of the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
“There has been damage these last four years, where half of a major party can believe that a scrutinized and fair election was illegitimate,” Turi said. “This would have been inconceivable just two decades ago. Locally and in New York state, however, I do not think anyone seriously questions the electoral process.”
With more than 1,400 people on Facebook and 800 active volunteers across Long Island, Indivisible Nassau County is a growing voice on the local political landscape aiming to have a larger impact.
“With the 2020 election behind us, there’s a lot more work to be done to ensure that the local, state and the federal governments are working for everyone,” Levine said. “First, we need structural democracy reforms in D.C. that ensure the power is in the hands of the people, dark money is out of politics, elections are secure, and voting rights are protected.”
For Grosz, what the Republican Party, especially at the state, county and club levels, has to be wary of is GOP members either aligning themselves with, joining in or pooh-poohing that alternative-right and white supremacists are affecting and infecting their ranks.
“I don’t know exactly when it started,” she said about the Republican Party’s contemporary affiliation with those groups. “There is a history of extremes in both parties. When I approached certain Jewish and Republican leaders about the troubling words and actions by some Republicans, I was told don’t worry about it, nothing is going on, and instead it escalated to what happened on Jan. 6.”
The Nassau County Republican did not respond for comment.
The echo chamber that many people appear to get their news from, whether the same publications or social media platforms needs to be avoided, Turi said.
“The single most important thing that should be done is being honest with the public and basing decisions on real evidence and not alternate facts,” he said. “I also think we need to try and listen to our neighbors who disagree with us more as opposed to only surrounding ourselves with people we agree with.”
Similarly, Levine views inaccurate information at the heart of the serious problems the country faces, including what she called the “big lie” on election fraud, adding that, “the fear and distrust that many Americans experience when consuming disinformation is very, very real.”
“Over the past four years, thousands of people across the country brought together their neighbors, their friends and their communities, many for the first time, to use the tools of democracy to move toward a government that is accountable to the people,” she said. “The health of democracy itself can be measured by engagement of its citizenry and never in our history have we, as a country, been more engaged.”
To have a better informed electorate, Grosz said the key is education. “We have to educate ourselves and it won’t take a lot of effort if we do it in a team effort,” she said, noting that Jewish Vote GOP consists of Jewish people of all the different sects across the metropolitan area.
“We have to educate people against who are going to call those Republicans that stand with racism and anti-Semitism.” Grosz also said that nepotism and the old boy network continues to hinder political progress.
“For those whose world view is really so tilted that extreme thinking is reasonable, only the slow process of ideas proposed, expectations properly set and eventual follow through will begin to bring these folk home,” Turi said on extremists.
Levine said Indivisible welcomes people who seek to “build stronger communities in their hometowns.” “We are strongly advocating for passage of H.R. 1 — the For The People Act of 2021 — which provides for structural democracy reform to ensure the power is in the hands of the people, dark money is out of politics, elections are secure and voting rights are protected.”