Stereotypes being what they are, when a Pulitzer-Prize winning and Oscar- and Tony-nominated writer tackles American electoral politics with his sharp pen, you typically expect to read an essay espousing liberal virtue. Not so with David Mamet. In an op-ed titled “A note to a stiff-necked people” that was recently published in the Los Angeles-based Jewish Journal, the writer of Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed-the-Plow, and The Verdict took fellow Jews to task for supporting Barack Obama. In a series of questions directed at the reliably liberal demographic, Mamet asks if Jewish-Americans are prepared to explain to their children how Obama’s policies will adversely impact them in the future: “Will you explain that whatever their personal beliefs, tax-funded institutions will require them to imbibe and repeat the slogans of the left, and that, should they differ, they cannot have a career in education, medicine, or television unless they keep their mouths shut?”
In the end, he reminds readers that despite what they’ve said to liberal-leaning friends about the presidential race — or felt compelled to say — our secret ballot allows us all to vote our conscience without retribution: “Should you, on reflection, vote in secret for a candidate you would not endorse in public, you will not be alone.”
As it is, Mamet has been an increasingly outspoken advocate for Israel, targeting “self-hating” Jews who criticize Israel in his 2006 collection of essays, The Wicked Son. In a 2008 essay in the Village Voice that explained his political conversion, “Why I Am No Longer a Brain-Dead Liberal,” he referred to National Public Radio as “National Palestinian Radio.” (In his most recent writing, he asked his fellow American Jews: “Will you tell your children that a liberal government will increasingly marginalize, dismiss, and weaken the support for and the safety of the Jewish state?”)
In 2008, the Jewish vote went overwhelmingly to Obama in his race against John McCain, 74 percent to 21 percent, according to some exit polls. Mitt Romney has attempted to cut into that gap by claiming Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus,” but analysts predict the president will still keep a significant advantage in the Jewish vote during tomorrow’s election.
Mamet’s arguments are provocative but hardly infallible. As he has demonstrated himself, it’s hardly impossible for a politically outspoken Jew — or politically outspoken anyone — to “have a career in education, medicine, or television [if they don’t] keep their mouths shut.”