Eliot Strickon (WI): ‘I Stir the Pot as Often as I Can’
Eliot Strickon (54), a Democrat from Milwaukee, WI, lives in an Orthodox Jewish and African American urban community and serves on his synagogue’s board. He is the child of anthropologists who were students of Margaret Mead, and he describes himself as a Bundist (a secular Jewish socialist movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s). His grandmother joined the hatmakers union in the 1930s. Following in her footsteps, Strickon, his mother and his sister joined teachers’ unions.
Do your progressive political views cause friction in your ultra-Orthodox congregation, where presumably most congregants are politically conservative?
Certainly yes, but not everyone is politically conservative. I stir the pot as often as I can; that’s part of the fun. The guys actually like it, and the rabbi likes to get me going. I’ve had a Bernie Sanders sign in my house for four years and I get teased about it.
What traits are most important to you in a candidate?
Not being a fascist, which I define as state influence over big business. That’s what’s happening now, and it’s not a pretty combination.
Does religion affect your political views?
It does. In terms of religion, I’m much more about the outlook of the Prophets as opposed to being a strict Ten Commandments guy. The Prophets are more about how to treat people: an equitable society and not accumulating too much, and not just doing lip service towards good deeds.
What do you think about Donald Trump’s approach to Israel?
I’ve lived in Israel and have spent time in the West Bank. I don’t think what Trump has been doing is pro-Israel. It appeals to a certain segment of people there and plays well with a constituency in the United States. I don’t think in the long term it’s in the best interest of Israel. I’m quite upset, and many of my more progressive friends are upset because we think the Jewish community—and especially the Orthodox community—have become token Jews for Trump. Some of us are just horrified by that.
What issues concern you most?
The idea of an adequate safety net. A lot of the people who live around me can’t even afford license plates for their cars. Equity and income distribution, raising the minimum wage and all those Elizabeth Warren types of things. Education funding. Solvency of social security. Climate change and the reality of science, resource conservation and air quality. In terms of gun control, I’d like to see a world where people are not walking around with AR-15s or any sort of assault rifles.
What do you think about the Democratic presidential field?
I like Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker at the moment. I’m also impressed with Kamala Harris. I wouldn’t have a problem voting for Joe Biden in a general election, but he’s not my top choice. Here in Wisconsin, we’re waiting to see who is going to show up in the spring before the primaries. If somebody shows up and I can see or hear them, it makes a much bigger impression than reading about them or catching a snippet in a video. The way I view the world is a little bit urban, as we’d say here, and I’m wondering who’s going to represent the people who mainly live around me.
How do you feel about impeachment?
Before the Ukrainian affair there were three to four good reasons why Congress should impeach the president. Now there is at least one more. As for Biden, while there seems to be no credible evidence of wrongdoing, one can question the wisdom of how he dealt with his son and his entanglement with foreign affairs. Being well connected can be an ethical slippery slope.