To the Editor:
The 2004 election has come and gone. Despite the pundits’ predictions that this would be the "closest election in American history," in the end–it wasn’t really that close after all. President George W. Bush bested Senator John Kerry by over 3.7 million popular votes–and picked up two states that Vice President Albert Gore won in 2000–Iowa and New Mexico. When the sun rose on November 3–President Bush became the first candidate in 16 years to receive more than 50 percent of the vote–and received the most popular votes of any candidate in our history.
This begs the question: So how does this impact the Armenian-American community and where do we stand–now? As we all know–most of our grass roots organizations whole-heartedly endorsed Senator Kerry. I believe that the reasoning behind this was the notion that a sitting Senator who had the luxury of pandering to various causes and interest groups throughout his 19 years in Washington would somehow translate into his actions as President. Wrong–wrong–wrong. How many elections will it take before our lobbying organizations recognize that candidate promises of genocide recognition rarely translate into April 24 proclamations from our Chief Executive?
Or perhaps they do recognize this fact. It’s almost as if most–if not all–of the major Armenian-American organizations march in lock step with the Democratic Party. While purporting to represent the interests of Armenian-Americans–these organizations craft a very narrow–unrepresentative set of issues that ignore the pressing domestic issues that impact the life of our community. The issue du jour is always the Armenian genocide. Most credible historians–as well as our friends in Congress recognize the historic fact of what took place–the brutal destruction of more than 1.5 million Armenia’s in what is today Eastern Turkey. Many were angered when President Bush did not properly recognize the Armenian genocide–but where was that same anger when President Clinton broke the very same campaign pledge throughout his eight years in the Oval Office? The best friend our community ever had–Senator Bob Dole–did not receive our community’s endorsement in 1996. In fact–the very organizations that have lambasted President Bush threw their support behind President Clinton in 1996.
These groups look at other issues–as well–but rarely do they examine domestic matters that directly impact the economic and social livelihood of Armenian-American voters.
The time has come for these organizations to start paying attention to a variety of issues that matter to Armenian-American voters. Armenian-Americans–like most Americans–vote on a variety of issues that impact their families–their businesses–and their futures. Sadly–there was little meaningful debate inside our community organizations on topics such as a simplified tax code; the future of social security; the security of our nation; the ongoing war on terror; and the frightening assault on our shared culture and values from Hollywood elitists who flocked to the Kerry campaign like groupies at a Bon Jovi concert. These issues matter to our community–and the fact that there was scant discussion of them from our "representative" organizations borders on disgrace.
So–to answer the question I posed earlier: How does President Bush’s re-election impact Armenian-Americans?–I think that our community will not only survive–but also thrive. Our organizations–on the other hand–need to look deep inside and figure out whether or not they really do represent the sophisticated Armenian-American electorate of 2004.
Aram B. Zamgochian