The US Midterms – Who Won?

Who won? We did! And “we” could be any of a number of possibilities. Among those possibilities are Americans in general, and Republicans in particular. And let’s not forget Israeli democracy.

The first is the easiest to explain. It was a good day for Americans. Tens of millions of dollars of property damage didn’t happen. Serious injury, and possibly even the taking of lives, were averted because the Red Wave didn’t occur. Had it happened, the expectation was that it would have ignited serious civil unrest. Said unrest would have been met the irresolute response that we witnessed to the BLM riots, so it would have continued for a while.

Election Day was good for Republicans as well. It certainly was not what they expected, but it may mean that they lost numerous battles but will win the war of 2024. No one had any idea of how to unseat Donald Trump in his expected bid for the Republican candidacy in the next presidential election. Trump is widely regarded as the only candidate who could lose to Joe Biden, but the GOP was still going to be saddled with his presence. That is no longer the case. Republican fingers are being pointed at DT for thwarting the gains they expected. It makes absolutely no difference whether they are correct or not. The point is that lots of Republicans – not just “RINOs” – are saying it, meaning that for the first time it is becoming permissible to say that they’ve had enough, and it is time to move on.

Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis, the guy who turned Miami/Dade red, has emerged as a strong possibility to take on the Democrats in two years. So the tables have been turned. Coming into Election Day, it was the Republicans who were being held back because they couldn’t shake Trump loose. Now it is the Democrats who are stuck with an expected run of the dynamic duo of Biden and Harris, a combination that can be expected to become less and less electable as their gaffes continue at an accelerating rate, and their policies (which they have already announced will not be changing) do more and more damage.

In two years’ time, the Republicans might very well look back and say that all their hand-wringing in 2022 was worth it to take the prize in 2024.

How were the midterm results a feather in the cap of Israeli democracy? Consider this. The US and Israel are far more similar that most people realize. Both are riven by competing visions. In both cases, the sides are so close to each other in number, that neither could claim a clear majority. In both cases, recent assaults on security by forces operating within the country made safety an issue of heightened voter concern. In both cases, the division is further complicated by the presence of problematic figures – people who generate intense dislike that makes even supporters of their policies run in the opposite direction. In both cases, the division brought about a kind of paralysis in society and its government. In the US, it expressed itself as hatred of half the country for the other; of the inability of either side to listen to the other; of the emergence of cancel culture from both ends; of a loss of control over mayhem and crime. In Israel, it meant that Israelis kept going to the polls every few months for the last years, because neither side came up with a stable coalition. Each side was at the mercy of parties which could instantly topple the government – and eventually did – giving outsize importance to maverick voices among members of Knesset. Important work on domestic issues did not get done. Foreign governments were reluctant to deal with people whom they thought might not be around in the morning.

In both Israel and the US, the deep divisions in society had taken a toll coming into the elections. In the US, the midterms changed nothing. Nothing has changed to mend the torn fabric of American society. The polarization will likely get worse, not better, in the remaining two years of the present administration. Israelis, however, chose between two competing visions – sharply defined – and voiced a clear preference for one. They chose a bundle of values that proudly linked Jewish identity with tradition. The mission statement of the Jewish State has become better defined. Israel will see more respect for religion, greater emphasis on family values, a return to giving children in the classroom reasons to love their country and its history. (All things that half of the US electorate long for, but remain beyond reach.) Assuming that Ben-Gvir can be made to behave, none of this will be allowed to compromise the commitments that Israeli democracy has made to its Arab citizens.

Maybe, maybe – maybe the comparison is unfair, and Israel’s achievement has little to do with its form of democracy, and everything to do with something that cannot be expected of Americans. Perhaps it is as simple as calling it the Jewish heart. With all their trademark argumentativeness, the majority of Israelis still share notions of something that sets them apart. They can still feel stirrings within from the Bible and its mission, and its instantiation in the Land that surrounds them. They are still intertwined with each other, and their connection to the past and future.

Today, a long-time entertainer and radio personality who most certainly did not vote with the majority, went on a rant on air. Natan Zahavi said, “All these dreckes [Yiddish for scum] quote to me passages from the Bible,” he said during the broadcast on Radio 103FM…Pray, put on tefillin, light Shabbat candles, take challah, dress modestly. Go to hell with the modesty and the challahs and the candle lighting and with the tefillin…I’d be happy if some of you would tie the tefillin around their necks and hang themselves since they do nothing, but they’re public representatives.” He was almost immediately suspended amidst calls for his ouster for incitement, having used language that is mild in comparison with what can be heard in the US daily. People recognized where a red line had been crossed. Zahavi showed himself to be both a fossil and a true disciple of Akiva of the Talmud! Not the great Rabbi Akiva, but the Akiva before he began to study, who hated the Torah scholar so much, that if he could only get one in his clutches, he said, he would ferociously bite him like a donkey. That hatred had nothing to do with left-right differences, but with jealousy – jealousy that others could understand and enjoy a Torah that was their rightful patrimony as well, but from which they were estranged.

Zahavi was getting desperate. He could smell the change in the air. The Jewish people in their Land had inched back just a bit closer to their patrimony, and he felt utterly left out. Let us hope that the historic change that occurred last week – with a majority of the ruling coalition’s representatives being Orthodox for the first time since the establishment of the State – will actualize its potential, and spread the light of Torah to all Jews. Even – and especially – the remaining Zahavis.

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31 Responses

  1. Reb Yid says:

    Fixed this for you.

    It was a good day for Americans. Tens of millions of dollars of property damage didn’t happen. Serious injury, and possibly even the taking of lives, were averted because the Red Wave didn’t occur. Had it happened, the expectation was that it would have ignited serious civil unrest. Said unrest would have been met the irresolute response that we witnessed on January 6th, 202.1, .

    • YK says:

      Because a riot that occurred on one day in one place is obviously far more important than riots that occurred across the country for months, with the tacit approval of the authorities charged with maintaining public order.

    • Steven Brizel says:

      Actually we saw a preview of how lawlessness is tolerated by Democrats in the summer of. 2020 with riots that were tolerated snd police departments threatened by cuts in funding under the mantra of defunding the police after criminals resisting arrest were transformed into martyrs by the left

  2. joel rich says:

    Israelis, however, chose between two competing visions – sharply defined – and voiced a clear preference for one.
    Please define clear preference based on total popular vote.
    Joel Rich

    • Challenge accepted. There are several ways to do this. Here is the first that popped into my head. I compared this election (2022) with the previous one (2021). For each, I compared the percentage of the popular vote in each of the two camps. (I did not count the Arab party votes in either camp. They have considerations completely different than either the successful coalition or the opposition.)

      In the previous election, the right-wing/religious bloc [Likud/RZ+Otzma/Shas/UTJ] got 42.11% of the popular vote. They were actually ahead of the unity coalition [Yesh Atid/Yisrael Beitenu/Labor/Meretz/Yamina/New Hope] that succeeded (Somehow, they managed to do this even without an Electoral College 🙂 ) They secured 41.19% of the popular vote. The spread between the two blocs was therefore less than 1%, which meant no decisive victory for either. Of course, one might argue for removing the Yamina contribution, since they really ideologically belonged to the Right. That would create a greater spread. But when the dust settled, Yamina had defected from its ideological platform, and neither side could claim much of a popular vote victory.

      In this past election, the right-wing bloc [same parties as before] garnered 48.38% of the popular vote, as opposed to 39.39 for the expected opposition [Same parties, minus Yamina and New Hope, plus National Unity and Jewish Home]. The spread is now a respectable 9%. As I said, not overwhelming, but enough to make the case for a majority mandate.

      • mycroft says:

        Cannot disregard Arab vote. There are Israeli Arabs and they get to vote.

        Break the votes into the following two segments: (i) those who before the election said that they wouldn’t join with Netanyahu, (ii) those who didn’t say before the election that they could join with Netanyahu. That’s a well-defined breakdown. I wouldn’t try a breakdown along right vs. left. How would you then categorize Ganz/Saar.

  3. Mycroft says:

    Both US and Israel have electorates that basically don’t change their votes no matter what. In Israel votes change within the broad categories of right and left. Differences in Knesset in past 5 elections have been mostly due to the impact of the 3.25% minimum threshold to be elected ? In US parties have been close in votes for decades, no landslides for anyone. Since 1992 the Republican candidate for President has won the popular vote once, Democrat candidate 7 times.
    OTOH as minority groups are increasing their share of US population, GOP has increased its share of their votes. Want to see how quality of candidates makes very little difference look at Georgia Senate Races, everyone and 3 in the past 2 years has gone to a runoff even when one has a candidate as flawed as a football player.
    OTOH GOP should worry as Marc Thiessen said election night on Fox News. If GOP can’t win with highest inflation rate in 40 years, crime rate increasing with Pres with not high popularity rates when can they win with . Perhaps their message resonates in Cross-Currents but not in the US as a whole.
    Certainly, that Dems did as well as they did in this environment is a message to GOP .

    • Reb Yid says:

      Quality of candidates mattered a lot especially regarding Trumpist candidates who are still denying the 2020 election results. Many of them lost including just about all of them who were running for Secretary of State which handles state elections. This happened all over the map in states blue, red and purple.

      The voters here in the US said enough to extremism which sadly is not the message from the Israeli electorate.

    • Bob Miller says:

      :…even when one has a candidate as flawed as a football player…”
      With this clearly flawless Democrat as his opponent:

  4. YK says:

    The first is the easiest to explain. It was a good day for Americans. Tens of millions of dollars of property damage didn’t happen. Serious injury, and possibly even the taking of lives, were averted because the Red Wave didn’t occur. Had it happened, the expectation was that it would have ignited serious civil unrest. Said unrest would have been met the irresolute response that we witnessed to the BLM riots, so it would have continued for a while.

    By this way of looking at things, we should say that any elections which Democrats win (or at least don’t lose badly) is a win for America. After all, a Republican wave election will always trigger criminal elements to engage in rioting, and that rioting will cause bloodshed and property damage.

    If so, Election Day should simply be cancelled. We can gain nothing from it, and stand to lose much if the R party wins.

    There seems to me to be something wrong with that analysis. We can debate which party is better suited to lead the country all day long, that’s fine. To judge electoral outcomes on the basis of whether or not criminals will riot in “mostly peaceful protest” against the verdict of the voters seems to me indistinguishable from surrender of the very concept of a self-ruling Republic.

    • Reb Yid says:

      Funny–how many “riots” were there in 2016 after Trump won?

      Answer–zero. And unlike 2020, no-one contested it.

    • Caren May says:

      “mostly peaceful protest”….. a thing of the past!
      SSSJ protests or Washington protest against Arab terrorism were peaceful protests, none the last 5 years.

      • Mycroft says:

        I went to many SSSJ protests and even helped stuff envelopes to help Glenn Richter and Yacov Birnbaum in the late 60s
        Older what did it really accomplish? There were more Jews who were let out of Russia in the years before the Jackson-Vanik Amendment than in the immediate years after. It is not obvious how one can influence behavior of other countries. Sometimes they’ll get harsher in response to pressure just to show we can’t be pressured

      • Reb Yid says:

        I was also heavily involved in SSSJ. I actually believe that the November 1987 rally in DC (which I attended) was the last broad based rally that involved every segment of US Jewry and well beyond Jews, too.

        There was nothing even close to 1/6/21 in our nation’s recent history. But just as some choose not to commemorate Rabin’s assassination, these are roughly the same Jews who turn a blind eye to one of the worst days in our country’s history.

  5. lacosta says:

    the artificial 3.25 % masks that the left vs right vote is equal [ if not exceeded by the non-right with arab vote ]. half of that is just anti-netanyahu [after all Yvette Libermanskii is not on the left , but virulently antiBibi ] or virulently anti-haredi [ Meretz and Libermanskii ]. If there was a referendum on pro vs anti-haredi in israel , i would imagine pro could garner 30% of the vote. maybe less

    • D K says:

      As Rabbi Adlerstein spoke out in an earlier comment, the right vastly outways the lefties by many percent. But when the leaders of certain parties go against their constituent’s will or have a personal vendetta against leaders of other parties then things get skewed. Shaked is right but was pulled away by the traitor Bennet. Lieberman and Saar are righties but hate Netanyahu. Even Ganz cannot possibly be considered a lefty due to to his statements before the elections.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    It’s not good when there’s a roughly 50-50 split and those who have picked a side can’t be swayed to cross over for any rational reason. It’s also not good when Election Day anywhere becomes a long, drawn-out season of both voting and cheating. As for the lack of riots this time, would-be rioters’ fear of jail time is the best deterrent. No party should be under threat that its victories will set off riots by the losers.

    • YK says:

      No party should be under threat that its victories will set off riots by the losers.

      I imagine you meant to say that the American electorate should not be under threat that its democratic choice will lead to violence by the losers.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Cuts both ways, right? Your favorite party, whichever it is, has no right to riot. Valid grievances can be taken up by legislatures or courts.

      • YK says:

        Bob, of course I agree with that. When my party wins, the other side doesn’t get to riot. When my party loses, my side doesn’t get to riot. Rioting by anyone should be put down promptly and uncompromisingly by the government authorities who are entrusted, above all, with maintaining the public pease.

  7. Steven Brizel says:

    DeSantis, who is a great Ohev Yisrael and a great governor and Exhibit A of how conservatives should campaign deal with the woke world and govern. That’s why he is a leading candidate for the 2024 nomination and a far more formidable candidate for theDemocrats to face than Trump-whose poliices were excellent but whose optics on the pandemic , bad performamce in debate #1 and the end run around the Electors’ Clause and Election Day by the Democrats cost him the election.

  8. Steven Brizel says:

    One more comment on the midterms-Joseph McCarthy claimed he had a list of Communists who were employed by the State Department which was a completely false accusation Democrats and the woke world engaged in the same rhetoric when they lumped together anyone who raised questions about evasion of the Electors Clause evidence albeit legally insufficient of election fraud and those who claimed the 2020 election was completely stolen We shall see what the House investigation into the Biden family and the stonewalling of legitimate investigative requests reveal but one old rule of thumb in such cases is to follow the money .

    As far as the Israeli elections are concerned the secular left and its policies were soundly defeated and what we are seeing is a center right coalition that will do whatever is necessary to protect Israel against an Iranian nuclear option Iranian sponsored terror and the naïveté of the current American administration that dreams of Oslo 1993 while ignoring the facts on the ground in the same manner as Obama Clinton and Carter and whose Congressional leaders who opposed the War in Vietnam offered Israel no assistance in the build up to the Six Day War

    • Bob Miller says:

      What we call McCarthyite tactics had all been pioneered by the Communists themselves, who often used them on each other.

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