The November, 2010 mid-term election produced a seismic political effect: The most rapid and wide-in-scope Congressional and Gubernatorial victory since 1948.
The outcome of this election repudiates Obama’s policies and dramatically erodes his political clout. It feeds the confrontational nature of a systematically pro-Israel Congress and increases the number of pro-Israel legislators. It highlights the centrality of the historically pro-Israel American people in shaping of American political scene. The outcome of the mid-term election has reconfirmed that the USA is indeed the center-to-right nation, which has always been pro-Israel.
The outcome of the November, 2010 election requires a reassessment of Jerusalem’s policy toward Washington, which has erroneously assumed that US presidents are omnipotent in foreign and national security matters, while Congress is supposedly a “supporting actor.” In fact, Jerusalem’s policy towards Washington should reflect the policy co-determining power of Congress – the most authentic representative of the American people, and therefore a bastion of support for the Jewish State. Contrary to the “Jerusalem Misperception,” Congress can force presidents to follow the will of the people in domestic as well as in foreign and national security areas.
In two years, President Obama has been transformed from an electoral asset to a lethal electoral liability, threatening the Democrats on Capitol Hill. From a consensus, moderate Democratic president in 2008, he is perceived in 2010 as a president of political polarization, representing the radical Left of the Democratic Party. Never have Americans been so insecure – personally and nationally – and so indecisive about the future of the USA. As high as were the expectations from Obama, so devastating is the perception of his performance domestically (unemployment, foreclosures, taxes, regulations, big government, deficit, controversial health reform, etc.) and internationally (eroded US stature, threat of Islamic terrorism, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, etc.). The Obama Cloud has cost Democrats the support of many independents, women, youth and the elderly, who were responsible for the sweeping Democratic victory in 2008.
The new 112th Congress will be more confrontational within a political system which constrains the power of the President through an elaborate system of Checks & Balances. In addition, the effective Separation of Powers, the Congressional Power of the Purse, a Congressional role in policy-making, an exclusive Congressional legislative role and the preconditioning of policy-implementation upon Congressional approval, effectively restrain presidential power. For example, it was Congress – and not the President – which terminated US military involvement in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Angola, Nicaragua and severed US ties with the white regime in South Africa. Congress has the power – which is not always exercised – to initiate, rescind and curtail arms sales, to award, cut and suspend foreign aid, to expand, limit and suspend US funding of the UN and other international organizations and to direct the President to implement a policy toward other countries and the UN.
Obama cannot count on solid Democratic support in the 112th Congress. A substantial number of Democratic legislators distanced themselves from the President, during the 2010 campaign, in order to survive the wrath of constituents. Additional legislators may refrain from cooperating with the President, in order to avoid becoming part of the list of “Obama Casualties” in 2012. For instance, first-term West Virginia Senator, Democrat Joe Manchin, won largely due to a TV commercial featuring him spraying Obama’s initiatives with bullets and calling for the repeal of Obama’s healthcare reform. At a time when “800 pounder gorillas,” such as 17 and 14 terms Representatives Ike Skelton and John Spratt – Chairmen of the House Armed Services and Budget Committees – are defeated, hardly any Democrat feels safe toward the 2012 election.
A few Democratic legislators, known for their critical/negative attitude towards Israel – such as twenty one term David Obey, the powerful Chairman of the Appropriations Committee – announced retirement in view of Obama-driven electoral rage. At the same time, scores of newly-elected legislators joining Congress in January, 2011, share a world-view, which is usually consistent with pro-Israel sentiments: patriotism, tradition, Judeo-Christian values, national security, pro-2nd Amendment, anti-UN, European-skeptics, anti-terror and associating Arabs and Muslims with terrorism. The freshmen legislators were elected by the real winner in the 2010 election: The American Constituent, who is cognizant of his/her crucial role in shaping US democracy (e.g., bi-annual district election). The Constituent is aware of his/her capability to challenge the Washington establishment and elect legislators in defiance of party headquarters. The Constituent believes in the potency of the electoral battle cry: “We Shall Remember in November,” which haunts legislators who renege on their commitment to voters. Moreover, the number of Americans who identify themselves as Independent has reached an all time high, twice as many Americans identify themselves as Conservative than Liberal and the number of Democrats exceed the number of Liberals. Most Americans are indeed Center-to-Right. They respect the Jewish State as a moral and a strategic ally, which is not a classic foreign policy issue, but largely a domestic issue, whose values are part of the moral foundation of the USA.
Will Jerusalem leverage the post-election bolstered platforms of support in the USA in general and on Capitol Hill in particular? Will Jerusalem learn from its current errors and refrain from subordinating its policy toward Washington to Presidential state-of-mind? Will Jerusalem accord the US democracy and its representatives in Congress their due high-respect and decisive-role, thus advancing critical joint American and Israeli values and interests?