Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Israel’s election should worry Democrats

At the time of writing, it appears likely that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retake the office of Prime Minister of Israel, earning 65 seats in the Knesset. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition of defense hawks and the ultra-orthodox regaining power threatens the dynamics between Israel and several of its neighbors. At the same time, Democrats in the U.S. are entirely overconfident in their chances of winning the Senate and have all but lost the House of Representatives. What do the liberal factions of both countries have in common? They’ve both been banking on opposition politics. 

I want to note that in this article I will be referring to the “left.” The “left” in this article will describe anything left of right-wing parties. Though I acknowledge there is significant nuance and difference between the mainstream Democratic Party and a party such as Meretz, I will make my case by conveying that parties to the left of center have been using an ineffective strategy to prevent right-wing and extremist politicians from retaking power. This ineffective strategy is the politics of opposition. Though many Israeli scholars have commented on the meaning of politics of opposition, in this article I shall describe it as merely the political strategy where a party in power continues to operate as if it were the opposition. For instance, though the liberal coalition government in Israel was in power, the main campaigning issue was to keep attention on how terrible former PM Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu was and how awful it would be if he regained power. 

If the world will have learned anything from the election in Israel, it will be that far-right politicians are still popular and the messaging used by the left doesn’t work. Netanyahu is a far-right extremist candidate who has aligned himself with some of the most deplorable racists in the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset). This should not have been an electoral difficulty for the current PM Yair Lapid. And yet, Netanyahu’s coalition looks as though they’re currently going to take control of the government. 

Many of the left parties running in this race followed a very simple strategy: “at least we’re not Bibi.” This strategy not only didn’t gain them seats in the Knesset, they actively lost spots. Many commentators in Israel have noted that this strategy —- the politics of opposition — doesn’t provide anything to the parties left of center in the same way it does to parties to the right. 

If this politics of opposition sounds familiar to American audiences, it should. In the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats seem to be exclusively utilizing this policy of opposition. No issue demonstrates this politics more than Democrats monopolizing on the issue of abortion. Democrats have been banking on the issue of abortion to save them from the historic trend of midterms spelling doom for the incumbent president’s party. Look no further than almost all of the ads being used in Minnesota. It is almost impossible to find an add from the Walz, Craig or Ellison campaigns that’s not focused on how their GOP opponents work against abortion rights. Typically, this strategy of finding a singular issue, honing in on it and beating it like a dead horse hasn’t worked well for Democrats in the past in the same way that it’s worked for Republicans. Democrats simply aren’t great at utilizing scare tactics in the same way that Republicans have been. Abortion won’t be lifesaver for Democrats in 2022 the same way that a proposed constitutional ban of same-sex marriage was for Republicans in 2004. Across the world, the right has a different base than the left, and liberal parties around the world need to recognize that the politics of opposition and the use of fear tactics don’t work the same for the left as they do for the right. 

I write this not to be hypercritical of the Democratic Party or to spread gloom amongst liberal voters, I’m just tired of liberal politicians losing to right-wing candidates by running mediocre election strategies and being shocked when they lose. 

At the time of writing this, 538 gives the Democrats a 46% chance of taking the Senate and a 15% chance of taking the House. Given that it’s less than a week before the midterm elections, there’s not much point in trying to convince Democrats to simply “be better.” There’s also not much point in doing an autopsy report on why the Democrats lost the Senate (if they do). Though the polls are statistically close in the Senate, if Israel is any indication, this will likely not pan out well for the Democrats. The point is, if Israel’s left can’t keep a cohesive liberal front running against a coalition run by racists and corrupt politicians, then it is doubtful that Democrats banking on a singular issue to save them will aid what looks like a sinking ship.  

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
About the Contributor
Bax Meyer
Bax Meyer, Managing Editor
Hey, all! I'm Bax (he/him), and I'm a junior Econ major with a Middle East Studies minor. I love talking about Middle East politics and American Indian Treaty Rights. I'll always send you good book or movie recomendations. You can probably find me on campus wandering the arb, on 1st libe, or at step areobics. I like dad jokes, American Indian Treaty Rights, shawarma, and publishing my hot takes in the Carletonian anonymously.
Red flags: econ major, will judge you for using the Oxford comma, and hates geese
Green flags: Middle East Studies minor, still uses the Oxford comma, and quotes the Star Wars prequels on the daily
Bax was previously Managing Director and Viewpoint Editor.

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *