Glen Segell

The American President, Congress, the Senate, Israel and Psychological Warfare

Naturally, these days, all the attention is given to the fight for the White House between Clinton and Trump. But the same day that the battle will be decided between them, there will also be important other elections. Elections will be held for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and for 34 out of the 100 Senators. The outcome of these will be important not just for the United States but also for relations with Israel.

Today the Republicans control both houses. In the House of Representatives they have 247 seats versus 188, the largest majority they have achieved since 1928. In the Senate the balance of power is 54 Republicans, 44 Democrats and 2 independent who usually vote with the Democrats.

Due to the structure of the separation of powers between the President and these, the election for these two houses could significantly determine the newly elected President’s ability to implement policies and programs in both domestic and foreign affairs, including relations with Israel. One of the biggest obstacles during the tenure of Obama was the Republican controlled Congress that largely paralyzed his ability to govern.

To control the House of Representatives the Democrats need to keep all their current seats and take 60 from the Republicans. This will be very difficult or near impossible. The Senate offers a better opportunity. Out of 34 senators who are due to be elected 24 seats are currently Republican and only 10 are Democrats. To change the balance of power in their favor, the Democrats need to keep all their seats and only take five seats from the Republicans.

So even if the Democrats maintain their rule in the White House with Clinton it will be hard for her to make any major legislative changes. On the other hand a Republican victory by Trump would increase the chances of the Republicans controlling all government bodies.

Given this I would suggest that the election campaign is now at the stage of a volcanic eruption of the psychological influence of the masses in real time. As the two candidates enter election day the public is offered the choice to elect either a sexual harasser (inferred by Clinton’s camp against Trump) or a criminal. The later inferred against Clinton following Wikileak’s publications and the announcement that the FBI Director would investigate Clinton’s emails

No evidence has been presented, without doubt, for either innuendo. The battle ground is the mass media, be it TV, radio, print or the Internet. Journalists and citizen bloggers write the story while the mass public only absorb what they want to. This is classical psychological warfare to influence the opinion of the public without providing any substantive evidence!

With only two main parties and each offering a less than perfect candidate the public have a limited number of choices on the election day. They can vote for a candidate that they really want to be President, for a candidate that they want to be President because they don’t want the other candidate to be President, or not to vote.

There will be those who were unwilling to support Clinton, but have also now become repelled by Trump. Similarly there will be those that were appalled by Trump but have also now become apprehensive in putting Clinton in the White House. But will these not vote at all? Will the 2016 elections were remembered as the President being elected by the lowest turnout in American election?

The answers to these questions is not that simple because the psychological warfare of both sides is aimed at the undecided, the swing vote, those who have never voted, either because of age or intent, and those who don’t have party affiliation.

Both sides’ campaign are not solid. Anything can happen including bad weather on the day of the election. There will still be those that will vote for the Party not the person representing the Party.

How does this affect Israel? For many years, Israel has enjoyed considerable support in Congress of both parties. In recent years, mainly due to differences between Netanyahu and Obama and the trend of the Democrats to move leftward there has been a diminished support for Israel; while Republicans have increased their support. This fact is reflected in the platforms of both parties in the upcoming elections. Netanyahu also used the Republican Congress to bash Obama.

If the control of Congress or least the Senate passes to Democrats, this option, which has not been faring too well, for example, about the nuclear agreement with Iran, will disappear. If Clinton is elected, and Republicans retain control of the Congress then there will be a need for Israel to examine whether it is wise to get involved in partisan political struggles between Congress and the White House.

There is only one certainty in this election. On the day of the election there will be very few people who will leave the voting booth with the conviction that their vote for President was for the suitable candidate and that he/she would be elected.

However their vote for the House of Representatives and for some the Senate will be more decisive. People will be more confident that the person they electing is the one that they want in office. This will decide the clout of new President.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.
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