Skip to main content

Tag: Politics & Society

Will Biden Lose Congress?

Next week’s elections in the U.S. will be critical. Tel Aviv University researchers explain why.

The U.S. 2022 midterm elections on November 8 are fast approaching, but if a new President is not on the menu, then why should we care?

What are U.S. Midterms?

In the U.S. midterms, Americans vote on representatives in Congress, the legislature of the federal government 

Congress is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, whereby the Senate consists of 100 Senators who represent the interest of the state, and the House of Representatives consists of 435 Members of the House who represent their local populations.

The entire House of Representatives is up for elections – as is one third of the Senate (each midterm a different third).

In addition, state governors, state legislatures and local gov. officials are running for office in various U.S. states.

Biden’s Downfall?

“The 2022 midterm elections are important,” says Dr. Yoav Fromer, Head of the Center for the Study of the United States at Tel Aviv University, “exactly because of the 2024 elections. The prospects of President Biden possibly loosing either the Senate or the House – or both – means that he may be disabled by the Republican Congress in the next two years. This would prevent him from following up on many of the promises that he has made – including his ‘Build Back Better Plan’, along with initiatives related to climate action, education, expanding government-run healthcare programs, and more. If this will be the case,” he says, “Biden won’t have much to show for in 2024.”

Both houses of Congress are currently controlled by the Democratic party, and while the majority is very small, it has been sufficient for Biden, a Democrat – whose initiatives must be approved by Congress first – to execute his policies. The Republicans need to win only five more seats in the House and one more in the Senate to gain control. A Republican majority in either chamber would make it much easier for them to block Biden’s plans going forward. 

What is the prognosis for this to happen? Dr. Lior Sheffer from TAU’s School of Political Science, at the Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences, is an expert on elections, voter behavior and polls. He explains that typically, the party that holds the White House tends to lose seats in the midterm. “This prognosis,” he says, “is indeed supported by the polls ahead of the 2022 election midterms: The Republicans are currently leading in polls and will most likely get a majority in the House of Representatives. As for the Senate, polls show that there’s a very small chance that Democrats will have a slight majority after the midterms.”


“It is sufficient for Republicans to get a majority in the House of Representatives and they will be able to hamper the Democrats’ agenda over the next two years.” Dr. Lior Sheffer


“However, this could quickly change, depending on a few local races in various states, such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina or Arizona.” He adds that “It is important to note that it is sufficient for Republicans to get a majority in the House of Representatives and they will be able to hamper the Democrats’ agenda over the next two years.” Moreover, Sheffer says that “if the 2020 polls serve as an indicator, the victories of the Republicans in both houses could be significantly greater than predicted.”

Will U.S. President Joe Biden be disabled in the next two years? 

Towards Civil War?

“In addition,” says Fromer, “the local state elections are more important than ever. In the 2020 elections, we learnt how Secretaries of state can choose to reject votes [so-called “election deniers”], and Trump would indeed try to convince them to do so. While no one ended up acting on this in 2020, these ‘election deniers’ could end up being elected [in the 2022 races] and try to influence the outcome of the presidential campaign in 2024, which could lead to a Constitutional crisis.”


“In the U.S., there has always been an agreement on the rule of law. Whenever someone lost in elections, he would step down peacefully. This came close to an end in 2020, with the refusal by Trump and his supporters to accept the election results.” Dr. Yael Sternhell


Dr. Yael Sternhell, head of the American Studies Program at Tel Aviv University elaborates further on the threats which U.S. democracy is currently facing, pointing out that today, about 70% of Republican voters suspect there was election fraud in the 2020 elections. “In the U.S.,” she says, “there has always been an agreement on the rule of law. Whenever someone lost in an election, they would step down peacefully. This came close to an end in 2020, with the refusal by Trump and his supporters to accept the election results. This has had a surprisingly lasting effect on Americans.” 

“Will we live to see another big upheaval, like the Civil War in 1861? What would be indicators of this?” asks Sternhell, offering: “Do we begin to see House Representatives who refuse to accept election outcomes? Will that be the ‘new normal’? Will it be followed by violence? There are lots of guns circulating in the U.S… Will the Republicans accept a defeat in the midterm elections if that happens? These would be critical indicators,” she concludes.

Protecting U.S. Democracy

If the notion of midterm elections has you confused, that’s understandable. Fromer shares that, “those who vote in the midterms tend to be people who are politically engaged in general, with special interests and/or who are involved through political parties, social or religious affiliations.” Midterm elections are typically more focused on state-level interests. 


“The Founding Fathers wanted a strong centralized government upholding law and order (…) they also wanted an expression of democracy which allowed the crowd to rule without degenerating into anarchy.” Dr. Yoav Fromer 


While less sexy and straightforward than presidential elections, these biennial elections have been held since the first U.S. presidential elections (in 1788), and can be argued to be the most important ones. According to Fromer the role of midterm elections is and has always been, to protect U.S. democracy: “The Founding Fathers wanted a strong centralized government upholding law and order on the one hand, and on the other hand, they also wanted an expression of democracy which allowed the crowd to rule without degenerating into anarchy. Midterm elections was the mechanism chosen to ensure this balance.”

Regular midterm elections, they figured, would prevent the acting president from organizing congressional elections whenever it suited him and ensure that the Members of Congress would have “an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people.” Midterm elections were to function as a guarantee against tyranny.


Election officials check voters’ identification during midterm election voting in Virginia, USA (2018)

Powerful Indicator

The U.S. midterm elections play an important role in the American democracy and serves as a powerful indicator of what will follow in the next two years, as well as in the 2024 presidential elections. Those of us with an interested in American or world politics, therefore, ought to monitor next weeks’ midterm elections closely. 

Featured image: Washington, DC – January 6, 2021: Protesters seen all over Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters riot and breached the Capitol

TAU Special Briefing: Crisis in Ukraine

Experts dissect the war and its implications for the Jewish community, Europe and the world.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine enters a second week, Tel Aviv University on Sunday hosted an expert briefing on the crisis. 

The special panel included: Mr. Boris Lozhkin, President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine, Vice President of the World Jewish Congress, and a TAU benefactor; Dr. Dina Moyal of TAU’s Cummings Center for Russian and East European Studies; and Dr. Tal Sadeh, head of the EU Studies Program at TAU’s School of Political Science, Government and International Affairs

Implications for Ukrainian Jews 

“I’m afraid the war will lead Ukraine to lose a large majority of its Jewish communities,” said Lozhkin. 

Already, several cities with significant Jewish populations and historic Jewish sites have endured evacuations and violence. Ukraine was in recent years home to the fourth largest Jewish population in Europe.  

“Israel and the US need to increase all possible assistance to Jews in Ukraine, including the elderly, those fleeing the country, and those who fled to overcrowded western Ukraine instead,” said Lozhin, who co-led the establishment of the Ukrainian Jewry Research Initiative, carried out by TAU’s Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center in the Entin Faculty of the Humanities. 

Speaking to the TAU crowd, Lozhkin also implored the global academic and scientific community to join efforts in opposing the war in Ukraine. 

Furthermore, he urged Israel to allow non-Jewish refugees into the country alongside the tens of thousands of Jewish emigrants expected to make aliyah from Ukraine.

WATCH: Experts Unpack the Ukraine Crisis in a Special TAU Briefing

A Cold War Russia Cannot Win 

Turning from the humanitarian implications of the war, Sadeh expanded on the lasting ramifications for Russia.

“In the immediate and long-term, Russia is at a great disadvantage to West,” said Sadeh, an expert on the political economy of the EU. 

Western countries like Germany and Italy that until now greatly depended on Russian fuel and crop exports may feel a temporary strain. However, Sadeh indicated that Moscow is poised for dire outcomes as it is currently “under economic siege.” 

If the current situation leads to another Cold War between Russian and the West, he emphasized that “Russia cannot win.” In addition to crippling sanctions squeezing the Russian economy toward collapse, he explained that the West holds a technological and political advantage over Russia. 

Touching on the potential outcomes of the conflict, Sadeh explained that Putin may achieve his goal of preserving the nature of the Russian regime and preventing it from becoming democratic. Still, the situation may lead to long-awaited shifts in the West’s self-reliance on raw material production; shifts that he says could bolster the West’s strategic stance. 

“The media, leaders, and public all see that Putin is not another dictator that can be paid off to be left alone,” he said. Moreso, the current events are catalyzing the West to understand that its economic interactions with Russia can and should change. 


Protesters against the war and russian armed aggression in Ukraine, in Los Angeles, California, USA 2022

A Russian Civil War? 

While Lozhkin and Sadeh provided insights on the consequences of the war, Moyal took a step back to explore the many questions around Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. 

“The conflict is a reflection of Russia’s specific worldview after all it went through in the 20th century,” said Moyal, an expert in Soviet and modern Russian history. “I want to suggest that this is actually a civil war for Russia over its future, identity and regime.” 

Moyal pointed to current clashes in Russian public opinion that indicate strife within the country. Examples include protests within Russia against the war in Ukraine and accounts of Russian soldiers pleading with Ukrainians to spare their lives so they can return home to report what state-sponsored propaganda machines are not.  

Meanwhile, Putin’s actions signal to Russia that he is unwilling to relinquish his tight authoritarian grip on the country as he struggles to maintain what he sees as Russia’s historic identity in the face of former Soviet republics, such as Ukraine, that more easily moved away from communism toward Western-style democracy.  

 “Those who used to be quiet in the cultural sphere, such as journalists for example, are starting to speak up and with this hopefully be able to change public opinion,” she said. “Most importantly, and more optimistically, it gives hope that people around Putin will change their stance [on him].” 

An End in Sight? 

While all three panelists agreed that the conflict is likely to escalate before it ends, they were optimistic that the long-term effects of the war have the potential to change Russia’s power dynamics for the benefit of both internal and international affairs.  

“Putin is more of a cynical pragmatist than an ideologue, and he is ultimately after power,” said Sadeh. “The main threat for Putin is his inner circle. As sanctions continue to bite, they will become increasingly inclined to replace him.” 

Moyal echoed Sadeh’s views that Russia will not benefit if it continues this path toward economic collapse. “Hopefully, this will bring about a change of regime, which would be a good prospect not just for Ukraine, but the whole world.” 

Hundreds of TAU friends from around the world tuned in to listen to the expert panel. European affairs expert Dr. Esther Lopatin of TAU’s Division of Language Studies moderated the event. 

TAU Alumni Fill Ranks in Israel’s New Government

Ten graduates among ministers in recently convened cabinet.

Upon the swearing in of Israel’s new Unity Government, the country’s 36th government, on Sunday night, Tel Aviv University would like to extend special congratulations to all the TAU alumni who are now serving as cabinet ministers. The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) approved the new coalition government in the wake of four inconclusive elections over the past two years.

Most Diverse in Israeli History

The new government is noted as the most diverse in Israeli history as it comprises representation from across the political spectrum from left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties. For the first time in decades, the country’s ruling faction includes an Arab party. It also has the highest representation of women cabinet ministers (9 out of 28) in Israeli history. Reflecting Israel’s diverse societal makeup, the new government is comprised of lawmakers from a vast range of social, religious and ethnic backgrounds, including Jews (observant and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi), Druze, Muslims, native Israelis along with immigrants from Russia, Ethiopia and more. Tel Aviv University alumni assuming ministerial posts include:
  • Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, alumnus of the Buchmann Faculty of Law
  • Internal Security Minister Col. Omer Barlev, alumnus of the School of Political Science, Government and International Affairs, Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, alumna of the Buchmann Faculty of Law
Furthermore, TAU alumnus of the Buchmann Faculty of Law, Idan Roll, has filled the position of Deputy Foreign Minister. In addition, due to the resignation as Knesset members of nine new ministers, six more TAU alumni have joined the Knesset, including two TAU professors – U.S.-born Prof. Alon Tal (chair of the Department of Public Policy) and Prof. Yossi Shain (School of Political Science). In total, 22 TAU alumni now serve as members in the current 24th Knesset. featured image: Israel’s 36th government 

Is It Game Over for The British Monarchy?

TAU scholars weigh in on whether losing the queen will mean losing the game.

Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s bombshell interview on the Oprah Winfrey Show was watched by millions around the world, and subjected the institution of the royal British family to fierce scrutiny. The interview sparked debates in media on the future of the monarchy, some arguing that it is an outdated form of government. The recent death of Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, is a reminder that the Queen’s nearly 70-year reign is in its final stretch. Most Brits do not remember a time when Queen Elizabeth II, now 95, did not reside in the Buckingham Palace. Prince Charles III (72), the Queen’s eldest son and heir, is undeniably less popular than his mother, prompting the question of whether the British monarchy will survive for much longer after Elizabeth is gone. Is it time to give the monarchy a royal good-bye wave? We asked a few of our scholars to share some thoughts on the situation of the British monarchy today.

A Royal Mess?

For a cultural and historical perspective, we turned to Prof. Noam Reisner, who is an expert on Renaissance English literature and culture from TAU’s Department of English and American Studies in The Lester and Sally Entin Faculty of Humanities. Reisner doesn’t think the British monarchy is in the midst of any form of existential crisis. Reisner explains, “With the exception of a brief and unsuccessful 11-year stint with republican rule, which ended in 1660, England has had a remarkable continuity of royals. After the 11-year long, failed republican experiment, monarchy was quickly restored and the Brits never looked back.” The challenge for Elizabeth and her heirs going forward, he says, will be to reinterpret the royal house’s contract with the people, to keep it relevant. But its footing is strong: “For the Brits, the monarchy is not an invented tradition, but rather it is a part of the country’s DNA, and strongly ingrained in its culture. Its popularity remains high, as it symbolizes to the Brits what they are as a people: Constant, united and permanent.”

Royal Plates and Netflix

“Constant, united and permanent” would make an excellent tagline for the Royal House, wouldn’t it? Could the British Monarchy be regarded as a brand? We asked Prof. Shai Danziger from TAU’s Coller School of Management, a professor of marketing who is fascinated by how consumers process information and make decisions. Prof. Shai Danziger suggests the success of the British royal family as a brand can be measured by comparing it to other long lasting brands that have been able to retain customer loyalty over decades: “I see a successful brand as having unique and clear identifying features and as having a set of strong, favorable and unique associations in the minds of its primary stakeholders (typically consumers). The more readily accessible the brand is in consumers’ mind, and the stronger, more favorable and unique associations it has, the more consumers will be willing to ‘invest’ resources such as time and money in the brand. Would a consumer be willing to pay more for a branded plate with the queen’s picture on it than one without? Or, in the context of media consumption, would consumers be willing to consume more media when they know it is about the royal family – such as reading tabloid articles about William and Kate and watching Netflix series like ‘The Crown’?” Judging by the many millions of households worldwide (the UK and the US being the strongest markets) that have watched the royal drama since it began in 2016, the royal brand is faring well. What does the future look like, for the British monarchy, as a corporate brand? Danziger says, “only the future will tell whether younger consumers will still find the royal family relevant and interesting or a remnant of the past. In a world where values are rapidly changing and social media dictates popularity, it may be difficult for a very traditional establishment such as the royal family to keep up with the times.”   Royal wedding souvenirs commemorating Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding

The Glue that Binds Everything Together

We asked Dr. Alon Yakter from The School of Political Science, Government and International Affairs to pitch in with his thought on the continued relevancy and chances of the British monarchy, in particular given the recent commotions. Yakter’s research and teaching interests include comparative political economy and social policy, identity politics, and electoral behavior during conflicts. Yakter notes that in the Western world, monarchies remain popular, acting as a unifying and symbolic force. He does not believe that the monarchies as such are going anywhere anytime soon. They will, however, need to adapt to the daily life of this century: “Europe is becoming ethnically more heterogeneous, so the royals will need to be more inclusive, so that people of diverse cultures in their countries feel that the royals represent them too. That’s why the alleged concern within the British royal house about the skin color of Harry and Meghan’s then-yet-to-be-born son, Archie, was and remains a big deal.” “Furthermore, strides will have to be made by the royals to become more ‘like ordinary people’ – they should for instance give a thought to their continued reliance on taxes. However, while our world may feel less stable at present time, this might even work to strengthen the monarchy, and democratic parliamentary monarchies in particular, as long as the royals make sure to stay out of politics and play their cards right.” Yakter is unfazed by Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry’s marriage and the ensuing controversies, noting that this type of drama is nothing new: “Similar commotions have taken place in other monarchies and with other royals in the past – and the monarchies survived. The factory kept running. Because it is, indeed, an operation – and one which excels at PR. Prince Philip opened the Castle to the public. He wanted the royal family to engage more with the people, and insisted that the coronation of the Queen (in 1953) should be shown on TV. The royals reinvented themselves, as celebrities and symbols. And they have indeed gotten closer to the people. This is a new trend, one which followed the world wars and the understanding by West European monarchies in particular that their role had changed. What the royals have to offer the people, is to continue to be the glue that binds everything together.” Featured image: The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, as portrayed in the popular Netflix TV-series “The Crown”.


Tok Corporate Centre, Level 1,
459 Toorak Road, Toorak VIC 3142
Phone: +61 3 9296 2065
Email: [email protected]

New South Wales

Level 22, Westfield Tower 2, 101 Grafton Street, Bondi Junction NSW 2022
Phone: +61 418 465 556
Email: [email protected]

Western Australia

P O Box 36, Claremont,
WA  6010
Phone: :+61 411 223 550
Email: [email protected]