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February 28, 2024

Michigan Democrats Deliver Biden Campaign a Wake-up Call

Michigan’s Democratic primary delivered a stark wake-up call to the Biden administration. President Biden’s bear hug of Israel and by extension Netanyahu, even as it is prosecuting a campaign credibly accused by the International Court of Justice of genocide, puts at risk his ability to win the key swing state of Michigan in November’s 2024 Presidential election and, by extension, his entire reelection campaign.

This development was driven by a grassroots campaign led by the large Arab-American community in the state, which had launched a late campaign to convince voters to show up to the primary and vote “Uncommitted” to demonstrate their fervent opposition to Biden’s handling of the war, which has killed approximately 30,000 Palestinians – the vast majority of whom are women and children – following Hamas’ October 7th attack on Israel. Several prominent politicians, including the lone Palestinian Congressperson – Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), representing parts of Detroit and Dearborn – endorsed the uncommitted campaign in the days leading up to the February 27 primary.

Rightwing pro-Israel groups like Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), an offshoot of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) focused on eliminating any dissent on Israel policy within the Democratic party, failed to blunt the result. DMFI spent over $6 million to defeat Democrats who were not sufficiently pro-Israel in the previous election cycle and poured money into ads and efforts in Michigan to defeat the grassroots Uncommitted campaign. They sought to downplay the significance of Israel’s war on Democratic electoral prospects before votes started coming in, tweeting:

“National media outlets are using the very low bar—10k votes—set by the “Vote Uncommitted” campaign. Even in 2012—without any challenger against Obama—more than 10% (20k+) voted uncommitted in MI. Double digits is not “impressive”—it’s to be expected, even without a campaign.”

If 10,000 votes is not “impressive,” the Uncommitted campaign easily cleared that vote total ten times over, delivering over 101,000 votes with 99% of votes having been counted. The campaign won a majority over Biden in the city of Dearborn, which boasts a huge Arab-American population. But it also had significant support throughout Michigan, including in university towns, signaling broader progressive discontent with Biden and solidarity with the goal of the uncommitted campaign – to get Biden to shift course and secure a ceasefire. 

The 101,000 vote total is greater than Donald Trump’s margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, and roughly two-thirds of Biden’s margin of victory over Trump in 2020. When combined with the number of voters that could stay home, rather than cast a protest vote, the total easily puts Biden’s prospects in Michigan in significant doubt.

There are other big warning signs for Biden. One is voter enthusiasm. Last night, Donald Trump secured over 756,000 votes compared to Biden’s 618,115 votes. In 2020, Biden won more than 840,000 votes in the Michigan primary. For the Biden campaign, these trend lines are running in the wrong direction. For him to win the state, he is going to have to convince many of the uncommitted to vote for him and ensure many more people go to the polls in November. 

The only way to credibly achieve this is to immediately shift course on Israel and Gaza, halt the slaughter, surge humanitarian aid and show empathy for all those Palestinians who have been devastated.

The results are a profound indictment of not just Biden, but also his trusted national security team who has sought to keep the Middle East off the President’s desk and dodge tough decisions from day one. This was fatal to the President’s commitment to restore the Iran nuclear deal, as the time-bound window to restore it came and went without commitment from the top to re-seal the deal. It was also disastrous for the President’s handling of Israel and Palestine, as the administration sought to paper over the seeds of conflict and the plight of Palestinians via a Trumpian expansion of the Abraham Accords.

Since October 7th, the President and his team have spoken with empathy about Israelis impacted by the horrific attack, but shown little to Palestinians as one of the most horrific slaughters in recent memory has unfolded with unflinching U.S. support – from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre admonishing Democratic lawmakers and advocates calling for ceasefire as “repugnant,” to NSC spokesperson Adrienne Watson falsely accusing journalist Akbar Shahid Ahmed of fabricating his reporting on the White House’s plans to resolve the crisis, to the White House’s sole focus on Israeli suffering and failure to mention Palestinians in its commemoration of the 100th day of the war.

The end result of this is clear: Biden’s reelection is at risk, and Donald Trump – who many credibly view as an innate threat to American democracy itself – has a clear path to the White House. Biden’s instinctual embrace of Israel amid its horrific bombardment and starvation of Gaza threatens all. He must finally listen to this clarion call for change.

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