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Have Biden's Gaza policies weakened his chances of winning the US presidential elections?

Have Biden's Gaza policies weakened his chances of winning the US presidential elections?

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إقرأ باللغة العربية:

هل تُضعف سياسات بايدن تجاه غزة فرصته في الفوز بالانتخابات الأمريكية؟


The ongoing bloody war on the Gaza Strip has cast a significant shadow on international public opinion, especially in the United States. Outlets in the US publish daily political and social news stories about who is “for” and who is “against” the war on Gaza, and most importantly, how this polarization impacts President Joe Biden’s policies in support of Israel, and his chances in the upcoming elections.

Speaking to Raseef22, former Lebanese Ambassador to Washington Massoud Maalouf explains that the Biden administration’s stance regarding the war on Gaza – characterized by unwavering and unlimited support for Israel and political cover in the UN Security Council – has led to considerable dissatisfaction among large segments of the American public, particularly among the youth within the Democratic Party.

The Biden administration’s stance on the war on Gaza has led to considerable dissatisfaction among large segments of the American public, particularly among the youth within the Democratic Party

Maalouf shares, “This dissatisfaction manifested in university uprisings and street movements across the US opposing the war. These movements demanded divesting of investments and cooperation between American and Israeli academic institutions, and pressured for an end to the war. They called on the Biden administration to adopt a more balanced stance regarding the war and the severe violations of international humanitarian law committed by Israel as an occupying power in occupied Palestinian territories.”

Biden’s policies, as pointed out by Maalouf, have led to a surge in opposition voices and fueled a massive national campaign called Uncommitted. The organizers and participants of this campaign aim to express their rejection of these policies by voting for the "uncommitted" option in the Democratic Party primaries.


Uncommitted

According to the New Post website, the Uncommitted campaign has been launched in several major US states, including Michigan and Colorado. The campaign has attracted many leftist organizations, along with Americans of various races – Blacks, whites, Latinos, Muslims, Arabs, and Jews.

Despite differing stances on many domestic issues, these groups have united with a single goal: to vote ‘uncommitted’ in the Democratic primaries. This is meant to send a clear message of protest against Biden’s policies, which they view as supporting the genocide perpetrated by the Israeli occupation in Gaza and the continued US military and political support for Israel.

Biden’s pro-Israel policies have led to a surge in opposition voices and fueled a massive national campaign called "Uncommitted". The organizers and participants of this campaign aim to express their rejection of these policies by voting for the "uncommitted" option in the Democratic Party primaries.

Democrats ignoring protests against the war in Gaza has led a large segment of Arab Muslim voters, young voters, and voters of color to lose confidence in the Democratic Party's leadership and the current US administration. They have become convinced that the administration does not represent their communities or reflect their aspirations. It is imperative that immediate and radical steps are taken to change its policy towards what is happening in Gaza.

Thair Abu Ras, a political researcher at the University of Maryland, says, "There is broad participation from various factions within the Democratic Party, and this campaign is having a strong impact. It has ensured that the war on Gaza and the Palestinian cause are present in the party's public debate, which raises the profile and visibility of the Palestinian issue. Historically, the Democratic Party has supported Israel, but recent studies indicate a shift in the party's stance."

"The sympathy of the Democratic Party's voter base towards both Israeli and Palestinian sides has become almost equal," he added.

The "Uncommitted" campaign includes many leftist organizations and Americans of color, including Blacks, whites, Latinos, Muslims, Arabs, and Jews. Despite differing stances on many domestic issues, these groups in the US have united with a single goal: to vote ‘uncommitted’ in the Democratic primaries, to send a clear message of protest against Biden’s policies and continued military and political support for Israel

Abu Ras notes that in the past, the overwhelming majority of Democratic voters supported Israel over the Palestinians. However, recent polls show a kind of convergence in support for both Israelis and Palestinians. He emphasizes the significance of the current protest movements in America, of which the "Uncommitted" campaign is a manifestation, in influencing a change in the American stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the coming years.

He tells Raseef22, "Change takes time and doesn't happen overnight, but these shifts and transformations will bear fruit in about ten years. If we compare the American voter's stance on Palestinians ten years ago with today, we see there is a shift in position. There is increased acceptance of Palestinians among American voters and a willingness to listen to the Palestinian narrative. Therefore, the recent changes in American society are not just about electoral campaigns and the 'Uncommitted' campaign. There is a genuine shift in the American voter's mood and public opinion in favor of the Palestinian cause, which influences political leaders and their positions on the Palestinian issue."


What does voting "Uncommitted" mean?

According to the US Constitution, citizens have the right to express their opinions, assemble peacefully, and voice their views freely without interference or restriction from any entity, as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

Dr. Mac Sharqawi, a researcher in international relations in Washington, explained to Raseef22 that the "Uncommitted" campaign involves civil society forces and communities as a form of protest against existing policies under the Democrats and President Biden’s administration, particularly regarding foreign political issues such as the Palestinian cause, the war in Gaza, and the unprecedented continuous support for the Israeli occupation.

Additionally, issues like the stance on the Russian-Ukrainian war and relations with China and Iran provide fertile ground for the campaign to pressure the US administration. These campaigns and the peaceful democratic expression of opinion to protest the current administration's policies significantly impact opinion polls and will influence the upcoming elections on November 5, 2024.

“In the primaries, selecting ‘uncommitted’ means that the voter is exercising a party vote but not committed to the candidates on the ballot. If enough people vote ‘uncommitted,’ the party can send delegates to the national nominating convention who are not committed to a specific candidate.”

Sharqawi added, "It is certain that it will be a fierce and heated electoral battle between Biden and Trump. Given the nature of the US electoral system – which differs from all other electoral systems in the world, as it is based on the Electoral College and the electors who choose the president, instead of a direct popular vote – these campaigns have a clear impact on election results."

He explained that there are 48 states where elections are based on a winner-takes-all system, and two states – Maine and Nebraska – where elections are based on a proportional system. In the US, there are swing states that typically determine the election outcome, which include Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia. Some observers suggest that states like Nevada, Minnesota, and North Carolina might join this list. These states are crucial in deciding the new occupant of the White House in the upcoming election, so candidates focus heavily on them to secure their electoral victory.

According to USA Today, “voters may vote for one of the candidates listed or fill in the ‘uncommitted’ option”. Selecting ‘uncommitted’ means that the voter is “exercising a party vote but not committed to the candidates on the ballot.” These uncommitted votes “are counted just like candidate votes. If enough people vote ‘uncommitted,’ the party can send delegates to the national nominating convention who are not committed to a specific candidate.”

The Democrats ignoring the protests against the war in Gaza has led a large segment of Arab Muslim voters, young voters, and voters of color to lose confidence in the Democratic Party's leadership and the current US administration. They have become convinced that the administration does not represent their communities or reflect their aspirations, and that it is imperative that immediate and radical steps are taken to change its policy towards what is happening in Gaza

The significance of uncommitted voting lies in the ratio of uncommitted votes to the number of core party voters who may hesitate to support their party's candidate in the general election.

This option is used in US primaries and typically reflects the party's base's satisfaction with the incumbent president's policies during their first term. This option is guaranteed by the American electoral system.

In this election, the option to vote uncommitted in the Democratic Party primaries comes amid significant dissatisfaction within large segments of the Democratic Party with Biden's policies regarding the war on Gaza. This option is being used as a protest vote against Biden's strong and continuous support for Israel and its war against Gaza.

The demands from these segments of the Democratic Party include Biden imposing a permanent and mutual ceasefire in Gaza, providing more direct US humanitarian aid to Gaza, and ending unconditional weapons funding for Israel. By voting uncommitted, reflecting the mood of a large portion of Democratic voters, it remains uncertain whether these uncommitted voters will support Biden in the general election on November 5, 2024, support an independent candidate, or abstain from voting altogether. This effort is a means of pressuring President Biden to change his policies before the election.

"There is increased acceptance of Palestinians among American voters and a willingness to listen to the Palestinian narrative. Therefore, the recent changes in American society are not just about electoral campaigns and the 'Uncommitted' campaign. There is a genuine shift in the American voter's mood and public opinion in favor of the Palestinian cause, which influences political leaders and their positions on the Palestinian issue."


Will Biden's stance be shaken by the campaign?

Abu Ras adds that the uncommitted campaign appears in every internal election in the United States when the president is running for a second term. In this case, the president must run in the primaries and usually wins because there is no serious competitor from the same party in those elections.

However, the ballot will list the incumbent president's name and the uncommitted option. Typically, the president wins over 95% of the votes, and it is unusual for someone from the same party to run against the incumbent president. The only alternative to express dissatisfaction with the president and their policies is the uncommitted option. The larger the uncommitted vote, the more negative the impact on the president running for a second term, whether from the Republican or Democratic party. In the past, there have been similar campaigns, but the only president who faced a real primary challenge was Jimmy Carter in 1980. But despite not being very popular within the Democratic Party, Carter still won the primaries.

Maalouf adds that due to President Biden's steadfast support for Israel, particularly during its brutal and barbaric war, which has involved the killing of civilians, including women, children, and the elderly in Gaza, and the destruction of churches, mosques, hospitals, schools, and homes, as well as the continued US provision of weapons to Israel, there has been a growing discontent and anger among Arab and Muslim American communities, as well as many African Americans, and progressive youth within the Democratic Party.

This situation has driven large sectors to join the "Uncommitted" campaign and vote as ‘uncommitted’. The primaries have provided an indication of what could happen in the presidential election, revealing a significant decline in Biden's electoral standing, especially in swing states.

Opinion polls conducted in these swing states show that former President Donald Trump holds an advantage of 6-7 percentage points, which is of great concern for President Biden and his campaign team. Therefore, Biden must make some decisive decisions to regain some, if not most, of the lost votes. Biden has about four and a half months to make these critical decisions. If he continues his policy of not pressuring Israel to cease fire, continues providing military aid, and supports Israel in the UN Security Council and internationally, he is likely to lose the upcoming presidential election.

Opinion polls conducted in swing states show that former President Donald Trump holds an advantage of 6-7 percentage points, which is of great concern for President Biden and his campaign team. Biden has about four and a half months to make critical decisions to regain some, if not most, of the lost votes. If he continues his policy of not pressuring Israel to cease fire and continues providing it with military aid and political support, he is likely to lose the upcoming presidential election


The State of Michigan: The final word in the American elections

The Washington Post reported that despite President Biden winning the Democratic primary in Michigan, this victory was accompanied by discontent and grumbling from Democratic supporters in this crucial swing state. More than 100,000 votes were cast as uncommitted, representing about 13.3% of Democratic voters in the state.

A campaign supported by some prominent state lawmakers and local legislators, including Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, encouraged voters to protest and vote as ‘uncommitted’, hoping this uncommitted vote would push Biden to reassess his position before the presidential election.

Michigan has a large Arab American population. In the last presidential election, uncommitted voters represented a small portion of the primary Democratic voters in Michigan, with 1.2% in 2020 and 1.79% in 2016, according to state data.

However, this year's result of 13.3% represents a significant shift in voter preferences and a protest against the Biden administration's policy towards the war on Gaza. For Biden and his campaign, the uncommitted vote in Michigan is a wake-up call regarding his prospects and aspirations for winning the next presidential election.

Michigan has a large Arab American population. In the last presidential election, uncommitted voters represented just 1.2% of the primary Democratic voters in Michigan. However, this year's result of 13.3% represents a significant shift in voter preferences and a protest against the Biden administration's policy towards the war on Gaza

The growing discontent among a group of voters who may have previously supported Biden suggests that these voters might choose not to vote at all, potentially tipping the scales in favor of the Republican candidate, Trump.

Abu Ras points out that the campaign succeeded in Michigan because the president usually wins around 95% of the votes in the primaries, but President Biden won only about 82% of the votes in the state. This is a strong negative indicator since Michigan is a swing state with a strong competition between Republicans and Democrats. It was won by Trump in 2016 and by Biden in 2020, and the current polls show close results between the candidates this year.


A strong presence of the Arab and Muslim community

According to CBS News, a poll conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and its branches in Michigan showed that 40% of Muslim Americans who voted in the primaries voted as ‘uncommitted’. They stated that they would vote for a third-party candidate in the general election in November 2024.

Speaking to Raseef22, Mohammad Al-Samadi, an expert in American politics and culture from California, explains that there are three types of states in terms of elections: blue Democratic states, red Republican states, and swing states.

For Biden and his campaign, the uncommitted vote in Michigan is a wake-up call regarding his prospects and aspirations for winning the next presidential election

He says, "There are states that vote Democratic, meaning that regardless of the candidate as long as they are a Democrat, most residents of that state will vote for that candidate, and the same applies to Republican states that always vote for the Republican candidate. Then there is the third type of state, which is the important one, known as swing states. A swing state may vote for either the Republican or Democratic candidate. These states include Georgia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. What is important here is Michigan, where citizens usually register to vote for the Republican or Democratic party."

Since Michigan has a large Arab population, these Arabs have decided not to commit to voting for the Republican or Democratic party this year, making it difficult for one candidate to win in this state. Given the intense competition, this means that these citizens might vote for the Republican party, leading the Democratic party to lose this state, according to Al-Samadi.

It is worth noting that a candidate must obtain 270 electoral votes out of a total of 538 to win the presidency. The swing states have a total of 93 electoral votes, 15 of which belong to Michigan.

A poll conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and its branches in Michigan showed that 40% of Muslim Americans who voted in the primaries voted as uncommitted.

Can such campaigns be organized in the Arab world?

Sharqawi adds in his interview with Raseef22 that despite the United States being the strongest supporter of the Israeli occupation, the success of this campaign sends a message to Arab citizens in the Middle East region that the means and methods of democratic expression can be used to support the Palestinian cause and influence political decisions in Arab countries in favor of the Palestinian people.

He says, "Despite the differences in electoral and political systems between the United States and Arab countries, there is still a margin for public freedoms through peaceful movements and influencing the public policies of countries, whether in support of the Palestinian people and cause, or in pressing for the demands of Arab citizens in these countries. Such campaigns can serve as a model for expressing opinions peacefully, enforcing democracy, and also pressing to adopt the demands of the masses and influencing elections and public policy-making."



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