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‘Uncommitted’ Vote in Michigan Democratic Primary Rattles Biden Camp

President Biden defeated the uncommitted vote. Photo from Joe Biden's official X page

While both Donald Trump and Joe Biden “won” their respective primaries in Michigan, the large number of “uncommitted” votes cast in the Democratic primary from the Arab-American community, totaling about 100,000 votes or 13.3% of the vote, has badly rattled the Biden camp. Although Biden came away with an 81% “victory,” the 100,000 “uncommitted” tally, organized by the Listen to Michigan movement, far exceeded the group’s 10,000 vote target meant to communicate widespread discontent with the Biden administration’s support for Israeli genocide in Gaza. Trump garnered 67% of the vote and Nikki Haley 27%.

As the New York Times observed today, this is a pattern that could spread to other states, whose primaries also have an option for voters to choose “uncommitted” or “no preference.” Listen to Michigan is holding an organizing call with supporters in Minnesota, whose primary is next week, and with Washington State, whose primary is March 12. Even in battleground states where there aren’t large Arab-American populations like Michigan’s, the Times point out, “they all have college towns where young, progressive voters are angry about American support for Israel.”

In Michigan cities with high Arab-American concentrations, such as Dearborn, the “uncommitted” vote in the Democratic primary was 56%. In Hamtramck, it was 61%. In Ann Arbor, where most University of Michigan students and faculty live, “uncommitted” won 19%. Today, the feisty, young Mayor of Dearborn Abdullah Hammoud tweeted: “I am overwhelmed by the power of the people.… Every person who voted `uncommitted’ today was personally compelled to use their voice to speak out against President Biden’s support of Benjamin Netanyahu’s ongoing genocide of the Palestinian people.” The Times quoted him saying “if the White House is listening, if our congressional leaders are listening, if our state leaders are listening, we need a change of course or we risk the complete unraveling of American democracy come November.”

Thirty-year-old Majority Floor Leader in Michigan’s House of Representatives, Arab-American Abraham Aiyash, is also a key leader of the Listen to Michigan movement, and organized aggressively for a huge vote against Biden through the “uncommitted” option. Some prominent Democrats accuse him of backing Trump, whom he despises, but Aiyash responds that, “You get a sense that [the administration] just can’t believe that people wouldn’t support President Biden over a Trump candidacy. But to see our country be complicit in this genocide—that is far worse than Donald Trump.”

As Responsible Statecraft columnist Connor Echols reported today, progressive caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) is warning that “the war on Gaza is a deep moral issue and the lack of attention and empathy for this perspective from the administration is breaking apart the fragile coalition we built to elect Joe Biden in 2020.”