‘Uncommitted’ Voters Show Up Strong Against Joe Biden In Michigan

For weeks, voters have pledged to turn their back on Biden over his policy in Gaza — and early returns show a significant protest vote.

More than 13% of Michigan Democratic voters cast a ballot for “uncommitted” in the state’s primary on Tuesday. The sizable protest vote is a sign of serious frustration with President Joe Biden over the White House’s policy in Gaza, and a potential warning for the November election in a state he only narrowly won in 2020.

The number of “uncommitted” ballots comes after voters, particularly in Michigan’s Arab and Muslim communities, pledged to turn their back on Biden as the U.S. continues to support Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza that has killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians. Dearborn, Michigan, which has a large Arab and Muslim population, showed Biden losing outright to “uncommitted” with 56% while the president got 40%.

One campaign, Listen to Michigan, aimed to have at least 10,000 “uncommitted” votes in the primary to send the president a clear message on his Gaza policy. The total on Tuesday was over 100,000.

“Our movement emerged victorious tonight and massively surpassed our expectations. Tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats, many of whom who voted for Biden in 2020, are uncommitted to his reelection due to the war in Gaza,” the campaign said in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter).

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In a statement Tuesday night, Biden said, “I want to thank every Michigander who made their voice heard today. Exercising the right to vote and participating in our democracy is what makes America great.” He did not address the “uncommitted” vote directly nor the situation in Gaza.

Voters who cast ballots for “uncommitted” said their vote was intended as a warning to Biden that his reelection bid is at stake.

“He needs to change course or he’s losing the presidency in November,” Hussien Ali, a physician based in Detroit who voted uncommitted, told HuffPost. “I know a lot of people, a lot of close friends and family, who, regardless if it changes position at this time, they might not even vote for him ever again.”

Biden won Michigan, a key swing state, in the 2020 election against then-President Donald Trump by more than 150,000 votes. There are over 200,000 registered Michigan voters who are Muslim, while 300,000 trace their ancestry back to the Middle East and North Africa. In 2016, former president Donald Trump won Michigan by a mere 10,000 votes.

Nationwide, 64% of Muslims supported Biden in 2020. But since Israeli forces launched their brutal assault against Gazans — with the U.S.’s steady support — in retaliation for a Hamas attack last October, that support has been rapidly dwindling. Arab and Muslim voters have launched similar “Abandon Biden” campaigns in other key states including Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, Detroit Councilwoman Mary Waters, former Michigan representative Andy Levin, Josh Paul — the former State Department director who resigned over the Israel arms deal— and the Detroit Metro Times all endorsed an “uncommitted” vote in Michigan’s primary.

Locally, more than 30 local representatives vowed to vote “uncommitted” across Southeast Michigan, including Abdullah Hammoud, the first Arab American and Muslim mayor of Dearborn, which is home to one the largest Muslim and Arab populations in the country.

Hammoud told HuffPost that his community’s support for a cease-fire and the end of the war in Gaza stems from the fact his constituents themselves either lived through war previously or lost loved ones in the most recent bombardment.

“If there’s anything to be said about this movement, it’s multi-age. It’s multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, it’s multi-faith,” said Hammoud. “And for many of us in that way, it’s a success, because we’ve demonstrated that this is not an Arab issue, it’s not a Muslim issue. This is an issue that’s of concern to all Michiganders and to all Americans.”

Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian American lawyer based in Macomb County, submitted her “uncommitted” vote by mail earlier this month, calling the White House strategy in Gaza “unforgivable.”

“We are tired of being gaslighted. We are tired of having every election time being told that this is the most consequential election of our lifetime and being bullied or fearmongering into voting for the lesser of two evils. We’re not going to do that anymore,” said Arraf.

Aruba Obeid asks voters to cast an "uncommitted" ballot instead of voting for President Joe Biden outside of Maples Elementary School in Dearborn during the Michigan presidential primary election on Feb. 27.
Aruba Obeid asks voters to cast an "uncommitted" ballot instead of voting for President Joe Biden outside of Maples Elementary School in Dearborn during the Michigan presidential primary election on Feb. 27.
JEFF KOWALSKY via Getty Images

Biden has pushed back against critics, arguing that an uncommitted vote meant a vote for Trump. When asked about the lack of support from Arab Americans, Biden dismissed concerns last month.

“We understand who cares about the Arab population,” Biden told reporters. But White House staffers said the White House is panicking over the momentum against him.

Bilal Hammoud, the executive director of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, the largest advocacy group for Arab American-owned businesses, noted that the state’s Arab and Muslim voter engagement has skyrocketed – this time against Biden.

“We’re talking about a community that has seen its political power, seen its influence and its allies and partnerships that it’s brought. That’s really the value here,” he said. “Now they’re able to galvanize that and work with that toward the single goal for Palestine.”

Support for the current administration, especially among younger, more progressive Democrats and Michigan’s large Arab American and Muslim communities, has downspiraled dramatically in the months leading up to Tuesday’s vote.

Over the last several weeks, top Biden administration officials repeatedly tried to meet with Arab and Muslim leaders with little to no fanfare. Earlier this month in Michigan, Arab and Muslim members described a tense meeting with White House officials who privately admitted their “missteps” in regards to their communication with Arab and Muslim Americans.

“We have left a very damaging impression, based on what has been a wholly inadequate public accounting for how much the president, the administration, the country, values the lives of Palestinians,” deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told community leaders. “We are very well aware that we have misstepped in the course of responding to this crisis.”

That meeting came just a few weeks after Arab and Muslim community leaders canceled a listening session with Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, hoping to send a message about the community’s longstanding frustration with the actions taken by the White House.

Meanwhile, in Virginia, several members of the Palestinian American community also refused to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington to discuss the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Those who did meet with Blinken were met with protesters who had been camping outside of his home for nearly two weeks demanding a cease-fire. A week later, members of the Arab American community postponed a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris.

“What we’ve seen is when they come into power, they don’t answer to our requests and our needs. They take us for granted,” said Arraf.

Arraf, who has been to Gaza in 2008 and 2009 among a delegation of American lawyers to investigate and document the use of American weapons in war crimes and submitted a report to members of Congress, said that while she doesn’t endorse a Trump presidency, she cannot in good faith vote for Biden.

“While I absolutely do not want to see a Trump presidency, the onus is not on me or my community or anyone that is horrified by Biden and his administration’s policies. The onus is on Biden and the Democratic Party as a whole, to make changes to put up a better candidate than Biden,” she said.

“You really can’t ask for more from us, especially from Palestinian and Arab Americans who have witnessed their friends and family being slaughtered,” she added.

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