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Michigan activists urge Dems to vote against Pres. Biden in primary

The progressive campaign is asking voters to chose "uncommitted" on the primary ballot to protest President Biden's approach to the war in Gaza.
Michigan activists urges Dems to vote against Pres. Biden in primary
Posted at 6:22 PM, Feb 26, 2024

At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, a group of activists are rallying students to vote in the state's upcoming Democratic primary — but choose uncommitted on the ballot. 

The protest is part of a new campaign called "Listen to Michigan." The group his holding rallies and making thousands of phone calls ahead of the primary in an effort to send President Joe Biden a message over his approach to the Israel-Hamas war. 

Campaign manager Layla Elabed, a sister of Democratic Congress woman Rashida Tlaib, says she holds the president partly responsible for what she calls an ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

"We can't be committed to his reelection while he is using our tax dollars to fund a genocide that is killing our loved ones," Elabed told Scripps News. 

President Biden has said Israel needs to do more to prevent civilian deaths in Gaza, but the U.S. has so far resisted calling for an immediate ceasefire. Elabed hopes an impressive result for the "uncommitted" vote in Michigan could pressure him to support a change in U.S. policy. 

According to 2020 census data, Michigan is home to roughly 310,000 residents of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry, comprising 3.1% of the state population 

Four years ago, most of them voted for President Biden who won the swing state with just 154,000 votes. Today, polls show Arab Americans in Michigan and beyond are abandoning him in huge numbers. 

"We've been hearing a lot of people being committed to voting uncommitted," said Hira Khan, the interim executive director of the Michigan chapter of Emgage, a nonprofit that works to mobilize the Muslim American vote. 

She says the uncommitted campaign appeals to many Muslim voters who feel otherwise unrepresented at the ballot.  

"I think this gives them an outlet to vote in a matter that is consistent and in alignment with their values and their feelings," said Khan.  

Lavora Barnes, a Biden supporter and chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, says the White House is listening to the concerns of Arab Americans and other progressives. 

"The Biden administration and Biden himself need to answer these questions to this community. And they're going to. They've started these conversations, and they will continue them up until November,” Barnes said. 

She is urging all Democrats to unite behind President Biden to ensure Donald Trump doesn't return to the White House. That sentiment resonated with Josh Brown, a pro-Israel University of Michigan student who voted early for President Biden in the primary. 

“The only logical choice for the betterment of Israelis, for the betterment of Palestinians, for the betterment of Americans is Biden," Brown said. 

As for Elabed, she says even though she voted for candidate Biden four years ago, at this point, she remains deeply uncommitted.  Asked how she feel about the fact that abandoning President Biden in the general election could help get Trump elected, she answered: 

"Well, we have a long time, and what I can say to that is this is beyond electoral politics. This is about saving lives." 

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