United States: Strong pro-ceasefire protest vote in Michigan primary

March 7, 2024
Campaigning for Palestine during the Michigan primaries. Photo: Free Palestine Michigan/Facebook

In response to United States President Joe Biden’s continued support for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza the Listen to Michigan campaign called on Democratic Party voters in the state’s primary (pre-selection) to withhold their support for Biden by choosing the "uncommitted" option on the ballot.

Listen to Michigan campaign manager Layla Elabed — the sister of Palestinian American Congress representative Rashida Tlaib — told the Detroit Free Press: "Having the option to vote uncommitted gives us a strong unifying vehicle to show our discontent and send a message to Biden that we need a permanent cease-fire."

Organisers hoped for 10,000 votes during the February 27 primary, however more than 100,000 politically conscious “uncommitted” votes were registered, with 99 precincts counted. While Biden won the vote in the end with 81%, more than 13% of statewide voters lodged a protest vote.

Biden won 88% support in the 2020 primary in the southern parts of Dearborn, a city where more than 90% of the residents are Arab American and Muslim, according to DFP.

This time Biden got 40%, while “uncommitted” won 57%.

In Hamtramck — the poorest city in Michigan with an all-Muslim City Council — “uncommitted” won 61%. In Dearborn Heights, “uncommitted” won 48% and Biden 47%.

The three cities have the highest percentage of residents of Arab descent in the state.

“Biden was crushed in five Dearborn districts with a high percentage of Arab Americans. The result was 85%, 90%, 83%, 84%, 92%. In those same districts Biden only got 14%, 9%, 16%, 14% and 6% respectively. Biden had won all those districts in 2020,” reported DFP.

In Wayne County — which includes the city of Detroit and an African American majority population — “uncommitted” won 16.8% of the vote.

Lexis Zeidan from Listen to Michigan told CBS News Detroit: "[The ‘uncommitted’ vote shows] that in this country, we are tired of taking our tax dollars and funding it towards a war that is killing innocent people … we're asking our leadership in this country to listen to what we're saying and create a better society in which we're valuing peace and human life."

Broad campaign

DemocracyNow! host Amy Goodman said on February 28 that the movement will likely spread to other states, including Minnesota, and Washington state, which holds its primary on March 12.

James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute told DN! “A hundred-plus thousand ‘uncommitted’ votes, much larger than anyone anticipated, makes a point: President Biden, you ignore this vote at your risk.

“We can extrapolate from the rest of the states what the turnout would be in November if we ignore this issue and continue to ignore this issue, not only … with the Arab American vote, but with young voters, Black voters.

“My brother John has done polling on this among American voters, not just Arab American voters. The impact that the Gaza war is having on voters under 29, the impact it’s having on Black, Latino and Asian voters, who are core to the Democratic coalition, is very clear.

“There is genocide unfolding. People want it to end. The president either is going to have to act decisively to end it, or it’s going to have an impact in November.”

Former Michigan Democratic Congress member Andy Levin — who was targeted by the pro-Israel lobby and lost his reelection in 2022 — told DN! “It was really an incredible thing … I’ve been organizing for peace for 40 years, and I’ve rarely seen such an organic and authentic movement come together in, as you say, just three weeks.

“This was something that grew up out of the Arab American and larger Muslim communities in Michigan, but it had great power among progressives, among Jewish people, Christians, Muslims, people of other faiths, people of no faith. College campuses were aflame about this…

“The message from us to the president yesterday was: You must change course. You must change course for the sake of your political reelection and because it’s the right and necessary thing to do from every point of view, including US national security interests...

“The message to the president is: Stop treating what Bibi Netanyahu says as the boundary of the possible. You’ve got to move towards an immediate and permanent ceasefire and an end to this carnage, free all the hostages, free political prisoners among the Palestinians, including leading longtime prisoners … [such as] Marwan Barghouti, who’s been in prison for so long… [and] whom many Palestinians might support to change the situation there.”

Aaron Bushnell

The movement in Michigan reflects a broader upsurge against US Middle East policy and its blank check support for Israel. Young people of all social and economic classes and racial groups have joined hands to condemn US policy.

Refusal to participate in the US’ policy of aiding genocide drove 25-year-old Aaron Bushnell to a heroic act of self-immolation outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC on February 25. Bushnell was an active duty member of the US Air Force.

Bushnell’s death coincided with a planned transfer of bombs and other armaments to Israel by the US.

According to media reports, after setting himself on fire, Bushnell shouted “Free Palestine!” several times before collapsing.

According to the New York Times, it was the second act of self-immolation in the US since Israel’s war on Palestine escalated after October 7. In December, according to the NYT, “a woman with a Palestinian flag" lit herself on fire outside of the Israeli consulate building in Atlanta. She was not identified, and has remained in hospital, “currently listed in stable condition”.

Israel’s government has made clear its aim is to kill as many Palestinian as quickly as possible until all are forced to leave their land. New plans to resettle Jewish families in Gaza are openly discussed.

The “uncommitted” campaign shows that the fight back and solidarity movement will take many forms. Protest voting is one way so long as it is combined with public demonstrations.

[For a detailed breakdown of the “uncommitted” vote by city and county, visit bridgemi.com.]

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.