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‘Listen Joe’: Michigan primary voters

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Image: – ‘We need Joe Biden to listen’: 100,000+ Michigan primary voters mark Uncommitted. The results ‘represent a historic inflection point for creating a Democratic Party that aligns with the majority of its voters who want a ceasefire’, one organiser said.

By Jake Johnson

More than 100,900 Michigan voters marked “uncommitted” on their ballots during the swing state’s Democratic presidential primary on Tuesday, a signal to President Joe Biden that his continued support for Israel’s war on Gaza is angering key elements of his base and potentially threatening his re-election chances.

Leaders and supporters of the Listen to Michigan campaign made clear that their goal was not to harm Biden’s general election prospects, but rather to convince him to change course on Gaza, where the US-armed Israeli military has killed nearly 30,000 people in less than five months.

In 2020, Biden defeated former President Donald Trump — his likely general election opponent in November — by 150,000 votes in Michigan, and Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton four years earlier by roughly 11,000 votes.

“We need Joe Biden to listen to the voice of Michiganders,” Layla Elabed, campaign manager for Listen to Michigan and the sister of Representative Rashida Tlaib (Democrat-Michigan), told reporters late Tuesday. “Listen to the voice of his core constituents and demand a permanent ceasefire now and the ending of this unconditional, unchecked funding to Israel.”

Biden handily won Michigan’s primary on Tuesday with just over 81 percent of the vote. But “uncommitted” garnered the support of over 13 percent of primary voters, beating Marianne Williamson — who suspended her campaign before the contest — and Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) and far surpassing organisers’ expectations. By comparison, fewer than 20,000 Michigan voters chose “uncommitted” in the 2020 Democratic primary.

In Hamtramck and Dearborn — cities with strong Arab American and Muslim populations — the incumbent Democratic president lost to “uncommitted” by significant margins on Tuesday. Many Michigan residents have lost family members to Israel’s war on Gaza, which the Biden administration has fuelled with weapons and diplomatic support.

“Tens of thousands of Michigan Democrats, many of whom voted for Biden in 2020, are uncommitted to his re-election due to the war in Gaza,” the Listen to Michigan campaign wrote on social media. “President Biden has funded the bombs falling on the family members of people who live right here in Michigan. People who voted for him, who now feel completely betrayed. President Biden, listen to Michigan. Count us out, Joe.”

“Count Michigan uncommitted for funding of war and genocide in Gaza,” the campaign continued. “While we’ve noticed a small shift in language from Biden as a direct result of this campaign’s pressure, we know that his words are not enough. This isn’t a messaging problem; this is a funding bombs problem.”

Stressing that “we don’t want a Trump presidency”, the campaign said Biden “has put [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu ahead of American democracy”.

“The only way to achieve freedom and justice for Palestinians surviving a genocide is through an immediate and permanent ceasefire. The only way to ensure the safe return of all hostages and prisoners is through an immediate and permanent ceasefire,” Listen to Michigan continued. “Our delegation plans to hold the Democratic nominee accountable to our community’s anti-war agenda at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. See you there.”

“Quite frankly, none of us want Trump to win, which is exactly why we’re doing this.”

Organisers said late Tuesday that they expect “uncommitted” to receive at least one delegate to the Democratic convention. The New York Time snoted that “under Michigan’s Democratic primary rules, candidates can receive delegates by earning at least 15 percent of the vote in a specific congressional district”.

In a statement on the primary results, Biden thanked “every Michigander who made their voice heard today” but did not specifically acknowledge the “uncommitted” campaign, which faced last-minute attacks from a billionaire-funded AIPAC ally that is also working to unseat progressive Democratic lawmakers who have backed a ceasefire in Gaza.

A survey released Tuesday by Data for Progress found that 57 percent of likely US voters disapprove of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict and 67 percent — including 77 percent of Democrats — support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

Elabed said Tuesday that the primary results “represent a historic inflection point for creating a Democratic Party that aligns with the majority of its voters who want a ceasefire and end to unrestricted weapons funding for Israel’s war and occupation against the Palestinian people”.

Gaby Santiago-Romero, a member of the Detroit City Council and supporter of the Listen to Michigan campaign, told the Times that “we are no longer in a position to beg Democrats to listen to us”.

“Quite frankly, none of us want Trump to win, which is exactly why we’re doing this,” said Santiago-Romero. “This is the only way we can raise a flag to Democrats that you are going to lose unless you call for an ultimate ceasefire.”

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams