“I Am Done Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils. I Will Not Vote for Joe Biden in 2024.”
Unless Biden drastically reverses course on Palestine, Muslims will not turn out for him on Election Day—critical voters in key swing states—and Democrats only have themselves to blame.
During the 2008 elections, I was in North Carolina canvassing for Barack Obama. I was knocking doors and met a woman who agreed with Obama on all the issues but couldn’t bring herself to vote for him. When I pressed her, she responded: “Well, the thing is, he’s Muslim.”
I took a deep breath and replied that she was mistaken. She kept insisting. After the third time, I finally responded, “No, ma’am, he’s not. I am, but he’s not.”
One of the ironies of the liberals’ dream of the post-racial United States in the run-up to that election was that Muslims were never meant to be part of it. The lie that Obama is Muslim was always code for “He’s Black.” But in 2008 liberals couldn’t say that they wouldn’t vote for someone who is Black. Post-racial anti-Blackness had to be more subtle. After seven years of the War on Terror, it was widely accepted that Muslims are subhuman and our lives disposable. So it was easy for people to simply say that they wouldn’t vote for someone who is Muslim.
The HBO political satire Veep captures how insidious and widespread anti-Muslim rhetoric remains. Spoiler alert, but in the show’s penultimate episode, news broke that U.S. President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) had accidentally bombed a wedding in Pakistan and her popularity soared as a result. One of her advisers tells her, “It turns out Americans don’t give a flying fatwa if you drone a bunch of Muslims!” Another adds, “Your favorables have never been higher, ma’am.”
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama never directly addressed the bigotry behind the allegations that he is Muslim. Obama treated the misinformation campaign as a slanderous lie, further reinforcing the idea that Muslims are unfit for the Oval Office. At a rally in Michigan, members of his campaign even asked Muslim women in hijabs who were sitting behind the podium to move so cameras wouldn’t catch them in the frame. I, like many Muslims, found his campaign’s handling of the issue to be infuriating.
And yet, when I was confronted with this woman’s allegation in North Carolina, my initial instinct was to let it go and simply reassure her that Obama is, in fact, a churchgoing Christian. After all, the margins in the polls in North Carolina were razor thin and after George W. Bush’s wars on Muslims, both domestically and internationally, we needed to get a Democrat in there, even if he was tacitly enabling anti-Muslim bigots. I bit my tongue and did my job.
Obama went on to further Bush’s wars, bomb more Muslim-majority countries than Bush, and kill countless more Muslims. The horrifying “double-tap” policy for the U.S. drone program was also employed under his watch as he expanded airstrikes in Muslim-majority countries. That approach is when after a drone is ordered to fire, they wait a period of time and fire again — often after first responders have arrived — seeking to kill not just their first target, but also those in the target’s vicinity. I voted for Obama again in 2012. I even went to Nevada and knocked on doors for him, yet again. Lesser of two evils, right?
Wrong. I am done voting for the lesser of two evils. I will not vote for Joe Biden in 2024.
The man who offered his “rock solid and unwavering” support to Israel’s genocide of two million Palestinians in Gaza will not get my vote.
The man whose administration circulated memos prohibiting staffers around the world from calling for deescalation or restraint in the face of ethnic cleansing cannot remain president.
The man who is spending billions of our taxpayer dollars to fund an Israeli war machine that considers Palestinians “human animals” and denies drinking water and food to a million Palestinian children belongs at The Hague, not the White House.
The man who lied about having seen photographic evidence of atrocities that never took place, and strengthened the rhetoric that is spurring anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian attacks in the United States, is not my candidate.
Wadea Al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Palestinian-American child was stabbed 26 times by his landlord in the Chicago suburbs shortly after Biden pronounced his lies. Most Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims I know place the blame for Wadea’s murder largely at Biden’s feet. I do too.
If Biden is the Democratic nominee, I will not vote for him.
I may, in fact, organize against him if a viable alternative who’s willing to stand up against Islamophobia throws their hat in the ring.
And I’m not alone. A Palestinian friend who works on elections in Midwest swing states tells me: “I’m not going to vote for Biden next year and I don’t know how, after all this, I can bring myself to ask that of others in our community.”
Holding back tears, she adds, “We have failed our kids. They have to deal with the same Islamophobia we had to deal with 20 years ago.”
Another Palestinian organizer tells me that, every election cycle, she urges Muslims and Arabs to overlook the routine aid that Democrats give to Israel (at least $3.3 billion a year) because there’s too much at stake for our communities to be single-issue voters. But, she adds, this time is different. This isn’t just about the billions in aid. It’s the wholesale killing of more than two million people. You’re allowed to be a single-issue voter if the issue is genocide.
Unsurprisingly, a group of organizers have launched a sign-on letter pledging not to vote for Biden if he continues supporting the genocide in Gaza.
The pledge reads: “We will not vote for Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential elections if he continues to support Israel’s ethnic cleansing and genocide of the more than 2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. We cannot vote for the re-election of a U.S. president who enables Israel’s campaign of mass starvation, bombardment, and murder of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”
It goes on to demand that, among other things, Biden call for an immediate cease-fire and pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation and system of apartheid.
Though the pledge’s lead signatories represent people of many religious backgrounds, I expect that countless Muslims will add their names. This poses a real challenge for Biden.
Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin all voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and then flipped to Biden in 2020. All four states are home to Muslim and Arab communities large enough to have a determining impact on the election. Biden won these states by turning out disaffected voters who stayed home in 2016. But with Biden’s approval rating in the toilet, he will need every vote he can muster to hold these states. Is he sure he can afford to lose Muslim and Arab votes in those states? Because he will.
“There will be a non-insignificant number of Arabs, Muslims, and young voters who sit out 2024 or vote for Cornel West instead of Joe Biden in states like Michigan and Georgia given his near one-sided support of Netanyahu’s far-right government’s atrocities,” Waleed Shahid, the former spokesperson for the Justice Democrats, posted on X (formerly Twitter).
Democrats have taken Muslims for granted for a long time. Ever since rabid Islamophobia became a core tenet of the Republican Party’s ideology following 9/11, it’s been easy to scare Muslims into voting for Democrats. Until now.
Abed A. Ayoub, the Executive Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, posted on X, “Dear Dems, Do not come into the Arab and Muslim communities with the ‘lesser of two evils’ argument in 2024. Thanks.”
I agree. Lesser of two evils? I don’t know, genocide is pretty evil.
Ayoub also posted: “This onslaught on Gaza teaches us one VITAL lesson as Arabs and Muslims. The whole ‘seat at the table’ strategy is a FAILURE. Being token parts of the Democratic Party, ‘the inside game,’ can’t even deliver a Ceasefire on Gaza. It can’t even slow a Genocide of Palestinians enabled by Biden, Kamala Harris, and the ‘Diversity & Inclusion’ Democrats who throw Arab and Muslims under the same table they strove to sit at.”
There are few things as dehumanizing as when a politician you voted for greenlights the genocide and purposeful starvation of children who could be your own. For many, like me, Gaza is the last straw.
The name calling and pressure to side with the “lesser of two evils” has already begun. Biden’s former chief of staff, Ron Klain, said on Sunday: “Trump voters going to do Trump” in response to a story about how Muslims and Arab Americans were angry at Biden’s response. I can say this with a hand on my heart: I have and will never vote for Trump, and unless he changes course drastically, I have no intention of voting for Biden ever again.
I don’t see how any Muslim or Arab can vote for a man who would rather kill a million Palestinian children than get sideways with pro-Israel lobbying groups like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). And if Muslims and Arabs stay home on Election Day and Trump wins, Democrats will have only themselves to blame. Biden has made himself toxic to key constituencies that had previously been guaranteed votes for him.
If Democrats are serious about defeating Trump in 2024, they need a new candidate, and fast. That candidate cannot be Vice President Kamala Harris or anyone else who holds a leadership position in this pro-genocide administration. This administration appears to no longer have the support of a large swath of Muslim and Arab Americans.
And frankly, I can only assume Biden doesn’t want our votes. After all, he is telling us clearly that he doesn’t think Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims are fully human.
And only humans vote in elections.
Disclosure: Views expressed are those of the writer. As a 501©3 nonprofit, In These Times does not support or oppose any candidate for public office.
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