Muslim and Arab-American Voters Show Black People How to Exercise Political Power
Jaylani Hussein of CAIR Minnesota leads Abandon Biden protest (Image: Screenshot from WCCO)
Black voters feel trapped in the duopoly but other groups are giving a master class in political courage. The Abandon Biden campaign shows the way.
Face the Nation Host Margaret Brennan: Thasin, you did change your mind on the president. Why?
Thasin: I was a champion for Joe Biden until October 7. I feel he disowned us, disenfranchised us, with his stance on Gaza.
Brennan: What do you mean by that?
Thasin: He’s not listening to us. We’re asking for a cease fire at this time. It’s a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza. Too many lives have been lost at this time. I was never a single issue voter and in fact I used to argue with people not to be single issue voters but for me this is a deal breaker. Way too many lives have been lost.
Brennan: When you say “us” you’re Muslim, is that what you mean? You think the Muslim community here feels as you do?
Thasin: Yes. I think the vast majority of Muslims, Arab-Americans, progressives, I identify myself as a progressive, and many people I talk to in my circles are not going to be voting for Joe Biden.
- Michigan Voter Focus Group on CBS news program, Face the Nation
Black Agenda Report
By Margaret Kimberly
January 24, 2024
Historically, Black people in this country have allowed themselves to feel trapped by the racialized political duopoly. A feature of U.S. politics is to allow only two parties to play a decisive role in elections and for one of them to be designated as the white people’s party and the other as the Black party.
Beginning after the civil war and until the 1960s, the democrats were the party of the segregated south, and thus the party for white people generally. Republicans, the party of Abraham Lincoln, became the de facto preference for Black people despite their willingness to shove Black interests under the bus when they felt the need to placate white voters.
In 1872 Frederick Douglass spoke at the National Convention of the Colored People and famously spoke these words. “For colored men the Republican party is the deck, all outside is the sea.” Douglass and other Black people counseled continued support for the republicans, even when they made deals to withdraw federal troops from the south, or refused to codify the Civil Rights Act of 1875 into law after the Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional.
Democrats were the party of the confederacy and thus could not be countenanced under any circumstance, even republican betrayals.
This dynamic played out for the next 100 years when the two teams made a switch which lasts until today. The last time a majority of white people supported a democrat in a presidential election was 1964. Ever since that time they have given a majority of their votes to republicans and Black people have done likewise with the democrats.
Unfortunately the role that Black political action played in forcing democrat Lyndon Johnson to advocate for and sign the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Right Act of 1964 into law have been forgotten. Black people won legislative victory through their own efforts in creating a mass movement and a political crisis that brought about change. This era has been fetishized, without any understanding of its real importance and meaning. The truth has been turned on its head, and we are taught that Black people owe loyalty to democrats, when that party should reward loyalty with policies that Black people want to see enacted.
But every group in the country has not been cowed. Voters who identify as Muslims or who have Middle Eastern ancestry have put Joe Biden on notice that his aiding and abetting of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza will cost him politically. Michigan has the largest Arab-American community of any state and plays a pivotal role in presidential elections. Democrats take great care to mobilize voters in this key “swing” state. Hillary Clinton’s failure to do so in 2016 resulted in Donald Trump’s victory there by a small margin of 13,000 votes and he prevailed in the Electoral College when Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were also neglected by the democrats and flipped to the republican column.
Joe Biden won in Michigan in 2020 by a 154,000 vote margin in a state where 200,000 registered voters identify as Muslim and 300,000 claim ancestry from the Middle East and North Africa. Michigan is not the only state Biden won by a small margin thanks to Arab and Muslim voters. In Arizona, Georgia, Minnesota, and Wisconsin he also owed his victory in part to members of this community.
A group of Muslim leaders in swing states are rightly using their electoral power with the #AbandonBidencampaign. They are not so frightened of a Trump presidency that they have allowed themselves to vote for the man who through his proxy Israel has killed some 24,000 people in Gaza and despite phony claims of “working behind the scenes” shows no inclination to change policy and save lives.
It is true that these communities do not share Black people’s history of enslavement and Jim Crow segregation. As such they have a greater willingness to show independence but there are lessons here for Black people in how to exercise their power.
Joe Biden and every democrat elected in the last 60 years owes his presidency to Black voters. The same is true of politicians in city halls, state legislatures, and in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Black people have political muscle but through a combination of misleadership chicanery and ignorance of the right lessons of history, act as supplicants instead of as political players.
Arab-Americans have not forgotten Trump’s so-called Muslim ban, when citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen were barred from entering the country. Yet they do not act fearfully despite the fact that Trump is again a candidate for the office he once held and pledges to bring back the ban and even to deport people who protest U.S. policy towards Palestine.
Fortunately the #AbandonBiden campaign has shown no signs of letting up because its leadership knows how to get results and because they refuse to disrespect themselves and their people by rewarding a genocidaire with another term in the white house. How much could Black people achieve with similar determination?
In 2024 and beyond, the words “but Trump” should lose their power. How much has Biden done for Black people in the last three years? The covid era programs of small stimulus payments and the Child Tax Credit are over. Millions of people eligible for Medicaid and SNAP food benefits have been kicked off the rolls in many states with no intervention from the federal government. The pardon for federal marijuana convictions freed no one from jail. Police continue their killing spree with more than 1,300 victims in 2023. Mass incarceration continues as 1 million Black people are locked up, more than anywhere else in the world with the help of the most draconian sentences in the world. Of course Senator Joe Biden bragged about his role in the Clinton era Crime Bill which put so many Black people behind bars. There was good reason not to vote for him in 2020.
As it seems Black people have forgotten how to demonstrate political power, perhaps lessons from other groups are a means of regaining what has been lost. Black people can abandon Biden too, along with all of the democrats who owe their elected office to a group of people they routinely ignore or use for “dog whistle” politics appealing to white voters.
Donald Trump is not the biggest enemy, he is just the loudest and the least refined. Abandoning Biden and his minions can be a reality which may produce some worthy result. Feeling trapped by the duopoly has been and continues to be a losing proposition.
Margaret Kimberley is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. You can support her work on Patreon and also find it on the Twitter , Bluesky, and Telegram platforms. Kimberly is a member of the Green Party of New York. She can be reached via email at [email protected]