Gaza protest vote casts shadow on Biden’s Super Tuesday wins

In Minnesota, the ‘uncommitted’ vote was 19%. In Massachusetts, Colorado and North Carolina, tens of thousands of people opted for this choice

US Elections: super tuesday primaries
A woman votes in the Massachusetts primary on Super Tuesday.Reba Saldanha (REUTERS)
Macarena Vidal Liy

The protest vote to demand a permanent ceasefire in Gaza has cast a shadow on U.S. President Joe Biden’s victories in Democratic primaries on Super Tuesday, when 15 states voted to determine the candidates who will compete in the U.S. presidential elections in November.

The Democrat, whose only rivals were Congressman Dean Phillips, businessman Jason Palmer and writer Marianne Williamson — candidacies that never managed to gain ground — achieved clear victories in almost all the states in the race, with leads of over 70%. “Millions of voters across the country made their voices heard — showing that they are ready to fight back against Donald Trump’s extreme plan to take us backwards,” Biden said in a statement.

But in states such as Minnesota, a Democratic bastion in the north, or in North Carolina, rank-and-file voters also expressed their discontent with the president — a fact that Biden did not mention in his statement. In American Samoa, Biden even lost the caucus to Jason Palmer.

In Minnesota, Philips got 8% of the votes, a much higher result than what he had achieved in previous primaries. But the biggest gains were made by the “uncommitted” campaign, launched by progressive groups and the Arab-American community, which achieved 19% of the vote in the state, with 80% of the votes counted. This is despite the fact the movement had a tiny budget and was organized at the last minute. In the 2012 primaries, in which Democratic president Barack Obama was running for re-election, the “uncommitted” vote only accounted for 3.7%.

Thanks to the results, the “uncommitted” campaign will be awarded delegates to send to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August. It also picked up two delegates in the Michigan primary. A presidential candidate needs to secure 1,968 to cinch the Democratic nomination.

The results of Super Tuesday also show that, in addition to the Arab-American community, Biden is also struggling to win over progressive and younger voters. Minnesota has a large Arab and Muslim population, although it is smaller than the one in Michigan. Its universities are also vibrant centers of progressive ideas. The state has gained a reputation for choosing unconventional candidates: it named comedian Al Franken as senator, and in the 2016 primary, it voted for Bernie Sanders as the Democratic candidate.

“They are asking to be heard and that’s what they should be doing,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. “Their message is clear, that they think this is an intolerable situation and we can do more, and I think the president is hearing that.”

The “uncommitted” campaign is seeking to pressure Biden to support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and warn him that his support for Israel could cost him the election in November. The campaign organizers believe that their work has begun to bear fruit, arguing that Vice President Kamala Harris’ call last Sunday for an “immediate” ceasefire are a response to the protest vote.

The Michigan campaign manager, Layla Elabed said Tuesday night that “Minnesota has shown that the ‘uncommitted’ movement is not going away.” At last week’s Michigan primaries — where dozens of Democrat politicians supported the campaign, including Elabed’s sister, Rashida Tlaib, the only congresswoman of Palestinian origin — the “uncommitted” vote received 13.3%, more than 101,000 votes.

The protest vote was not limited to Minnesota. In North Carolina, another state with a significant college population, more than 12% of voters (87,775), had picked “uncommitted,” with 95% of the votes counted. In Colorado, the percentage was 7.7%, or more than 39,000 votes. In Massachusetts, more than 50,000 people ticked “uncommitted,” 9.4% of the Democratic electorate, when 82% of the ballots had been counted.

“When we saw what happened in Michigan last Tuesday, we realized we absolutely have to mobilize here in Massachusetts on Super Tuesday,” campaign organizer Sara Halawa told The Boston Globe. “And in the days that followed, we reached out to all of the different people we knew that cared about this, and a coalition came together.”

“We had no clue that we were going to do this, even a week ago,” added Omar Siddiqi, another Massachusetts campaigner. “So I think, given the speed with which this came together, this is exceeding expectations. We would have been happy with 10,000 votes.”

The White House argues that the United States is mediating to try to achieve a temporary six-week ceasefire in Gaza in the hope that it will serve as a first step toward a permanent cessation of hostilities. It also believes that, while Democratic voters are expressing their discontent now, they will put aside their objections in the November election, which is shaping up to be another showdown between Biden and Trump.

“My message to the country is this: Every generation of Americans will face a moment when it has to defend democracy,” Biden said in his Super Tuesday statement. “To every Democrat, Republican and independent who believes in a free and fair America: this is our moment. This is our fight.”

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