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‘Uncommitted’: How American voters are protesting US complicity in Gaza genocide

By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Calls are mounting for US President Joe Biden to quit the presidential race following his disastrous performance during the first presidential debate against Republican Donald Trump.

While Biden insists on staying in the contest, he has to win over more than 700,000 Americans who have opted for “uncommitted” in the Democratic primaries, in protest against the incumbent president’s Gaza policy and his administration’s direct complicity in the genocide of Palestinians in Gaza.

If write-ins and blank ballots in states that lacked “uncommitted,” “uninstructed,” or “no preference” options are counted, it is certainly reasonable to assume that the number of Democratic primary voters who expressed their anger against Biden’s support for the Israeli regime is much higher, observers say.

The “uncommitted” campaign against Biden’s support for Israeli genocidal war on Gaza, which just completed nine months claiming close to 38,000 lives, has earned enough votes to have a presence at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in August, with at least 29 delegates.

According to the DNC’s own rules, any candidate who receives at least 15 percent of the vote in any single congressional district is eligible for a delegate.

How ‘uncommitted’ campaign launched?

The anti-war, grassroots movement in the US which began in the state of Michigan has now spread across the country against the genocidal war on Gaza and the US government’s complicity in it.

The pro-Palestine activists have organized multiple rallies, showed up at the president’s public events, and exerted pressure on their elected representatives to demand a ceasefire in Gaza.

However, their calls went largely unheeded by the Biden administration.

Therefore, they started asking Democratic voters to cast ballots for “uncommitted”, essentially no one, as a protest against the Israeli-American war on Gaza and to send a message to Biden.

Earlier last month, the Abandon Biden movement, which is behind much of the effort for protest votes, declared in a press release that they will ensure Biden faces defeat in the general election.

“Our mission is clear: Joe Biden must be defeated,” the group said. “We will not stand by. We are mobilized, we are furious, and we are committed to ensuring Joe Biden is defeated in the general election. The time for accountability is now.”

They said that Israel’s “death machine is fueled by Biden’s policies” and that “Biden’s speeches are nothing but Diplomacy Theater, a grotesque display of blame-shifting while the massacre rages on.”

Even some lawmakers have been telling people not to vote for Biden over his handling of the Gaza war.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib said earlier this year that she was “proud” to vote “uncommitted” in the Michigan primary, casting a protest vote against Biden amid frustration over the unending war on Gaza.

“I was proud today to walk in and pull a Democratic ballot and vote uncommitted. We must protect our democracy. We must make sure that our government is about us, about the people,” Tlaib said in a video shared by the Listen to Michigan campaign, calling for the protest vote.

“When 74 percent of Democrats in Michigan support a cease-fire, yet President Biden is not hearing us, this is the way we can use our democracy to say ‘listen.’ Listen to Michigan.”

The action has rattled the Biden presidential campaign, troubled democrats and prompted some of them to make passionate calls for taking the issue with the seriousness it deserves.

“Of course, they should be concerned,” one former Biden campaign aide was quoted as saying by media outlets last month.

“If they’re not planning to vote for [Biden], they’ve already been disappointed. Donald Trump is a disruptor and a change agent, so he might be an appealing alternative for some of those people,” the former campaign aide added.

Why did Michigan lead the campaign?

Michigan, situated in the Great Lakes region of the Upper Midwest region of the United States, is the state that helped deliver Biden's victory in 2020.

There are about 200,000 Muslim American voters in Michigan, who are angry with Biden’s response to the Israeli genocidal war on Gaza, and this could mean many of these voters might just sit out the election this year or choose a third-party candidate instead.

More than 100,000 voters selected “uncommitted” in Michigan’s primary—about 13 percent of the state’s electorate and 10 times more than what the campaign organizers had publicly projected.

The Arab American Institute, an advocacy group, says that since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza on October 7 last year, support by Arab Americans for the Democratic Party has plummeted from 59 percent in 2020 to just 17 percent.

‘Uncommitted’ vote spans

After Michigan, the uncommitted movement gained momentum and expanded at a rapid pace across other US states such as Minnesota, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Missouri, Washington and Wisconsin.

“The Michigan campaign was an inspiration for us over here in Washington, it’s like maybe there is a way for us who are unhappy with what the President is doing to register our discontent with his policies,” said Rami Al-Kabra, an organizer of Washington’s campaign and a city council member in Bothell, Washington.

In Minnesota, 45,000 uncommitted votes, about 20 percent of the vote, netted the movement 11 delegates, the highest of any state.

In addition to Arab and Muslim communities, protest votes had the highest concentration in areas where young people live.

Young voters seem to be some of Biden’s most vocal critics on issues ranging from Israel’s war on Gaza to climate change and inflation.

Moreover, many Black and Hispanic voters, who were critical to Biden’s win in 2020, are also among uncommitted voters.

Broadly speaking, the majority of people in the US now disapprove of Israel’s war on Gaza.

According to a Gallup survey conducted in March, approval among Americans of Israel’s offensive in Gaza dropped from 50 percent to 36 percent since November 2023.

‘No point in voting’

Most of the protest voters emphasize that their votes are not an anti-Biden, pro-Trump campaign – they are a humanitarian vote, looking to save as many lives as possible by ending the devastating war.

Pro-Palestine activists are saying that they will advocate for an anti-war agenda at the DNC in August and withhold their vote in November unless the democratic nominee supports a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and stands up to the influential pro-Israel lobby.

June Rose, a Jewish Democrat and Rhode Island’s uncommitted delegate to the DNC explained in a post on X that the Democratic Party “cannot espouse the values of freedom, justice, and equality at home while being a party of death and destruction abroad.”

“My goal at the DNC is to help make sure that not for one moment is Palestine forgotten. That the images of 15,000 children murdered in the name of my safety are seared in the minds of Democratic leaders,” she wrote.

Rose added that with other fellow uncommitted delegates, they will demand an end to US support for genocide and colonization—including immediately halting aid and ending the transfers of weapons to the Israeli regime used against Palestinians in Gaza.

“I will channel my rage and heartbreak into a cry for a free Palestine, with a relentless hope that they’ll listen to me—as a Jew and as a Democrat—in chorus with so many like me who are shouting: Not in our name. Stop the genocide. Ceasefire now. End the occupation.”

Saad Farooq, an uncommitted voter in Massachusetts, said it was unlikely that the Democratic National Committee would select any candidate who took a stance against Israel’s ongoing war, and that he would support Green Party candidate Jill Stein if she were to appear on the ballot in Massachusetts.

“My number one criterion for any candidate is opposing the genocide in Gaza,” Farooq was quoted as saying by the Intercept.

Shaneez Hameed, another uncommitted voter in California, also said that the war in Gaza is a red line for him as a voter.

“Any new candidate will have to do something about stopping the genocide in Palestine and also be open to making changes with the Supreme Court and filibuster,” Hameed wrote. “Or else, nothing changes and there is no point in voting.”

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