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Led by Arab Americans, more than 100,000 voters in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in Michigan selected “uncommitted” in a stunning rebuke of President Joe Biden and his support of Israel in its Gaza war.

In Dearborn, America’s largest Arab American city, 57 percent of Democratic voters chose “uncommitted.” But the protest vote extended to other members of the Biden coalition, including young voters and progressive American Jews. The highest percentage of uncommitted voters were in Wayne County, where Dearborn is located, and Washtenaw County, home to the University of Michigan.

Now, while Biden handily won the Michigan primary with 81 percent of the total vote, the number of uncommitted voters is enough to impact the outcome of this pivotal swing state in November.

Biden on Backfoot In Swing States As Coalition Frays

Biden currently trails Donald Trump in Michigan — a state the 2020 Democratic candidate won by only 150,000 votes in the 2020 general election.

The incumbent president is also behind in other critical swing states. Trump has a slight edge in Pennsylvania according to the latest state poll and commanding leads in Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. Flipping the latter three states along with Michigan would give Trump 281 electoral votes — and the presidency.

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Biden needs to galvanize his base and get it to turn out in November. But he continues to unequivocally support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his prosecution of the Gaza war defying the wishes of the party base.

Seventy-seven percent of Democrats support a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and 62 percent believe Israel’s military response “has gone too far.” The generational and racial divide on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — evident since the Gaza war’s early weeks — has only sharpened.

More than a thousand black pastors have also pushed for a ceasefire. “This is not a fringe issue,” Reverend Michael McBride told The New York Times last month.

Numbers, People, and Numbers of People in Gaza and Michigan

November is a long ways away. But Democratic Party operatives would be mistaken to dismiss the uncommitted vote as a tempest in a teapot. The pain of Arab Americans in Michigan and elsewhere in the U.S. is real — as Nina Turner tried to make clear on CNN last night despite numerous interruptions by Anderson Cooper.

For Palestinian Americans, Israel’s war in Gaza is very personal and very political. Many have lost dozens of family members to Israel’s bombing campaign in Gaza — with weapons paid for or supplied by their own government using their own tax dollars. Arab Americans are deploying the power of the ballot to stop the bullets.

Democratic centrists — including those, like Bakari Sellers, aligned with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) — seem to think Arab American discontent can be papered over with a meeting with Biden or made “less raw” by a ceasefire before November.

They seem to have a false belief in Biden’s supposed magical empathy — something extinguished by his administration’s callous disregard for Palestinian lives and Biden’s cynical floating of a ceasefire before the Michigan vote while licking an ice cream cone.

Nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed and tens of thousands of children have been left orphaned. A pause in the fighting will not bring a pause in the pain. It will not bring back the dead or provide care for younger relatives left limbless and without parents.

Politics is a numbers game. But those numbers, Democratic operatives need to know, are ultimately representations of real people.

The Netanyahu Factor

Biden’s greatest strategic failure since October 7 may have been putting his political fate in the hands of Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is unpopular at home. The vast majority of his people would like to see him step down once the Gaza war comes to an end. And that is one reason why Netanyahu is keen on an indefinite state of war, in spite of Israel having failed to achieve major strategic goals in its bombardment of Gaza.

Even if Netanyahu agrees to a temporary pause to the fighting in Gaza, where famine looms, there’s no guarantee the war won’t resume at some point before the November election or that a new front could open up in Lebanon.

Continued combat is key for Netanyahu to stay in power and it will only diminish Biden’s odds at reelection. For Netanyahu, a Biden defeat in November would be the cherry on top as he clearly prefers a Trump presidency.

Arif Rafiq is the editor of Globely News. Rafiq has contributed commentary and analysis on global issues for publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New Republic, the New York Times, and POLITICO Magazine.

He has appeared on numerous broadcast outlets, including Al Jazeera English, the BBC World Service, CNN International, and National Public Radio.

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