‘Uncommitted’ protest over Biden’s Israel support aims at Minnesota

The “uncommitted” movement to pressure US President Joe Biden to change his policy on Israel is headed to Minnesota, where activists hope a coalition of progressive Democrats and Muslim Americans will fuel a strong protest vote on Super Tuesday.

Minnesota is not a battleground state, given Democrats’ historic strength there, so any uncommitted vote won’t carry the same impact as Michigan’s unexpectedly large protest last week, which won two delegates for the Democratic National Convention in August.

Still, the vote is being closely watched as a gauge of Biden’s strength within his party.

“This will be another protest vote against Biden to stop the war,” said Jaylani Hussein, co-chair of the Abandon Biden movement in Minnesota, one of several groups pushing the vote with phone banks, texting campaigns, and events in mosques and other community centers.

Hussein, who estimates the Midwestern state has about 250,000 Muslims, said the Minnesota effort aims to get at least 10,000 “uncommitted” votes but the numbers could end up being higher.

Demonstrators participate in the ”March on Washington for Gaza,” in support of the Palestinian people, in Washington, U.S., January 13, 2024 (credit: REUTERS/Anna Rose Layden)

The “uncommitted” movement is asking Biden to back a permanent ceasefire and halt aid to Israel. Biden’s early and strong support of Israel and his refusal to condition military aid on protecting innocent civilians or not destroying infrastructure has sparked outrage in key parts of his coalition that could affect his chances of reelection against likely Republican rival Donald Trump.

Biden, 81, faces low general approval ratings and concern about his age, as does Trump, 77. If Trump is reelected, he is expected to be a strong supporter of Israel and right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Michigan results, where Biden won 81% of the vote, show his “core group of supporters are still behind him,” said an official from the Biden campaign – which expects to see the same result from Minnesota.

“None of this means we will ignore the Arab American and Muslim American population,” the official said. “We will not. We are not taking anyone for granted.”

The sharpest US comment on the war to date came from US Vice President Kamala Harris, who on Sunday called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and urged Hamas to accept a deal to release hostages in return for a six-week cessation of hostilities.

The Biden administrations approach to Israel isn’t about what’s right, its about politics

Sam Markstein, national political director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the Biden administration’s continued undermining of Israel is about cold, calculated politics.

“While Joe Biden desperately attempts to placate and shore up his anti-Israel base of support, the RJC will continue to hold this administration accountable, and work to move even more Jewish voters to the GOP in key battleground states,” Markstein said in a statement to The Jerusalem Post.

Even with a protest vote, Biden is expected to sweep Democratic primaries in Minnesota and more than a dozen other states on March 5, also known as Super Tuesday, and secure the Democratic nomination in the coming weeks.

Jewish Democrats expect the results on Super Tuesday to reaffirm that the overwhelming majority of Democrats support President Biden’s reelection, Jewish Democratic Coalition of America CEO Halie Soifer said in a statement to the Post.

“On the issues that matter most to Jewish Americans – from defending democracy to ensuring abortion access, combating antisemitism, and standing with Israel – President Biden and Vice President Harris continue to serve as remarkable leaders,” Soifer said. “Jewish Dems also recognize that the high stakes of November’s election extend down the ballot, which is why we are proud to endorse Democratic candidates for House and Senate who reflect our Jewish values. Jewish Dems are fully committed to ensuring the president’s reelection in 2024.”

Minnesota hasn’t backed a Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972, though Trump came within 1.5 percentage points of winning in 2016. Biden won the state with over 233,000 votes in 2020.

Biden’s campaign and many Democratic Party officials believe disaffected Democrats will ultimately support Biden in November when faced with the prospect of Trump winning instead.

Democrats, overall, support Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict by 61%, February polling by Harvard-Harris shows, although a Reuters/Ipsos February poll showed 56% of Democrats prefer a president who doesn’t support military aid to Israel.

Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota branch of the Democratic Party, formally known as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, told reporters, “This is an existential election” and that he anticipates Biden will have near-unanimous support in the state.

“I respect people’s feelings and differences of opinion on a whole host of issues. But as Joe Biden says, ‘don’t compare [me] to the Almighty, compare [me] to the alternative,’ and I think that’s the reality here,” Martin said.

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