Group in Michigan Urges Protest Vote Against Biden Over Israel-Gaza War


A group of Democrats in Michigan is urging voters unhappy with President Biden’s approach to the war between Israel and Hamas to vote for Uncommitted on the state’s Feb. 27 primary ballots to demonstrate a frustration that Mr. Biden has not demanded a cease-fire in the conflict.

The effort, called Listen to Michigan, is set to be formally announced on Tuesday. The campaign is being run by Layla Elabed, a community organizer from Dearborn, Mich., who is the younger sister of Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. The campaign’s budget will be $250,000 and will include digital advertising, direct mail and phone and text banking to contact supporters, Ms. Elabed said.

“We’re a voting bloc,” she said. “We have the political power to really shift Biden’s election. We did it in 2020.”

The group’s website is blunt. “Tell Biden, count me out for genocide,” it reads.

There is a history of Michigan Democrats using Uncommitted as a protest vote. In 2008, when Michigan defied Democratic National Committee rules by moving its primary up in the nominating calendar, Barack Obama’s campaign urged supporters to vote for Uncommitted against Hillary Clinton. In that contest, 40 percent of Democratic primary voters chose Uncommitted against Mrs. Clinton and three other candidates.

Mr. Biden is not likely to be seriously challenged in Michigan’s primary by Representative Dean Phillips of Minnesota or Marianne Williamson, the author, who are both on the ballot. Mr. Biden won the party’s first recognized primary, on Saturday in South Carolina, with 96 percent of the vote. But there is ample polling evidence that his position in support of Israel as it wages war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip is unpopular.

An NBC News poll released Sunday found just 29 percent of voters approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of the war between Israel and Hamas — including just 15 percent of voters younger than 35. Among Democrats, the poll found that 44 percent approved of Mr. Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza, while 45 percent disapproved.

Michigan is one of just a handful of battleground states where Mr. Biden in 2020 narrowly defeated President Donald J. Trump. It is considered among the most competitive states for the 2024 general election. Since Oct. 7, when Hamas set off the latest war with its attack on Israel, senior Michigan Democrats have expressed concern that Mr. Biden’s pro-Israel posture is costing him support in the state, which has a large Arab American population in the Detroit suburbs.

The president’s recent public events have been marked by protesters demonstrating against his support for Israel. When he traveled to the Detroit suburbs for an appearance with autoworkers last week, the White House and Mr. Biden’s campaign declined to reveal the location where the president would appear in advance — an unusual bit of secrecy aimed at preventing an onslaught of demonstrators. Still, about 200 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched outside.

Ms. Elabed said the goal for the Listen to Michigan group was to engage about 80 percent of its email list of 128,000 voters. No elected officials have joined their effort yet, she said, though she said she expected that supporters of Mayor Abdullah Hammoud of Dearborn, who last week declined a meeting with Biden campaign officials, will appreciate having an option to vote against Mr. Biden in the primary.

Mr. Biden’s campaign declined to discuss the Michigan effort. Last week, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Mr. Biden said he was working toward an end in the war in Gaza.

“Not only do we pray for peace, we are actively working for peace, security, dignity for the Israeli people and the Palestinian people,” Mr. Biden said.

Ms. Elabed said her group’s demands for Mr. Biden begin with him calling for Israel to stop its war on Gaza.

“It is really about the significance in sending a clear message to President Biden,” she said. “As Michigan voters, we cannot support his financial backing of actions that conflict with our core values of peace and humanity.”



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