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Explained: How Democrats Revolted Against Joe Biden In Michigan Primaries Over Gaza, Can This Affect His Re-Election Bid?

Michigan is one of the 'swing states' in the US presidential election which both the Democrat and Republican candidates try to sway in their favour. The Democratic Party's voters are this time miffed with US President Joe Biden.

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US President Joe Biden Photo: Instagram/POTUS
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US President Joe Biden on Tuesday won the Democratic Party's primaries in Michigan state but faced a protest over his stand on the Israel's War on Gaza.

In the US presidential election system, candidates have to first secure the nomination of their respective parties before they face the other party's candidate in the final election. The party's nomination race is decided by the primaries and caucuses that take place over months across all the US states.

As things stand today, the United States is headed to a rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump of the Republican Party as both of them are cruising their way through their respective parties' primaries and caucuses.

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While Biden won the Michigan primaries, almost one in eight voters cast an 'uncommitted' vote, which is the equivalent of the 'none of the above' (NOTA) vote in Indian elections. In a swing state, some observers say such a revolt against Biden could harm him in the final showdown with Trump. Michigan has a sizable Muslim- and Arab-American population that has made anger against Biden over his stand on the Israel's War on Gaza well-known.

Here we explain why the Democrat voters are miffed with Biden in Michigan, what the primaries results mean for him, and how the Democrats' anger against Biden could affect a Biden versus Trump presidential contest.

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Why Are Democrats Miffed With Biden In Michigan?

The rank-and-file Democratic Party voters are miffed withe US President Joe Biden's stand on the Israel's War on Gaza.

More than half of the Democratic voters disapprove of Biden's stand and such disapproval is higher among non-White demographics and younger Americans, according to polls. When coupled with the generational shift in the United States of younger Americans becoming more favourable of the Palestinians than the Israelis in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the situation does not look good for Biden who has stood by Israel so far.

Only 46 per cent of the Democrats —less than half— approve of Biden's stand on the Israel's War on Gaza, according to a poll published earlier this month by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The Black and Muslim communities in the United States have accused Israel of waging a genocide against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. They have accused Biden and the US government of being complicit in the Israel's acts in Gaza as the United States has been the principal backer of Israel and has provided financial and military aid through the war. As a result, Arab American communities have waged an #AbandonBiden campaign against him.

"This #AbandonBiden 2024 conference is set against the backdrop of the upcoming 2024 presidential election and the decision to withdraw support for President Biden due to his unwillingness to call for a ceasefire and protect innocents in Palestine and Israel," said the Minnesota Muslim Americans in a statement to Axios.

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The #AbandonBiden movement has since spread to Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida, according to Al Jazeera.

It is not just the Black- or Muslim-Americans that oppose Biden's stand on the issue, but there is a general disagreement among the younger demographics. The Pew Research Centre reports that the majority of younger Democrats don't support Israel against Hamas. At 46 per cent, only less than half of younger Democrats put 'a lot of blame' on Hamas for the ongoing war, according to Pew.

The ongoing war began on October 7 when Hamas and allied militant groups mounted an land, aerial, and naval invasion of Israel and carried out the biggest attack on the country. The attack was carried out under the cover of more than 5,000 rockets fired from Gaza. The fighting went on for days and, as per Israeli authorities, at least 1,200 were killed, around 6,900 were injured, and over 230 were abducted and taken to Gaza as hostages. There have also been accounts of widespread sexual abuse by Hamas militants against women during the October 7 attack.

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Following the October 7 attack, Israel declared a war on Gaza and began a bombing campaign, which was followed by a land invasion of Gaza. Israel has been accused of using excessive and disproportionate force in Gaza and disregarding civilian casualties. In the Israeli strikes and ground assaults, widespread casualties have been reported in the region. The Hamas-run Gazan authorities say over 29,000 have been killed and more than 70,000 have been injured, most of whom are civilian children and women. Israel has also been accused of targeting civilian and medical infrastructure of the region, which is reported to have resulted in the vast majority of the region's population being internally-displaced. A humanitarian crisis has enveloped the Gazans as food, water, and medical supplies run short.

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Can Michigan-Like Anger Harm Biden In Election?

While the anger against US President Joe Biden is a symbolic blow to his credentials, it is difficult to say if it would harm him in the re-election bid against former President Donald Trump or if such electoral harm is even the intentions of those protesting his stand on Gaza.

Such a stand from the Muslim-Americans does not mean a support for former President Donald Trump, or an expectation that Trump would be closer to their position on the Israel's War on Gaza, but the stand is seen as the best medium of influencing the US government's policy in the matter, noted Al Jazeera.

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Even in Michigan, while one in eight Democrats voted 'uncommitted', Biden won comfortably. He secured 81.1 per cent votes against 13.3 per cent 'uncommitted' votes and 3 per cent of Marianne Williamson, 2.7 per cent of Dean Phillips, according to AP.

Writing in The New York Times, Nate Cohn noted that it is difficult to understand primary results like those of Michigan. While he noted that Biden would have won the last Michigan presidential election even if the communities that voted against him in the primaries would have voted against him 100 per cent, he also noted that the disgruntlement is representative of much wider anger against him.

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"Imagine, for a moment, that in the last election Mr. Biden had lost every single voter in Dearborn, Hamtramck and Dearborn Heights — the three Michigan townships where Arab Americans make up at least 30 percent of the population. He still would have won Michigan — and still would have won it by more than he did Wisconsin, Arizona or Georgia," noted Cohn.

Cohn, however, also noted, "The typical Democratic primary voter is disproportionately old, white and loyal to Democrats. Mr. Biden might be faring even worse among the kinds of Democratic-leaning voters who stayed home."

Echoing similar views, Shane Goldmacher and Reid J. Epstein in a separate piece for The Times noted while no state has Muslim-American population like Michigan, several states have large younger demographics that can pose a challenge to Biden.

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"While no other battleground states have Arab American communities the size of Michigan’s, they all have college towns where young, progressive voters are angry about American support for Israel. It is in those places — Madison, Wis.; Athens, Ga.; Chapel Hill and Durham, N.C.; Tucson, Ariz.; and State College, Pa., among others — where Mr. Biden faces a general-election threat if he does not attract overwhelming support and turnout among students in November," noted Goldmacher and Epstein.

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