‘Uncommitted” protest vote over Gaza again raises questions for Biden

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — US President Joe Biden won almost all the Democratic nominating contests on “Super Tuesday” but a sizeable protest vote in Minnesota and six other states against his support for Israel again raised uncomfortable questions for his reelection campaign.

With almost 90% of the expected votes counted in Minnesota, 19% of Democrats marked their ballots “uncommitted” to show their opposition to Biden’s backing for Israel’s attacks against Hamas in Gaza.

The “uncommitted” vote was also on the Democratic ballot in six other Super Tuesday states—Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Support in those states ranged from 3.9% in Iowa to 12.7% in North Carolina, with more than 85% of the votes counted in each of those states, according to Edison Research.

The Israeli military action has created a humanitarian disaster and killed over 30,000 people, Palestinian authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza say. Israel is responding to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attacks that killed 1,200, according to an Israeli tally.

Students, suburban women and liberal Jewish activists were among those who joined Muslim Americans to vote uncommitted, Edison said.

More than 100,000 people, or 13% of all voters, staged a similar protest in Michigan’s Democratic primary last week.

Organizers in Minnesota had said they did not expect the protest to attract the same level of support as it did in Michigan, home to a large Arab American population. Instead, its share of the vote was even higher.

“That is a powerful way to send the administration a message,” said Christian Peterson, 22, a law student at the University of Minnesota. “Biden needs to stop sending military aid to Israel.”

After voting for Biden in the 2020 general election, the registered independent said he voted uncommitted in Minnesota’s primary.

Minnesota’s main cities house a sizeable Somali American population and liberal Democratic Congress member Ilhan Omar, a fierce critic of Biden’s Israel policy, represents a district in the state.

The anti-Biden effort had backers from a wide range of Democrats in and around Minneapolis and St. Paul, known as the Twin Cities, Reuters interviews showed.

Walter Fromm, 26, a Minneapolis activist and self-described anti-Zionist Jew, said his grassroots group “Take Action Minnesota” has been supporting the uncommitted campaign.

“I’ve reached out to my entire Jewish community here in the Twin Cities,” as well as friends across the United States, he said. Fromm predicted the uncommitted movement, which is organizing in Georgia and Pennsylvania, among other key battleground states in the presidential election, will “continue to grow … state by state and continue to win delegates.”

None of the voters Reuters interviewed said they planned to support Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee.

While the general election pits party against party, the primary is a space for Democrats to “hold our own side accountable, to really make them listen to what the people want,” said Charlie Bartlett, 27, a development associate at a literary arts nonprofit, who said she was voting uncommitted in Richfield, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.

Some said they believed Vice President Kamala Harris’s call for a temporary ceasefire on Sunday showed the administration, and particularly the vice president, were listening to uncommitted protests.

“I don’t think the vice president would have made such a sweeping statement if Super Tuesday wasn’t happening and we have been seeing the same thing with President Biden,” said Asma Nizami, an organizer of Vote Uncommitted in Minnesota.

“Because it’s going national and because there are other states that are part of this,” the administration can’t sweep it aside, she said.

On Sunday Harris said Israel needed to do more to allow aid into Gaza, where she said people were suffering from inhumane conditions and a “humanitarian catastrophe,” going further in her remarks critiquing the Middle Eastern country’s government than Biden has.

A Biden campaign official who did not want to be identified by name said Biden has heard the voters participating in the “uncommitted” campaigns.

“He shares their goal for a just, lasting peace—and he’s working tirelessly to that end,” she said, pointing to Harris’ comments and recent US airdrops of food in Gaza. — Reuters

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