Politics / February 29, 2024

Michigan’s Democratic Voters Sent President Biden a Clear Message on Gaza

But will the president listen and change course? Or continue to risk his presidency—and our democracy—over blind loyalty to Bibi Netanyahu?

Waleed Shahid
A Democratic voter uncommitted to President Joe Biden rallies outside of a polling station in Dearborn, Mich., on February 27, 2024. (Kevin Dietsch / Getty)

President Biden faces a critical decision that could shape the future of American democracy—and his own legacy. In Michigan, over 100,000 Democrats expressed their profound discontent by stating that they are uncommitted to Biden’s reelection, signaling a clear message against continued US funding for Israel’s disastrous war in Gaza. 

The center of the Democratic Party has shifted, and Biden, a master of moving with the center, must now find his footing in a party teeming with anti-war Democrats. A recent poll found that half of voters who voted for President Biden in 2020 say that Israel has committed genocide in Gaza.

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What happened in Michigan yesterday is what has happened throughout American history. Arab and Muslim Americans are attempting to find a voice in our two-party system— in this case, by anchoring themselves in the Democratic Party and making policy demands, just like Black, Latino, Irish, Italian, Jewish Americans, and others before them. For over a century, the Democratic Party has been more open to these ethnic and minority communities.

President Biden’s been successful as a candidate and president by representing a broad coalition, but he’s not representing the 80 percent of Democrats who want a cease-fire, or the Muslims and Arabs and young people whose votes put him in office and are now out protesting his policies in the streets.

President Joe Biden has significantly broken from traditional Democratic Party wisdom, notably through his aggressive stance on climate change with substantial green infrastructure investments, his efforts to alleviate student debt, his withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, and the expansive welfare spending of the American Rescue Plan. These moves represent a clear break from the party’s previous Wall Street–friendly economic policies and hawkish foreign policies, showcasing Biden’s willingness to adopt bold strategies that challenge the conventional wisdom of the Democratic Party’s old guard.

Yet the party’s establishment, including Biden, is doubling down on a set of policies that have signally failed to address the absence of an Israeli government interested in peace and Palestinian statehood.

The future of American democracy is at stake; if we’re to defeat Donald Trump and the reactionary agenda he represents, we need Democrats and young people to turn out in record numbers.

I pray, for all our sakes, that the Biden administration corrects course—because our country cannot afford to pay the bill for disregarding Palestinian lives should it come due in November.

Biden’s funding of Israel’s war in Gaza has fractured the Democratic Party. His persistent failure to unite it around an anti-war agenda undermines all our efforts at safeguarding American democracy from the threat of Trump’s return.

The Democratic Party’s decision is clear: either continue on a path that disregards the emerging consensus for a more equitable and peaceful foreign policy or embrace the change demanded by the majority of its own voters.

Biden’s legacy could go from being the most consequential Democratic president since FDR and LBJ to becoming the man who handed American democracy back to Donald Trump—all because of blind loyalty to Bibi Netanyahu.

The responsibility now lies with the Biden administration to correct its course, acknowledging the critical message from Michigan and the broader Democratic base. Our country cannot afford the consequences of disregarding Palestinian lives—a cost that may well come due in November.

Gaza is doing to President Biden what Vietnam did to LBJ. This makes it all the more vital for Biden to unite the party he’s fractured over funding this war.

The future of American democracy hangs in the balance.

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Waleed Shahid

Waleed Shahid is a member of The Nation’s editorial board. A Democratic strategist and former spokesperson for Justice Democrats, he was a senior adviser to Michigan Uncommitted, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jamaal Bowman.

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