Opinion: Cluelessness of the Democratic Party Establishment
|Published: 02-12-2024 6:00 AM
Jonathan P. Baird lives in Wilmot.
With fascism very likely on the ballot in November (and I am talking about you, Donald Trump) the question emerges: how do Democrats maximize their voter turnout to guarantee electoral victory?
I would suggest that the Biden campaign has so far been doing a terrible job at ensuring that high turnout. Instead of supporting its base of minority voters, young voters, working people and progressives, Democratic leaders are shooting themselves in the foot. It has much to do with Israel/Gaza and Biden’s disastrous embrace of Bibi Netanyahu.
Much of the Democratic base is anti-war and wants the Biden administration to demand a ceasefire. Israel has gone too far and grossly overreacted to Hamas’s horrifying attack on Oct. 7. Voters of all stripes are fearful that Israel’s war on Gaza will ignite a wider Middle East conflict.
The war has provoked a fissure among Democratic voters. According to an AP poll, 70% of Democrats under 45 disapprove of Biden’s response to the war and 60% of non-white Democrats disapprove. This is in contrast to 60% of older Democrats and roughly 50% of white Democrats who approve.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 28 that more than 1,000 Black pastors representing hundreds of thousands of congregants are pressuring the Biden administration to push for a ceasefire. The article quoted Rev. Timothy McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Rev. McDonald said, “Black faith leaders are extremely disappointed in the Biden administration on this issue. We are afraid and we’ve talked about it - it’s going to be very hard to persuade our people to go back to the polls and vote for Biden.”
In Michigan, a swing state, Muslim and Arab American leaders canceled a meeting with President Biden’s campaign outreach team because of Biden’s failure to call for a ceasefire. That bloc of Muslim and Arab American voters is significant in a state that Biden won in 2020 but Trump won in 2016.
Biden seems to be assuming young people will vote for him but multiple polls show disillusionment. Many young people may simply sit out the election without casting a ballot. The Guardian quotes a young woman activist, Elise Joshi, executive director of an organization, Gen-Z for Change, who was a Biden voter in 2020: “My generation is appalled. There’s a lot of people who are not willing to put their votes towards this administration as a result of their actions in Gaza.”
Instead of responding to what is a mass outcry, Democratic leadership has been largely mute. Nancy Pelosi had a particularly offensive response to the ceasefire demand. In a CNN interview, she suggested that some protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza could be linked to Russia and she urged the FBI to investigate. That response may be the height of cluelessness.
I write as a progressive Jewish American who has supported a two-state solution. I too was disgusted and horrified by what Hamas did on Oct. 7 but Israel’s response has not been proportionate to the original Hamas crimes. It was been a massive overreaction. To date, more than 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza by the Israeli offensive with more than 66,000 wounded. Of the dead, more than 11,500 are children.
Since Oct. 9, Israel has blockaded access in Gaza to water, food, fuel, medicine and medical supplies. Israel has only allowed in very limited quantities of food, water and medical supplies. More than 80% of the Gaza population has been internally displaced. This amounts to the collective punishment of the entire civilian population.
There is a reason the International Court of Justice in The Hague found that Israel has engaged in acts that could plausibly constitute violations of the Genocide Convention. Israel has failed to protect the civilian population in Gaza.
The present government in Israel led by Bibi Netanyahu is far and away the worst Israeli government in the history of the Jewish state. It is an alliance of the most racist, inhumane and backwards elements in Israel like Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, both acolytes of the hateful ultra-nationalist Meir Kahane who espoused violence and the creation of a theocratic Jewish state. Netanyahu has now explicitly opposed a two-state solution.
Many progressive Jews join with Black clergy, Arab Americans and young people in demanding a ceasefire now. Witness the emergence of Jewish Voice for Peace, IfNotNow, and publications like Jewish Currents.
While conventional wisdom may be that Americans don’t vote on foreign policy, that isn’t accurate. The Vietnam War comes to mind. That war drove a Democratic president out of running for re-election. The war in Gaza has touched a moral nerve and the Biden administration has failed to navigate a balanced approach that considers the legitimate interests of the Palestinians in Gaza.
It appears that Democrats will run primarily against Trump and for democracy. They will also emphasize abortion rights. Both are important. It may be enough to win because they are running against an adjudicated sexual abuser facing 91 felony counts. But still, the margin between the parties is too close for comfort. Past presidential elections show the consistent tightness in swing states.
There is still quite a bit of time until November. By reversing course and forcing Israel into a permanent ceasefire (which I believe he could do), Biden could regain some lost ground and strengthen his hand for November. To win, he needs a great base turnout. If he continues to take his base for granted, Biden will be playing with fire.