Since Israel began its latest assault on Gaza over two months ago, it has enjoyed abundant political support from the United States. Against this, the call for a ceasefire rang out immediately – from hundreds of thousands marching in the streets, from Muslim and Arab American communities, from high school and college students, and eventually from a thin layer of elected officials. Perennially tone-deaf, the Biden administration has sluggishly tried to adjust its messaging, but its underlying policy backing Israel’s actions has clearly not changed.
Because of this, many Muslim and Arab Americans have reached a breaking point with Biden. Literally. Earlier this month, Muslim American community leaders from eight swing states assembled in Dearborn, Michigan to kick off the #AbandonBiden campaign. If the name of the campaign wasn’t clear enough, speakers at the conference certainly were: “There are over 25,000 Muslim voters in the state of Arizona. And I will work day and night to ensure that those voters abandon Biden this election,” said Hazim Nasaredden. Biden won Arizona by 10,457 votes in 2020.
Rhetorically, the #AbandonBiden campaign is pulling no punches. It is not just agitating in “safe states” like some pressure campaigns, but anchoring itself in the crucial swing states that will decide the election. It intends to defeat Biden in these states by mobilizing Muslim Americans to vote against Biden – for a candidate to be determined. After overwhelmingly supporting Biden in 2020, the campaign seeks to assert Muslim Americans as a voting bloc not to be taken for granted.
Proponents of #AbandonBiden have concluded that the only way to exert real pressure on the Democrats is by refusing to accept them as the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, this conclusion is seldom reached by other social movements, the labor movement, and forces on the left fighting for progressive change. As a result, the Democrats sweep their demands under the rug after making half an effort and still get their votes every November. The Squad, for instance, acts within the Democratic Party as a loyal opposition to its establishment wing. Only Rashida Tlaib is threatening to withhold support for Biden, but even she stops short of considering leaving the party.
#AbandonBiden supporters are opposed to Trump and the Republicans, but are fully aware that their campaign could lead to his election. If this is the necessary outcome of Biden’s loss, they accept that “short term pain” will be worth it to teach the Democrats a lesson.
However, it’s unlikely that the Democrats will change their underlying support for Israel, win or lose. Israel remains the most reliable representative for US interests in the Middle East, even with the liability it carries of potentially triggering regional conflict. The Democratic and Republican parties are both political organizations of the US capitalist class, whose needs are served by US foreign policy. This is why Israel has enjoyed bipartisan support in the US over the decades. Dissent exists on the left of the Democratic Party but does not impact the party’s position. Republicans recently voted down a senate bill for aid to Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan, but this was largely a maneuver to extract right-wing border policy changes. They even put forward their own “Israel-only” aid bill, financed through cuts to the IRS.
Instead, the #AbandonBiden campaign has the potential to lay the foundation for a political vehicle that poses a sustained, organized challenge to the Democratic Party beyond 2024.
Abandon Biden, For Whom?
Biden’s support has been crumbling, but not just because of the war in Gaza. He has steadily lost ground, especially among voters of color and young people who are unsatisfied with the supposed gains of “Bidenomics” and disappointed by his broken promises and inability to fight the right. #AbandonBiden should expand its focus – certainly not to diminish the importance of the war – but to strengthen the movement: it could draw links between Biden’s atrocious foreign policy with other social and economic issues, and develop the campaign into a robust, rounded-out political alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.
The most effective form for such an alternative would be a broad-based party for, by, and of the working class. The common thread between Biden’s policy in Gaza and economic suffering at home is the deeply rooted function of the Democratic Party as a political tool of the US capitalist class. There is no mass workers party challenging Biden, but independent candidate Cornel West represents the strongest left force calling for a ceasefire and a reallocation of military spending towards much-needed social programs.
We think the aims of #AbandonBiden would be best achieved by mobilizing voters for West in 2024, but we should have no illusions that a Biden loss will change the Democrats. Instead, this campaign presents an opportunity to build a pathway to a lasting political alternative.