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Arab American Democrats

By Adil James and Masood Rab, MMNS

Dearborn–April 12–Ishmael Ahmed and the Arab American Democrats flexed their waxing political muscle this Saturday with the Obama and Clinton campaigns and with the Michigan Democratic National Committee.

At a spring retreat on Saturday, April 12 from 1 pm to 4 pm, at UM Dearborn, the “Arab American Democrats” held an organizing forum to break into committees and discuss means of maximizing the impact of the Arab American community in the upcoming elections. A part of this process was to interface with other related and sometimes overlapping groups like Muslims and Chaldeans, and IndoPak groups.

The goal of this meeting was to kick off 2008 election activities and organize in order to be effective in “what is shaping up to be one of the most critical elections of our generation” as the event flyer read.

Members of AMPEC joined the retreat to exchange ideas and to build bridges with other groups for a similar AMPEC forum planned for May 2, 2008.

Ishmael Ahmed, Director of Social Services, State of Michigan, and chair of the caucus opened the meeting and outlined the objectives of the caucus. “Ish,” as he is affectionately called by those prominent active members of the Arab community like Taleb Salhab and others, briefly noted the gains Arab Americans have made in the last two decades and pointed to the future – saying there is a long way to go. The caucus has no constitution and no elections. This format has worked well for the past twenty five years and has helped promote Arab Americans in the Democratic Party. The key to becoming effective in part politics, as Ishmael put it, is to run and become delegates for local, state and national conventions. The first step, he argued, is to run for a precinct delegate position and then move up to district and central committees.

Attendees were asked to volunteer for one of several committees, including campaign, membership, voter registration and outreach, Then, the committees broke out into discussion sessions to come up with a list of activities and plans of action to prepare for election. Each committee presented a report of its discussions to the group.

After the committee deliberations, Mark Brewer, Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, addressed the group and emphasized the importance of Democrats reuniting after the painful primary process, regardless of who wins. He emphasized the damage to the country caused by the current Republican Administration and continuation of the same if John McCain is not defeated in the 2008 Election.

He also listed some key local Michigan races that he hoped the Arab American Democrats could influence in a positive direction from US senate, congress and state senate and legislature races that are of keen interest to Democratic Party.

Representatives of the Obama and Clinton campaigns – Bert Johnson and Pam Byrnes, respectively, spoke about their candidates and their positions and took questions from the floor.

The representative of the Clinton campaign bravely faced determined resistance from the mostly pro-Obama crowd, and “Ish” graciously thanked her for coming and reminded everyone that neither representative was responsible for all of the the policy and campaign practices of the candidates they support.


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