Muslims Should Strategize

By Masood Rab

The 2006 election results that are being called a tidal wave or an earthquake, a dramatic shift against the Republican Party and an overwhelming defeat of President Bush’s policies, by many political analysts, are actually very normal in US political history, as George Will, the conservative columnist and ABC News commentator, explained on election night on ABC News.

The changeover of the leadership of the congress or is on roughly a 14 year cycle–this time the shift took 12 years (in 1994 when the Democrats lost control of the congress during the “Republican Revolution”).

There are always many scenarios and causes for voter discontent, the central factor being a desire of the electorate to change the political scene–which actually does not mean a major switch in administration policy or in the course of governance; in a word, the same wine will be served in new glasses by different servers.

A study of the election results from many diverse interest groups reveals that each group is looking at the election outcome with its own colored prism and is offering its own flavor to the conclusions based on its perspective of the reasons. For African Americans the reason for massive voting is Katrina, for Latinos it is immigration, etc. Every group is jockeying to get the best mileage and the best advantage politically and position itself for a better strategy and influence in the future administration.

The African American Perspective: Kirk Clay, Director of the Electoral College Reform Project at Common Cause, on a recent Amy Goodman radio show, stated that the African American vote was huge. In terms of turnout, without the African American vote, the Democrats would instead have lost three of the Senate seats. In Virginia, African Americans were 16% of the vote, and 85% of the African Americans voted against the race-baiting Republican George Allen.

In Missouri, African Americans were 13% of the vote, and voted 91% for McCaskill. And then, the shocker of the evening–in Rhode Island, Democrat Whitehouse won with 53% of the total vote, receiving 85% of the African American vote (which was 5% of the total electorate there). The above numbers alone evidence that African American turnout not only was large, but also decisive.

Latino Perspective: Lydia Camarillo, Vice President of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, on the same radio show made the following remarks: “Basically what we’re seeing is that Latinos, like the rest of the country, were upset, dissatisfied.” In fact, nationally, they voted Democratic for the congressional districts, at 68.9% with California, and Florida at 64%, and Texas at 63%. More than a million Latinos voted this year. And if we look at it state by state, similar to what the African American community was able to do in the East and in the South, I can tell you that in places like Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, and, of course, Texas and some of the other key states where the Democrats gained their seats, Latinos were a significant electoral component.

Catholic Perspective: Tom Perriello, Senior Advisor and Co-Founder of the Catholic Alliance for the Common Good, reported quite a dramatic shift in the Catholic vote.

The Democrats did win the Catholic vote after a 12-year decline or a 25-year decline, depending on which way you look at it. And what is even more interesting is that in the key battleground states like Ohio, there was a 20-point swing in the Catholic vote in some key races.

Jewish Perspective: Was there a big shift of Jewish voters, from Republican to Democrat? It is interesting to note that Amy Goodman did not invite any Jewish representatives from either the Jewish Republican or Democrat Councils to provide the Jewish perspective on the election results, but asked this question off Tom Perriello, a Catholic. He replied that there was not a big shift. For the last two election cycles, in 2000 and 2004, there’s been a perception–a major investment among Republicans–in trying to break away a significant chunk of the Jewish vote. A substantial shift was not seen, he said, and has remained relatively steady nationwide.

Young Voters Perspective: Kathleen Barr, Media Coordinator for Young Voter Strategies, saw from the national exit polls that 60% of 18- to 29-year-olds cast their ballots in the congressional races for the Democratic candidate and 38% for the Republican candidate, which is a shift from 2004, when the Democrats had a ten-point advantage. Now they’ve got, according to the exit poll, about a 22-point advantage.

Muslim Perspective: Mahdi Bray of the MAS Freedom Foundation stresses that Muslim voter registration and mobilization has impacted the election in Virginia. In a press conference he said, “In Virginia, Muslims voted overwhelmingly for Democratic Party candidates, and this greatly contributed to Democratic Party challenger Jim Webb’s thin margin of victory over Republican incumbent Senator George Allen.  The result of this particular race gave the Democratic party an overall majority in the U.S. Senate.” Bray concluded by saying that “I think we delivered a clear message to all political parties than Muslim voters are now a serious force in American electoral politics, and that our community cannot be taken for granted.” He and all other Muslim spokespersons are taking immense pride in the victory of Keith Ellison in a diverse and non-Muslim district of Minnesota, with widespread support from many different groups.

Overall lessons: The single minority entity that has derived the maximum benefit and leverage from the US political system is the Jewish community, and this is the group that keeps the lowest profile and mostly operates behind the scenes. No Jewish spokesperson ever claimed in the US media that the Jewish vote has impacted the election results. The Haaretz Daily, an Israeli newspaper, wrote after the results of the 2006 elections were official, “The number that will not be debated is the number of Jews in Congress–13 in the Senate, 30 in the House.” This statement reflects the real impact of the Jewish Community on the US politics, especially in the light of Joe Lieberman’s win in Connecticut’s senatorial seat race. The 2006 Election is a momentous reminder of the clout that the Jewish Community has in the US political system. A Democrat, Joe Lieberman, lost in the Democratic primary to an anti-war activist Ned Lamont. On the day of the announcement of the primary results, Lieberman immediately switched gears, and he ran as an independent candidate for the Connecticut senate seat. He raised an astounding amount of $15 million for his election funds, compared to $4 Million by Ted Lamont of the Democratic Party, and a paltry $114 thousand by the Republican candidate. In the end, Lieberman received 50% of the vote, Lamont 40%, and the Republican candidate 10% of the votes. Thus, he is back in the Senate as an independent, maintaining the number of Jewish Senators at 13.

Rabbi David Saperstein, who teaches seminars in both First Amendment Church-State Law and in Jewish Law at Georgetown University Law School, wrote in The Haaretz Daily of November 9, 2006, “It should be remembered that Jewish interests and values are best represented in America when they are felt across the political spectrum. Good moral Jews are as likely to be Republicans as Democrats. It is Jewish Republicans who helped lead the efforts to prevent the Pat Robertsons and Pat Buchanans from taking over the Republican Party. It was Jewish Republicans who helped end the traditional strand of isolationism in the party (making it more pro-foreign aid than it had traditionally been). It was Jewish Republicans who brought Republican Members of Congress to Israel and moved the party to as strong a pro-Israel stance as the Democrats had been. Indeed, there have been no achievements which Jews have supported in the 20th century that happened because of purely partisan votes in Congress. Achievements for labor, civil rights, the anti-war movement, the environment, Israel, Soviet Jewry, abortion rights, fighting anti-Semitism–all the good things that happened did so because of bipartisan coalitions of decency on Capitol Hill and Jewish Republicans helped make this happen.

It is very obvious from the election of 2006 that no matter if it was a landslide, a tidal wave, or an earthquake, whether it was a response to an economy bankrupted by illegal wars–there is only one community, operating quietly and behind the scenes–which stands to gain the most!

The Muslim community has taken the least benefit and yet has negligible leverage in the US political system. This community has tried to keep a high profile of what it does and boasts the most–an example, the Florida Muslim vote as instrumental in the first Bush victory in the Elections 2000. It is scientifically not proved yet, but there are reasons to believe that Muslims brought on 9/11, as a result of such claims, on themselves. The Muslim community is now beating drums after the Elections 2006 about the first elected Muslim Congressmen, and yet it is still too early to predict the fallout from such exuberance. It would behoove the Muslim leadership to carefully evaluate if Muslims are a political minority or an ideological minority and then develop an agenda accordingly.


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