Why Michigan’s Muslim and Arab Voters Are Uncommitted to Biden | Crooked Media
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February 25, 2024
What A Day
Why Michigan’s Muslim and Arab Voters Are Uncommitted to Biden

In This Episode

  • Former President Donald Trump cleaned up in the South Carolina Republican primary last Saturday, winning 60 percent of the votes to Nikki Haley’s 40 percent, in spite of the fact that the battle played out in Haley’s home state. For her part, Haley says she’s still not dropping out.
  • The race now heads to Michigan which holds its Presidential primary on Tuesday. The results could demonstrate how much support President Biden maintains among a key demographic in the state: Muslim and Arab American voters. Many of these voters pledge to vote “uncommitted” as part of the Listen to Michigan campaign, a statewide effort aimed at pressuring the president to take action to prevent the death of thousands more people in Palestine.
  • And in headlines: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said 31,000 of his country’s soldiers have died since the start of Russia’s invasion, the former head of the NRA was found liable in a massive corruption lawsuit, and what happened at the Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit Awards.


Show Notes:



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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, February 26th. I’m Tre’vell Andersen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What a Day, where we’ve decided to never ask President Joe Biden’s advice on what makes a good marriage. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, a new book by Katie Rodgers quotes him as saying the secret is good sex, and while I am happy for him, that is not information that I needed. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This is an area where I don’t need your leadership. 


Tre’vell Anderson: At all okay?


Josie Duffy Rice: At all. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Keep it to yourself, beloved. [music break] On today’s show, the White House says a temporary ceasefire in the Middle East could be days away. Plus, the stars are aligning for Oppenheimer to win big at the Oscars because the movie won even more awards at two smaller ceremonies last weekend. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, Donald Trump won the South Carolina Republican primary on Saturday, defeating Nikki Haley in her own state. 


[clip of Donald Trump] There’s a spirit that I have never seen. We ran two great races, [cheers and applause] but there’s never been ever, there’s never been a spirit like this. And I just want to say that I have never seen the Republican Party so unified as it is right now. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s Trump speaking obviously, Trump was doing his usual blustering and lying during his speech, but what he just said is actually pretty true. The Republican Party is very unified behind this guy, despite everything. I’m hand gesturing right now. All of it. South Carolina was yet another very decisive victory that once again proves that the Republican Party is in this guy’s pocket. They really, really are. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I hate it here, Josie. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mmm mm hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But tell us, what do you mean by decisive? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Here’s some evidence that proves just how clearly he swept the race. Trump got 60% of the votes compared to Haley’s 40%. He’s going to receive 47 of the 50 delegates in the state. And the race was called basically, as soon as polls closed, the AP actually projected him as the winner based on a voter survey rather than poll data. That’s how confident they were that he had this in the bag. And again, can’t say this enough. This is Haley’s State. He also got the most votes of any candidate in a South Carolina Republican presidential primary ever. And the primary had the biggest turnout the state has ever seen. More than 750,000 people cast a vote on Saturday, which beat the record by like 10,000 votes. Also, according to The New York Times, Trump won about 73% of Republican votes, compared to Haley’s 26%. And that’s a bigger percentage of the Republican votes that he won than the votes overall, which means that many of her votes came from Democrats and Independents. And it’s hard to win a Republican primary if you’re not winning Republicans. Right? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: He’d also barely spent any time in South Carolina. He’s visited just four times during the primary season. So overall, this is very embarrassing for Nikki Haley. During his speech, Trump took the opportunity to humiliate South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, who was literally booed when he took the stage. And he also did his usual rambling, talking a lot about the border and whatever else. But what he did not do was talk about Nikki Haley. He didn’t even mention her in his victory speech. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, do you mention the other person when this is basically a race between you and yourself at this point? 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s like a bigger insult, honestly. Just not bringing her up at all. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Just ignoring her altogether. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So what exactly is she going to do now? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Well, for now, she’s staying in the race. Here she is during her speech on Saturday. 


[clip of Nikki Haley] I know 40% is not 50%, [laughter] but I also know 40% is not some tiny group. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Haley has refused calls to drop out, saying last week in a speech before the vote that, quote, “dropping out would be the easy route” and says that she will continue at least through Super Tuesday, which is next week on March 5th. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Sometimes you do take the easy route. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right, right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You don’t always have to go hard. You know what I mean? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you don’t have to do everything to make your life as difficult as possible. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Huh yi yi yi yi. 


Josie Duffy Rice: This race is in the bag. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Right? And now the race heads to Michigan, which holds its primary tomorrow on Tuesday. Even though, as we’ve said, it’s been a foregone conclusion, unfortunately, that this will be a Biden and Trump rematch for the presidency. And you know what, Josie? I do think we got to give it to Haley a bit for putting on a brave face and nevertheless persisting because these Republican voters keep playing in her face. And here she is standing on business like the kids say.


Josie Duffy Rice: Stand on less business, [laughter] persist a little less. I mean, I guess if you are making Trump’s life harder, I’m fine with it. But Lord have mercy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, well, anyway, the Haley campaign did announce that in less than 24 hours after her South Carolina loss, she raised one million dollars quote, “from grassroots supporters alone,” which they say, quote, “demonstrates Haley’s staying power and her appeal to broad swaths of the American public.” And you know what? Sure, we will allow them to spin this however they need to spin it for themselves. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: In the meantime, Michigan as a state is one we all should be keeping our eyes on, not just because it is a battleground to watch with Republicans currently polling higher than Biden, but also because in this primary happening tomorrow we’re gonna see how effective President Biden has been or not been at rallying the support of a key demographic in this state, Muslim and Arab American voters. They have vocally disapproved of the president’s stance on Gaza, and many have said they will not vote for him in tomorrow’s primary. Instead, they’re planning to vote, quote unquote, “uncommitted” as part of the Listen to Michigan campaign, a statewide effort aimed at pressuring the president to take action to prevent the death of thousands more in Palestine. And this could prove to be a huge problem for Biden, who only won Michigan by about 150,000 votes in 2020. According to data from the Muslim American voter mobilization group Emgage, there are more than 200,000 Muslim voters in the state. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we’ve talked about this campaign on the show before, and I understand that late last week, our co-host Juanita actually got to talk to a local activist about the uncommitted movement. Is that right?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. So she spoke to Abbas Alawieh. He is a Democratic strategist and spokesman for the Listen to Michigan campaign. Juanita started by asking him about what message he and his fellow organizers are trying to send by voting uncommitted. 


Abbas Alawieh: What we’re doing through this campaign is instead of embracing the level of disappointment and deep betrayal to keep people at home and not have them vote, we are mobilizing people to vote for something, to vote for a cease fire, to vote for peace, to vote against the war. 


Juanita Tolliver: And we know the margins in Michigan are tight. So what would you define as successful turnout for this uncommitted component of the ballot on February 27th? 


Abbas Alawieh: Our campaign strategy is twofold. One is to claim the uncommitted box, a box that doesn’t exist in every state that happens to exist here in Michigan. In 2008, pro-Obama people used the uncommitted box to register their support for Obama. We’re using it to register our opposition to war. We’re going to count on Tuesday every single vote that is for uncommitted as a vote for justice, for peace, and for building the power of regular, everyday people who don’t want our politics dragged to a genocidal place ever again by the pro war profiteers. 


Juanita Tolliver: And we know that earlier this month, Biden administration officials visited Dearborn, Michigan, to meet with Muslim and Arab leaders of the community. What was it like speaking directly with members of the administration, and did you find that conversation to be productive at all? 


Abbas Alawieh: That experience was very interesting. I was a congressional staffer for the last five years since President Biden was elected, indeed before he made it into the White House. I have been working very closely with this White House to champion Democratic policies and wins, like the American Rescue Plan, like the Inflation Reduction Act. 


Juanita Tolliver: So you’d been on the other side of these types of conversations before?


Abbas Alawieh: Exactly. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Abbas Alawieh: Exactly. And I urged them. I’ve worked with your teams. You must understand me, at least as a colleague. And if you don’t see me as a colleague anymore, at least you must understand that I am a human. I’m telling you that me and so many people here in the Arab American, Muslim American community are experiencing a level of pain that we cannot even begin to describe to you. We’re not sleeping at night because of the nightmares we are experiencing. And if you see my humanity, I want you to look me in the eye and tell me, have you advised our president to call for an immediate permanent ceasefire privately? Have you advised him to do that? It felt like from their answers that either they haven’t done it or they’re still working up the courage to do it. And my hope is that maybe on their way back to D.C., maybe as they’re sitting in D.C. right now, that they’re still thinking about that conversation, that maybe the people around President Biden ought to be encouraging him to take a different policy approach than the one that he’s taken, because the one that he’s taken, unfortunately, has taken the lives of more than 30,000 people who should still be alive. If there is a group of people in our country who most wants Donald Trump to stay as far away from the White House as humanly possible, count me in that group. I know based on what I’m seeing here on the ground in Michigan, but based on what we’re seeing in poll after poll, that by failing to act on a ceasefire, Biden is losing more and more people here in Michigan. So it would be wise for him so that we don’t lose our democracy to Donald Trump to change his policy on Gaza so that he can engage productively in this mass antiwar movement that we are seeing in our country that is gaining power, including hopefully on February 27th, when people vote uncommitted. 


Juanita Tolliver: Now, shortly after the Michigan primary, we know President Biden will be delivering his state of the Union address. How are you hoping he talks about the crisis in Gaza during that address? 


Abbas Alawieh: I think we’ve already seen President Biden’s language change a bit, and this is something that those of us who were in the meeting with the Biden officials probably anticipated. You know, Biden officials came and admitted to missteps, admitted that President Biden has not been messaging in a way that is consistent with his values and and with the understanding that Palestinians are humans worthy of life too. It’s also way past time for us to be patting the president on the back for minor language shifts, you know, so in the State of the Union, I do anticipate that he will talk about Palestinian lives in a way that recognizes that every life is precious. 


Juanita Tolliver: And earlier you mentioned that you want President Biden to respond to the crisis in Gaza by having a policy pathway that fully differentiates him from Netanyahu, that it sounds like cease fire now is the mission. But if Biden doesn’t do that by November, how will you vote? 


Abbas Alawieh: A lot of folks have been asking this, and my response has been the same since we’ve been organizing for a cease fire in October. Those early whispers of, hey, why don’t you shut up and don’t say anything mean about the president. Part of what we’re saying is it’s deeply painful to come to a community that is experiencing an unimaginable level of trauma and say, but what about November? But what about November? What about you join us in pressuring the president to call for an immediate cease fire that saves lives and, quite frankly, saves votes here in Michigan? And then we can turn our sights to November. As far as how I will vote, you can have my commitment from now until the day that I die. At that, I will never vote for Donald Trump. Donald Trump will never get any kind of good energy out of me, because him and his white supremacist buddies tried to destroy our country, and they’ll try to do it again. But what I want and the person who has the power right now is Joe Biden. He needs to do the right thing so that we can save lives and so that we can save our democracy. 


Juanita Tolliver: And what do you make of the report that was featured in The Washington Post that projected that another 85,000 Palestinians stand to die in Gaza? 


Abbas Alawieh: When I was a child in in Lebanon, stuck in that war, U.S. funded Israeli bombs were dropping all around. When cell phone service was cut off and we were cut off from water and weren’t sure whether our food supply was going to sustain us, we got to a point where we the people, the American citizens who were together in that basement where we were hiding, we just accepted that we would eventually be among the dead. And so I know that feeling, the level of pain that every single one of those children is experiencing, is entirely preventable and completely unacceptable and is being inflicted by our tax dollars. We have the power to do something about it. The people around President Biden have the power to do something about it. It’s precisely because of all of those things, and because I believe that our institutions can be used for good, that I’m involved in this campaign with a whole bunch of my friends, anti-war people, who are demanding that the Democratic Party break itself away from the pro-war stance that President Biden is representing publicly day by day. We ought to do better as a country. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was Juanita’s conversation with Abbas Alawieh, a Democratic strategist and spokesperson for the Listen to Michigan campaign. Tomorrow, we will hear from some more voters in Michigan about what other issues are top of mind as they head to the polls for the state’s primary. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Last Saturday marked two years since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, and yesterday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said for the first time how many of his country’s soldiers died since then, 31,000. [clip of Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaking] That’s him speaking at a press conference in Kyiv, Zelensky said he wanted to give a statistic to counter Russia’s narrative that Ukrainian deaths were much higher. However, his number hasn’t been verified and estimates by U.S. officials are much higher as well, at roughly 70,000 military deaths as of last summer. Zelensky also said that he would not reveal how many of his soldiers were wounded or missing, so that Russia could not estimate troop sizes. Meanwhile, at the same conference, his chief of staff said that they might invite Russian officials to a summer peace summit organized by Switzerland. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Turning to the war in Gaza, negotiators are getting closer to a temporary ceasefire deal in exchange for more hostages held by Hamas. Here is White House security adviser Jake Sullivan announcing the update to CNN yesterday. 


[clip of Jake Sullivan] Representatives of Israel, the United States, Egypt, and Qatar met in Paris and came to an understanding among the four of them about what the basic contours of a hostage deal for a temporary ceasefire would look like. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Israel reportedly agreed to a basic framework of a six week truce and the release of several hundred Palestinian prisoners. In exchange, it wants Hamas to return 40 of the over 100 Israelis they’re still holding hostage. Sullivan added that an agreement could be days away. But first, representatives from Qatar and Egypt will take the deal to Hamas. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The former head of the National Rifle Association got a tiny taste of all the karma he has coming to him last Friday, when a New York jury found him liable in a corruption lawsuit. Jurors determined that ex-NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre illegally spent $5.4 million of the organization’s funds on fancy vacations, shopping sprees in Beverly Hills and hair and makeup sessions for his wife costing $10,000 each. Other leaders of the NRA were also implicated, and the organization itself was found to have ignored whistleblower complaints and sent false filings to the state of New York. New York’s Attorney general, Letitia James, brought the case, and after the verdict, she said in a statement, quote, “After years of rampant corruption and self-dealing, Wayne Lapierre and the NRA are finally being held accountable.” Letitia James is over there racking up. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: These cases. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Also, I need to Google this man’s wife because $10,000 on hair and makeup?


Tre’vell Anderson: My god, today. 


Josie Duffy Rice: What on earth? [laughter] You knew that working from home means you can sneak naps, but did you also know you can sneak insider information? A man in Texas named Tyler Loudon pleaded guilty late last week in federal court to pulling this move. He admitted that he made $1.7 million in illegal profits through stock trades he initiated after overhearing his wife’s remote work. And without her knowledge, mm do not recommend. Loudon’s wife worked at the energy company BP. In 2022, he built up a huge position in a smaller company that BP was preparing to buy, then sold it right after the acquisition. As part of Loudon’s plea agreement he must forfeit his profits and he also faces up to five years in prison. His wife also initiated divorce proceedings last year and she was fired from her job. So, you know, this all could have been avoided with just one pair of headphones. One pair. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Or he could have just minded his business. Okay?


Josie Duffy Rice: Don’t eavesdrop. Just don’t eavesdrop. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] And lastly, it was a big weekend for small award shows. The Screen Actors Guild Awards were held on Saturday and the Independent Spirit Awards were held yesterday. There were too many winners to name but a few big ones. Oppenheimer’s cast cleaned up at the SAG Awards, winning best lead for Killian Murphy, Best Supporting actor for Robert Downey Junior and Best Ensemble. All that just adds to Oppenheimer’s Oscar momentum. And at the Independent Spirit Awards, Past Lives got Best Feature and Celine Song scored Best Director for her work on the movie. And at both awards shows, Da’vine Joy Randolph won in her acting category for her performance in The Holdovers. Meaning a Best Supporting Actress trophy at the Oscars is a pretty much safe bet for her at this point and juncture, which I hate for Danielle Brooks, but there will be another time, beloved. 


Josie Duffy Rice: There will be another time. I hear The Holdovers is amazing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: It’s so good. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t watch movies that make me cry, but I hear it’s good.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah and this is a, a boo hoo hoo kind of cry type of movie.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m going to take everybody’s word for it. I bet it’s amazing. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Wear headphones when your spouse does deals on zoom and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just Wayne LaPierre’s expense reports like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter, so check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/Subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And no more secrets, Mr. President. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Actually more more secrets. 


Josie Duffy Rice: More secrets. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mr. Pre– [laugh]


Josie Duffy Rice: No more telling us secrets. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Keep it to yourself, honey. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Keep it to yourself. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But also shout out to y’all. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hmm.


Tre’vell Anderson: 80 years old? I mean, come on. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Don’t strain your heart too much, over there. [laughter] [music break] 


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz.. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers with production support from Jon Millstein. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.