What Does the Clinton Nomination Mean for Arab Americans?
BY: Andrew Hansen/Contributing Writer
As of Monday, Hillary Rodham Clinton has clinched the Democratic nomination after a long battle for the nomination against Independent Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders. The news surfaced hours before the polls opened for the Democratic Primary Elections in New Jersey, South Dakota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Montana, and California. Clinton secured 2,383 delegates, well over the needed quota to receive the nomination. Since the closing of the polls of yesterday’s elections, Mrs. Clinton has received the votes of 2,740 delegates, while Sanders only received 1824 delegates.
Despite Clinton’s presumed victory over Sanders in securing the nomination, Sander’s campaign, alongside Arab Americans of New Jersey and California, may still have something else to say on the matter. According to public opinion in the Arab American community, Sanders was the desired candidate due to his stance on civil rights and promotion of equality.
The demographics and voting numbers in yesterday’s elections are as follows:
California, per capita has the most Arab Americans residing in that state with roughly 325,000 Arab Americans, the majority residing in inner city Los Angeles. In California, Clinton secured 56% of the vote, and Sanders 43.1% this past Tuesday. New Jersey, the seventh ranking state contains about 109,000 Arab Americans, and voted 63.3% in favor of Clinton, with only 36.7% voting for Sanders in the Democratic Primaries.
No matter the results of today’s elections, Sanders has vowed to continue his campaign into July at the Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia. According to Sanders, Clinton’s nomination violates the guidelines on which the Democratic nominee is chosen. After it was announced that Clinton will be the presumptive nominee, Sander’s campaign manager, Michael Briggs, said:
“It is unfortunate that the media, in a rush to judgment, are ignoring the Democratic National Committee’s clear statement that it is wrong to count the votes of superdelegates before they actually vote at the convention this summer… Secretary Clinton does not have and will not have the requisite number of pledged delegates to secure the nomination. She will be dependent on superdelegates who do not vote until July 25 and who can change their minds between now and then.”
It seems that despite the numerical evidence Sanders is facing, he is clinging to the idea that some delegates will change their mind between now and July 25, despite the warnings from voices within the Democratic Party.
According to sources within Sanders campaign, the majority of his staff members are quite confused on how to proceed. One side of the Sanders campaign feels that this fight is still winnable, and succumbing now to pressures within the party would be acting against the main ideas behind his campaign. On the other side of his staff, many feel that Sanders choice to continue his fight in July is wasting time, money, and resources, while further dividing the Democratic Party. Former Green Party nominee and Arab American leader, Ralph Nader, recently told The Hill that Sanders should stay in the race in order to force Clinton to lean in his direction on issues, as opposed to giving up and letting Clinton’s views dominate the party.
According to various news sources, party leaders, including top Democratic figures, such as President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are ready to support Clinton on a unified front, and are struggling to push Sanders out of the way without alienating his voters.
So what does this mean for Arab Americans? While Clinton may have possessed a narrow margin of support from Arab American voters in yesterday’s elections, many still have their doubts.
The event that originally made many Arab Americans hesitant to endorse Clinton dates back to her campaign for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2000. In the months leading up to the election, Clinton had done heavy campaigning within Arab American networks, such as the American Muslim Alliance (AMA) and American Muslim Council (AMC), two groups that fell under the umbrella of American Muslim Political Coordination Council Political Action Committee. After initially accepting up to $51,000 in donations from the two groups, Clinton publicly backtracked after succumbing to false ideas presented by anti-Muslim smear campaigns, and eventually returned the donations.
In the heat of her bid for the Senate seat, Clinton’s opponent Rick Lazio admonished Clinton for accepting “blood money” at the hands of groups that “advocated for terrorism against Israel”, according to The Electronic Intifada. After these defamations, Clinton returned the donations of the AMA and AMC, despite the incredibly false accusations that the two American based groups had even an inkling of connection with terrorist networks, and even denied attending events in their name.
After a picture surfaced of Clinton accepting a plaque at an AMA fundraising event from the previous summer, Clinton went on to deny that she had any knowledge that fundraising event was held by the AMA, and accused them of attempting to sabotage her campaign. While it appeared that Clinton’s actions were done in an attempt to appease any possible consternation of her pro-Israel funders, groups like the AMA and AMC were perplexed as to how greatly Clinton was misconstruing their political goals: an end to injustice against Arab Americans, nothing resembling any sort of political agenda against Israel.
Since then, this instance of confusion on behalf of Clinton’s political ambitions has left many Arab Americans feeling unsure if the Democratic candidate truly has their best interests at heart. Furthermore, some of her biggest campaign donors are wealthy Israelis who have spoken against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Palestinian human rights, and have vilified the Arab world and communities based on false stereotypes.
Since the 2000 elections, Clinton has regained her stance on Arab American support. Especially after Republican nominee Donald Trump has advocated for banning Muslims and Syrians from entering the country, Clinton has publically called for an end to the alienation of America’s Arab communities. However, her staunch opposition to the BDS movement, despite saying she is a human rights advocate, has some Arab American questioning her honesty.
In the Wisconsin Democratic Debate in February 2016, and later echoed by a speech delivered to Stanford University, Clinton stated, “One thing we know that does not work is offensive, inflammatory rhetoric that demonizes all Muslims. There are millions of peace-loving Muslims living, working, raising families, and paying taxes in this country… We need to understand that American Muslims are on the front line of our defense.”
Clinton went on to say in an ABC News Debate that it is important for Americans to play a part in “making sure that Muslim Americans don’t feel left out or marginalized at the very moment when we need their help. And we also need to make sure that the really discriminatory messages that Trump is sending around the world don’t fall on receptive ears”.
Now that Clinton has secured the Democratic Nomination, Arab Americans must hope that she stays true to her pledge to include all Arab American communities in her fight for social justice, and not solely use them for personal gain.