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Sanders' Visit in Dearborn Appeals to Arab Americans

posted on: Feb 24, 2016

(Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)

Sanders’ visit to UAW local 600 on Monday paid homage to southeast Michigan’s auto workers and unions that comprised a considerable share of the candidate’s constituency.

His visit to Dearborn garnered a following from college students and local residents alike, with the region’s diverse South end the crux of the region’s Arab American and Latino community. Dearborn, a city situated in southeast Michigan with the highest percentage and concentration of Arab Americans (47 percent of the city’s entire population of 97,000 in 2013).

Due to its diversity and imminent status as a rust belt state, many consider Michigan to be a key swing state for the 2016 election. James Zogby of the Arab American Institute (AAI) emphasized the importance of the Arab American vote for both the local and national community. “If Democrats lose Michigan, they lose the election.”

Speaking to an audience situated in a city trademark to Arab Americans and autoworkers alike, Sanders’ presence garnered an immense following. “We had to wait an hour, an hour and a half just to get in,” a University of Michigan-Dearborn freshman told Arab America. “But it was worth it.” The line to the rally coiled out of the door and around surrounding buildings. It was closed off as soon as the building was slightly over capacity.

Inside, Sanders addressed issues local to global. He harped upon local concerns by addressing the political failures of the Flint Water Crisis as well as reinstating the importance of fair trade in an economy ridden with fair trade agreements that have contributed to the further destruction of the middle class. “We don’t need free trade,” said Sanders Monday night. “We need fair trade.”

Sanders’ most marginal defeat in Nevada, a state secured upon a Hilary landslide, is yet another testament to the closing of the once disparate gap between Sanders and Clinton. Many factors, from a growing disenchantment with establishment candidates to a growing political response from various college age and multi-ethnic demographics, have contributed to Sanders’ success.

Amongst Arab Americans in particular, Sanders has enjoyed a strong following from a demographic vying for more representation and less corporate control over politics. However, questions and concerns about Sanders’ domestic policies and attitudes towards Palestine continue to be a dealbreaker for many Arab Americans.

Although I have serious reservations about Bernie’s fidelity to the defense industry,” said Dr. Nabeel Abraham. “The national security state, his foreign policy outlook, I am now  supporting his campaign to take back our country from the corporate/billionaire class.”

The candidate’s opposition to mainstream establishment politics is otherwise a good sign for Arab Americans seeking a change in foreign policy. Sanders vows to take money out of politics and focus on domestic infrastructure will hopefully result in change, in a foreign policy characterized by support of occupation, and involvement in war.

Ultimately, if any Arab or Muslim American does have the inclination to vote in the American election, he or she cannot land anywhere except in Bernie’s camp,” wrote comedian Amr Zahr Tuesday. “While Sanders doesn’t explicitly say what we want him to on Palestine, when I look around during his rallies, I see a sea of faces that do.”


Julia Kassem

Arab America Contributing Writer