'Michigan is absolutely critical.' What's next for the state's 'uncommitted' vote movement?

What's next for the uncommitted vote
Posted at 2:24 PM, May 28, 2024

(WXYZ) — Michigan's uncommitted campaign caught many off guard, including the White House, when just over 101,000 Democratic primary votes came in uncommitted.

Since then, the movement has expanded from being Arab and Muslim-American-centric to young people from all walks of life.

After the group's success in February, I decided to look at what's next for the movement and why they believe their voices matter.

Mikal Goodman, Lexis Zeidan and Joshua Feinstein are some of the key members of the uncommitted movement.

"A major data point that came out of the Michigan uncommitted campaign is, we actually turned 42% unlikely and non-likely voters to the polls, which is unheard of," Zeidan said.

"Was that a pleasant surprise to you guys?" I asked.

"The results were inspiring, but the results were also not surprising, because of how people have been expressing how they've felt for so long," Zeidan added.

"We could tell going to those final days that we were on to something special. That a movement had begun," Feinstein said.

Watch: Community groups react to success of 'Uncommitted' vote in February primary

Community groups react to success of 'Uncommitted' vote

While President Joe Biden won the state with more than 618,000 votes, Oakland University Political Science Professor Dave Dulio says the Biden camp is worried because, in 2020, the president won Michigan by only 154,000 votes.

"I think it was successful without a doubt," Dulio said.

"Was it a rude awakening for President Biden?" I asked.

"Yeah. Again, that is a traunch of votes that could end up determining the outcome in a state that is a close as Michigan," he said.

For comparison, when former President Barack Obama ran for re-election in 2012, he faced about 21,000 uncommitted voters in Michigan's primary.

But this election cycle, in a state with a heavy Arab and Muslim-American presence, along with liberals, their anger is directed more towards Biden's support of an Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has killed at least 36,096 Palestinians since October, according to Gaza's Health Ministry. 

"120-plus spontaneous university encampments being set up isn't just a blip or one group," Feinstein said.

VIDEO: Protesters set up encampment at Wayne State University, call for divestment of funds to Israel

Protesters set up encampment at Wayne State, call for divestment of funds to Israel

"It's not just crowds of Muslim Americans in these encampments. It's a lot of white, young, a lot of Black and brown people at the front of this movement," Goodman said.

Just like this group, Goodman is African American, Zeidan is Palestinian-Christian American, and Feinstein is Jewish American and a former Zionist.

VIDEO: "It's not just the group of people who are being affected who are fighting for it." Watch more of the interview below:

Extended interview with activists about uncommitted vote movement

"Is there a part of you guys that feels if your voices aren't heard now, they will never be heard?" I asked.

"One of my deeper fears is after there is nothing left to fix, will the world claim, 'Oh, we actually recognize we were in the wrong?'" Goodman said.

"Come November, what are you guys strategizing toward?" I asked.

"We are not thinking about November, we are thinking about August 6 and doing everything every day to lead up to that down ballot race," Feinstein said.

"How does that fit into the game plan?" I asked.

"We are making the statement at the top of the ticket. Now that we have people's attention, get them involved at the state rep level, U.S. Congress level and U.S. Senate level so we can have people represent…the people," he added.

"80% of Democrats calling for a ceasefire, and only 4% of Congress agree with their constituents. So as much as Biden is the leader calling the shot, Congress is still responsible in what's happening in Palestine," Zeidan said.

This year, new candidates on the ballot include Hill Harper and Nasser Beydoun, running for the U.S. Senate. Ahmed Ghanim is up for the U.S. Congress, while Rima Mohammed and Layla Taha are focusing on State House positions from Ann Arbor and Westland, respectively.

"The Uncommitted campaign, the Abandon Biden campaign, all these things, how much do they benefit Trump?" I asked.

"It's not like those folks are going to go and vote for Trump. But any vote that doesn't go to Biden is a benefit for Trump," Dulio said.

"Come November, how do you see this whole thing playing out?" I followed up.

"I think Michigan is going to come down to the wire. And I think Michigan is absolutely critical for Joe Biden's path to 270 electoral votes," he said.

A recent Harvard-Harris poll shows Democrats, overall, support Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict, but Dulio says for Biden, the balancing act is going to be tough.

"He may end up alienating both sides," Dulio said.

"When people come and say 'you guys are Americans, you guys should be focusing on issues here,' how do you answer that?" I asked Zeidan.

"Our foreign policy directly impacts our domestic policy. Our largest budget is, and when we want to up our military budget, the first thing we cut from is healthcare and education. And healthcare and education plague brown and Black communities across this country," she said.

Now as the Middle East conflict continues and with several months into the U.S. presidential election, Dulio says it's too early to say which direction the votes will go.