The Great Arab Voter Revolt

Forsaken by Bush, Michigan's Arab Americans Consider the Dems

While enjoying their new prominence, Arab Americans are quick to point out that election-day choices ultimately remain personal. "We're not monolithic," Judah reminds, stressing that support from the community does not begin or end with the Middle East. "We're much more sophisticated than that. We have children in schools. I have a small business. I'd like to save my backyard before I go liberating other countries."

And the community continues to show its complexity, defying Zogby's observation that there is a "coming together." Osama Siblani points out that AAPAC endorsed George W. Bush in 2000, and in that experience, there was an education.

"In our meeting, we went over the fact that the Shaheens are helping Kerry," he said. "We don't buy into that. We remember that we had people in the Bush administration too," he said, mentioning energy secretary and former Michigan senator Spencer Abraham, also an Arab American. "We don't care who the Arab on the team is. People care about issues."

And in that spirit, Siblani's PAC endorsed Congressman Dennis Kucinich last week, choosing the issues, apparently, over electability. General Wesley Clark also had a lot of support, as did Howard Dean. Kerry, according to Siblani, didn't receive any votes.

"Kucinich sits very well on our issues," Siblani said. At the heart of the endorsement, he believes, is a philosophical choice. "How can we ask people to stand with us if we desert them when they [do] stand with us?"

Sometime before November, the Bush administration should probably note that support for the president in the community, once as high as 83 percent, has dropped to 38 percent. While Michigan's Arab Americans may be divided on the Democrats, hostility to the administration over the excesses of the Patriot Act, the failure to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the muddled post-war crisis in Iraq mean they may just band together at general-election time.

While pollster John Zogby concedes that the Michigan race is still fluid, he says it is clear that a majority of Arab Americans are now "vocal and militantly against Bush," and will probably make that opinion heard in November. "I don't think that's going to change," he said.

Tim Attalla has spent years becoming an important Republican in Michigan, and sounded pained as he described his election choices in a phone interview.

"I have a long history of political activism in the party," he said. "The question I have is: Do the Republicans want Arab American votes?" Attalla said the Bush administration, which made a point of reaching out to the community in 2000, has virtually no contact with it now.

Attalla and several friends are starting a political action committee to support a candidate in the general election, and so far, they have received almost $100,000 in pledges. "I never thought I would say this," he said, "but it's an open question who my money will go to."

« Previous Page