To whom should I vote?
By Khalid Saeed
Democratic presidential candidates are wooing Muslim voters.
Democratic presidential hopeful, Dennis Kucinich, visited a mosque in Tampa, Florida on Dec. 30, 2003 and told the congregation that he thought American Muslims were unfairly targeted by the U.S. government. "The defining issue for Muslims is the restriction of civil liberties," Kucinich said while visiting the Mosque in Tampa. Kucinich was echoing the concern of American Muslim community which has made the civil rights as the main issue for supporting a presidential candidate in the November elections.
A week earlier, during the two day convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Long Beach CA the Democratic presidential hopefuls, Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich, and John Kerry all made special efforts to speak to American Muslims, by special phone connection, during plenary sessions from their campaign travels in the mid-west.
During their phone calls the Democratic candidates shared their perspectives on a range of American Muslim issues including the injustices of the Patriot Act, the Administration’s unilateral decision-making regarding Iraq, the misguided immigration registration program, and their plans to advance a peaceful solution to the war in Iraq and the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
Similarly, in October last, two senior representatives of the Republican Party and eight out of the nine Democratic candidates seeking to win their party's presidential nomination were present at the conference organized by the Arab-American Institute (AAI), in Chicago.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council at its convention conducted a straw poll that showed that over 67 percent of the delegates favored the Democratic presidential candidate Dean, 17 percent Kucinich, 8 percent Clark, 4 percent Kerry and 2 percent voted for Bush 2. Over 82 percent of the 800 convention delegates took part in the poll.
It may be recalled that the Muslim and Arab vote played a crucial role in the 2000 election when Bush captured a majority of the Muslim vote after he joined the Republican Party activists in reaching out to their leaders. And the American Muslims made history when they voted en bloc for a presidential candidate (Bush). But since 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Muslims find themselves a target of discriminatory laws as their civil rights have been abridged. Hence the Muslim community’s displeasure with the Bush administration is a natural phenomenon.
However, I wonder if 9/11 had not happened. Bush might have fulfilled his election pledge to address the Muslim grievances, such as abolition of the Secret Evidence Act. In such a situation the Muslim community would have again voted for Bush. Actually, the day the terrorist attacks happened the Muslim community leaders were in Washington DC for an afternoon meeting with President Bush to discuss Muslim community’s grievances. The meeting never happened because of the attacks.
Another scenario is that how a Democratic administration would have reacted to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. May be, not in a different way than the Bush administration. How the Muslim community would have reacted in such a situation in the presidential election?
Having said that, what I see is that a consensus is now developing in the Muslim community to support a Democratic candidate for president while Democratic Party candidates may not be the only choice for the community in the congressional races. All politics is local, said late House Speaker Tip O' Neil of Massachusetts.
January 5, 2004
(Mr. Khalid Saeed is President of the American Muslim Alliance, Woodland CA Chapter and the Director for Northern California of the American Muslim Voice.)