Election 2024-Wisconsin
“Our intention is to create a Midwest that is explicitly pro-Palestinian.” Morry Gash/AP

‘Uncommitted’ Tries to Leverage the Midwest ‘Blue Wall’ Against Biden

The movement that started in Michigan is now targeting Wisconsin, hoping to shift Democratic policy around Israel.

Organizers behind the pro-Palestinian protest vote movement in the Democratic presidential primary are expanding their efforts into a larger campaign aimed at organizing a bloc of voters that, they say, will be crucial for President Joe Biden and his allies this fall.

Leaders of the Michigan-based group Listen to Michigan, now renamed the Uncommitted National Movement, said Monday their last big target for protest votes will come during next month’s presidential primary in Wisconsin when Democratic primary voters have the option to check “uninstructed delegation” in the presidential candidate preference section.

“Our intention is to create a Midwest that is explicitly pro-Palestinian,” Abbas Alawieh, political strategist for the organized uncommitted movement, said on a press call. “We’re looking to Wisconsin because Wisconsin is another key swing state here in the Midwest that President Biden needs to win if he is going to prevent Donald Trump from retaking the presidency.”

As in the case of states with “uncommitted” or similar lines on ballots, if 15% of Wisconsin Democratic primary voters statewide or in a given congressional district select “uninstructed” on their ballot, delegates will be designated by the state party to represent those votes at the Democrats’ national convention in August. In Michigan, enough voters in two congressional districts voted “uncommitted” to earn two delegates from that state. In Minnesota, 11 delegates are uncommitted. The pro-Palestinian activists behind the organized uncommitted campaign now have to master those states’ complex party-run delegate-selection process.

The uncommitted efforts after Michigan developed quickly, in some cases after early voting was underway. On Tuesday, “Listen to Wisconsin” will formally launch, with weeks to go until the April 2 presidential primary and the same day that early voting begins. And it’s all happening after Biden sewed up enough delegates to win renomination, creating a potentially sleepy vibe among Democratic voters that uncommitted organizers can take advantage of.

“Our community members are already jumping into efforts to use the upcoming presidential primary to make our voices heard,” said Heba Mohammad, spokesperson for the Wisconsin effort. Mohammad is a former Democratic Party organizer and member of Biden’s 2020 Wisconsin campaign staff, which helped to take the state back for Democrats after former President Trump famously pierced the Democrats’ Midwest “blue wall” with a win in 2016.

“The President believes making your voice heard and participating in our democracy is fundamental to who we are as Americans,” said Biden campaign spokesperson Lauren Hitt. “He shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He’s working tirelessly to that end.”

Establishment Democrats in Wisconsin either did not immediately respond to or declined requests for comment.

The goal for Mohammad and other organizers now is to use Democrats’ fear of losing those blue wall states again this fall to force shifts in policy toward the state of Israel. On the call, organizers took some credit for recent shifts in rhetoric from Biden and his allies, but they said it will not be enough to quiet their protest.

“We cannot bypass this opportunity to clearly urgently demand a permanent cease-fire now,” Mohammad said.

Evan McMorris-Santoro is a reporter at NOTUS. Nuha Dolby is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.