How Michigan’s Muslims can stop Trump

Saeed Khan

There are only around 100,000 Muslims in Michigan, but given how close this election could still be — and the huge focus on American Muslims in the campaign — their vote could be crucial.

The race to the White House has left many American Muslims with intense, sometimes conflicting feelings. This year’s vote differs from the past two election cycles as there does not appear to be a consensus “champion” for the American Muslim community. In 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama succeeded in mobilizing mass support amongst many sections of the population, including American Muslims.

With half the American Muslim population under 35, a large proportion of the community is too young to have voted in a pre-Obama election. Their voting behavior in the current climate will be difficult to predict.

While many American Muslims have a severe aversion to Republican Donald Trump, they are also uneasy about certain aspects of Democrat Hillary Clinton’s history, especially her involvement in Iraq and Libya. A perception held by many Muslims is that Clinton lacks a balanced approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

At the same time, Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state saw the appointment of the first-ever special representative to Muslim communities, and placement of many American Muslims in high positions, including her chief adviser.

In unprecedented numbers, many voters, Muslim and non-Muslim, are adopting a “rejection strategy” this November: The choice is not between voting for candidates for their affirmative attributes, but rather who is the person least eligible and desired to be president.

While a vote for a third party may be framed as a noble vote of conscience, its consequences go far beyond the virtue of the individual casting the ballot.

In 2000, the Muslim vote was generally split, with the majority of African-American Muslims voting for Al Gore and immigrant Muslims going Republican. But many Muslim voters chose third-party candidate Ralph Nader — perhaps enough to swing the vote in Florida, a state George W. Bush won by 537 votes and, ultimately, the presidency.

It is likely that the Michigan Muslim vote may be split across different candidates again this year: the state’s Muslims hail from various Muslim-majority countries, whilst there is also a sizeable community of American born African-American Muslims.

A lack of political literacy among some Muslim voters means that they may be tempted to vote for a third party candidate, without realizing the electoral benefit this bestows on Trump. Many analysts suggest that Trump is relying on non-votes, as well as third party votes, to keep him in the race for the White House.

Although Clinton is hardly seen as a perfect candidate by America’s Muslims, many Muslim voters will inevitably support her (despite their reservations) as the only surefire way to stop Trump.

Saeed Khan, a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, is a lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern and Asian Studies at Wayne State University.