As Gaza’s Death Toll Rises, Biden’s Poll Numbers Fall

Peace Advocate April 2024

Image: Becker1999 from Columbus, OH, via Wikimedia Commons

by Kathleen Malley-Morrison

The Peace Advocate is running a series of opinion pieces about the 2024 elections. We encourage our members and supporters to submit their analyses. We welcome different points of view. – The Editors

The cruel and devastating genocide–and ecocide–imposed on Gaza by the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu continue daily in violation of international humanitarian law and the judgment of the International Criminal Court. Adding to the horror is the complicity of the US military industrial complex. Profits for the weapons industries and their co-conspirators in Congress continue to multiply past the high levels already achieved by US investments in Ukraine and other US-backed wars.

The complicity of the US military industrial complex in the massacre of Palestinians is bringing, rightfully, considerable grief to the presidential campaign of the all-too-complicit Netanyahu- ally Joe Biden. Biden’s new label – “Genocide Joe” – has been applied even by Democrats expecting to vote for him, using the time-worn rationale that he is “the lesser of two evils.”

Fortunately, not everyone buys the argument that the only choice for president is an evil one. Waves of moral rage and frustrated compassion for the ever-growing numbers of genocide victims have flooded the Democratic Party nominee from many directions, at many levels, and from diverse members of the U.S. voting population. Horror at President Biden’s refusal to call for a permanent cease-fire reverberates around the world.

For example, major human rights and faith groups have been speaking out against Biden’s “unconditional support” and material aid (sent by the millions without Congressional approval) for Israel. As early as October 18, 2023, lawyers from the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) presented an emergency briefing paper to the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland; the CCR asserted that “through its ongoing unconditional military, diplomatic, and political support to Israel, the United States is not only failing to prevent genocide, but is complicit.” This view was echoed and expanded in December 2023, when an impressive number of humanitarian, human rights, and other organizations (including Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam America, and Save the Children) wrote to Biden’s Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, urging him to take steps to “prevent further U.S. complicity in staggering civilian death and destruction.”

Since October 2023, interfaith groups have also been protesting against arms sales to Israel and for a permanent cease-fire, according to a review in Religion News Service. In their outreach to the entire Christian community, Pax Christi, quoting Reverend Munther Isaac, comments poignantly, “In our pain, anguish, and lament, we have searched for God, and found Him under the rubble of Gaza.”

More important, perhaps, to the upcoming Presidential election are the protests being launched by “We the people” against the re-election efforts of Genocide Joe.  The messages abound: “Genocide Joe has got to go!” “No ceasefire / No vote!”  “A ban on Genocide Joe!” “Biden’s legacy? Genocide!” “Israel married the devil and had Biden.” Moreover,  fanfare stirred up for Biden’s State of the Union address was co-opted by hundreds of protestors who blocked Pennsylvania Avenue in advance of his approach to the White House, diverting his motorcade

Particularly encouraging is the extent to which public protests have led to actions directly challenging the Democratic Party structure regarding the upcoming election.  It started in Michigan when Democrats, on the eve of their primary and enraged by Biden’s complicity in the relentless genocide in Gaza, encouraged voters not to settle for the lesser of two evils, not to vote for Biden, but instead to choose the “uncommitted” option. The success of their last-minute campaign was remarkable: 13% of the presidential votes in the Michigan primary were “uncommitted,” earning the uncommitted candidates 2 electoral votes in the upcoming Democratic Convention.  Since then,  Democratic primary voters opposed to Biden have won over 10% of the Democratic vote in Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia North Carolina, Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Washington, and California—in several of these states winning enough votes to have delegates at the upcoming Democratic convention.

Donald Trump is also an evil choice who won’t necessarily be on the Presidential ballot in November. Like Biden, he is facing challenges to his Presidential campaign within his own party, although largely for different reasons—e.g., his dishonesty, his unreliability, his disrespect for the law, his authoritarianism, his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and what is perceived as his craziness. Moreover, his campaign is opposed by many prominent Republicans and other conservatives, including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Mike Pence, several Cabinet-level officials, other executive level officials, and current and former members of Congress. The Republican Voters Against Trump group is conducting an ongoing campaign to fight his re-election.

If you still believe it’s too late to imagine anything except the disaster of a Biden-Trump rematch, consider also this fact: if a party’s chosen candidate drops out of the campaign after most primaries or even during the convention, then the delegates have the option of choosing the party’s nominee on the convention floor.  In a recent article in Politico, Mahtesian and Shepard advise anti-Biden Democrats to let the primaries run their course, presumably ending with Biden as the clear Democratic choice on June 4; then, by pre-arrangement, Biden could announce that he won’t accept the nomination, opening the way for other candidates to step forward, with two months to make their case before the convention on August 19. Biden’s delegates would be released and he could play kingmaker, endorsing one of the alternative candidates, if he so chose. Having won the primaries, Biden could withdraw with dignity, citing his accomplishments but saying that he is bowing to the public’s concerns about his age.

What then? If enough pro-Democrat organizations and groups recognize the possibility of the Democratic Party ending its convention with a candidate other than Biden, they can start working now to consider and support alternative candidates. Of interest would be well-known and respected men and women who do not have war hawk credentials, have come out in support of ending the wars in Ukraine and Gaza. There are some potential candidates who are likely to appeal to the “uncommitted” voters of both parties who are totally disenchanted with both Biden and Trump—for example, youth, people of faith, and progressives.

Organizing and planning now can help avoid a repetition of what so many Biden-hating Democrats fear—that is, the heart-breaking win of war-mongering Republican Richard Nixon after Lyndon Johnson withdrew as the Democratic presidential candidate on March 31, 1968. Years of Vietnam War protests, including chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ / How many kids did you kill today?” may have fed into Johnson’s decision to retire. But, instead of backing an anti-war candidate such as Eugene McCarthy or Robert F. Kennedy, Johnson endorsed Vice-President Hubert Humphrey as his heir, and pressured him to carry on with the administration’s Vietnam War policies. Was that choice likely to inspire voters who wanted a true change of direction to vote for a Democrat?  The result was the election of Nixon, seven more years of war, and tens more thousands dead. Let’s do better this time.  Promote strong candidates pledged to send aid not arms to the struggling countries and peoples who have been victims of the bloated, corrupt U.S. military-industrial complex, with their yes-men as their leaders.

Toxic Trump is not Dirty Dick.  Levels of public approval during Trump’s first term were lower than Nixon’s were during his first term. Significant groups of Republicans have indicated that whether they would vote for Trump in November depends on the outcomes of the legal scandals in which he is embroiled. Many Republicans, as well as Democrats, recognize what a dangerous man Trump is. Despite the primaries, he is not yet a shoo-in to be the Republican presidential candidate. According to a Data for Progress poll, 61% of likely voters – including 76% of Democrats, 57% of Independents and nearly half of Republicans – “supported the U.S. calling for a permanent cease-fire and a de-escalation of violence in Gaza.” It is not likely that they will get that cease-fire and de-escalation under either Biden or Trump.  As shown by the Vietnam War protests, what we need now is a mass movement against complicity in Gaza.

Choosing the “lesser of two evils” for President of the United States is riskier than ever now, as the Doomsday Clock warns us that in the wake of the nuclear proliferation of the last few decades, the end of life on earth is a potential 90 seconds away. Man-made climate destruction is taking us along the same deadly path.

What to do?

My mantras: Power people. Ban Biden. Topple Trump. Clamor for cease-fire. Cancel complicity. Advocate alternatives.

Kathleen Malley-Morrison is a member of Massachusetts Peace Action and co-chair of the Twin Threats Campaign.