Less than two months after it endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, a leading Muslim political action committee on Thursday threw its support behind former Vice President Joe Biden.
This is the same Muslim group that previously endorsed Democratic “Squad” members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ilhan Omar (Minn.),
Sanders suspended his campaign on April 8, making Biden the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, and endorsed him five days later. Now Emgage PAC, which calls itself “the nation’s largest Muslim American political action committee,” has done so too.
It cites Biden’s pledges to end President Trump’s travel proclamations – the so-called “Muslim ban” – and to raise the annual refugee admission ceiling to at least 125,000, among other commitments.
(Trump last fall signed off on a cap of 18,000 refugee admissions for fiscal year 2020, the lowest set by a president since the modern refugee admission program was established in 1980. Halfway through the fiscal year, the number at the end of March stood at 7,383.)
“Our nation, and indeed the world, are at a crossroad,” said Emgage PAC CEO Wa’el Alzayat in a statement. “Beyond the immediate devastation caused by COVID-19, we are facing an all-out assault against democratic principles and values at home and abroad that we have not seen since the rise of fascism and Nazism early in the 20th century.”
“We appreciate Biden’s acknowledgement and support of Muslim American communities, and envision our voices being represented through his presidency,” he said.
Biden said he was “honored” to receive the endorsement.
“As president, I will stand up for Muslim communities across the country, immediately repeal Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban, and embrace diversity as a core strength of our nation, not demonize it,” he said in a statement released by his campaign.
“I am excited to have Emgage PAC’s support to mobilize Muslim Americans to vote in November and elevate the voices of Muslim Americans across the country.”
The Dearborn, Mich.-based Arab American News commented Thursday that not all Sanders backers would shift their support to Biden, citing the latter’s vote in support of the Iraq War, and what the publication called his “questionable history around the subject of Palestine and Israeli occupation.”
He has openly defended Israel’s right to exist and defend itself and has never framed it as an aggressor or guilty of human rights violations against Palestinians. Biden has also opposed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement.”
Last February, Emgage PAC endorsed Sanders, saying that more than any of the other candidates, he had “built an historically inclusive movement: one that is grounded in the belief that all humans are equal and worthy of a dignified life.”
(Still in the primary race at the time along with Sanders and Biden were former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, businessman Tom Steyer, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.)
Sanders’ now-ended campaign had the support of high-profile Muslim surrogates – and BDS supporters – Omar, Tlaib and activist Linda Sarsour. Also backing the Vermont senator was Ocasio-Cortez, who along with Omar and Tlaib was endorsed by Emgage PAC in 2018.
After Sanders’ exit announcement, Omar tweeted, “The progressive movement has never been about one individual. It is about issues. Exit poll after exit poll, voters supported bold Democratic platform that includes: Medicare for all, a Green New Deal, Student Debt Cancellation.”
Her unenthusiastic statement continued, “Our focus now should be on ensuring that we get the most bold, progressive agenda possible from our Democratic candidate – because that is what Americans want. That’s how Vice President Biden can increase enthusiasm for his candidacy. And that is how we will defeat Donald Trump in November.”
(U.S. Youth Climate Strike, an activist group co-led by Omar’s teenaged daughter, made its views clear in a blunt tweet: “We are not endorsing Joe Biden.”)
Biden has showed a willingness to shift to the left on a number of issues, including on federal funding for abortion. He and Sanders have announced joint “task forces” focusing on six policy issues – immigration reform, climate change, health care, criminal justice, education, and the economy.
Headquartered in Washington, Emgage PAC has chapters in Florida, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and affiliate partners in California, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Ohio.
A year ago it released a report saying turnout of registered Muslims voters in the 2018 midterm elections had increased in four key states – Virginia (by 31 points since the 2014 midterms), Ohio (29 points), Florida (22 points), and Michigan (19 points).