Election 2016

Sanders and Trump Score Primary Wins in ‘Arab Capital of North America'

Pundits left confused as a Jew and a racist Islamophobe grab victories in Dearborn, Michigan, the U.S. city with the highest percentage of Arabs.

Photo Credit: Albert H. Teich/Joseph Sohm (Shutterstock)

Last night in the town of Dearborn, Michigan, unofficially known as the "Arab capital of North America,” Bernie Sanders, the first Jewish candidate in U.S. history to win a presidential primary election, surprised pundits with his convincing 59 percent win over Hillary Clinton’s 39 percent in the Democratic primary.

On the Republican side, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, a racist xenophobe who has called for banning Muslim entry into the U.S., won with 39 percent of the primary vote, followed by Kasich’s 30 percent.

 

 

For some, Sanders’ win in Dearborn represents an impressive feat of bridging cultural divides in a city where roughly 41 percent of residents claim Arab ancestry.

Others see Sanders’ win as having little to do with what otherwise amounts to “a Jew and an Arab walk into a bar” joke.

It’s far more likely that Sanders’ favorable result in Dearborn has to do with a more traditional political explanation: his campaigning. Just last week, Sanders ran a radio ad reiterating the need to “end bigotry in this country once and for all.”

Libyan-American writer Hend Amry commented on the pro-Sanders sentiment among Islamic voters in an interview with the International Business Times, noting, “Arabs, both Muslim and Christian, have long been targets of discriminatory anti-terrorism policies, and Sanders’ campaign has responded to these concerns better than anyone else. He even promoted his campaign platform of equality and dignity in Arabic.”

Amry credits Sanders’ critique of corporate America as contributing to his popularity among “blue-collar Arab Americans.” This sentiment is embodied in a response Sanders gave during an ABC News Debate in December:

And somebody like a Trump comes along and says, "I know the answers. The answer is that all of the Mexicans, they're criminals and rapists, we've got to hate the Mexicans. Those are your enemies. We hate all the Muslims, because all of the Muslims are terrorists. We've got to hate the Muslims."

Meanwhile, the rich get richer....I believe we stand together to address the real issues facing this country, not allow them to divide us by race or where we come from. Let's create an America that works for all of us, not the handful on top.

More recently, Sanders established solidarity by addressing the Arab-American Institute on the issue of Arab-American profiling:

But we should be careful in assuming that the results mean Dearborn's Arabs voted for Sanders or Trump. As Tobin Grant, a political science professor at Southern Illinois University, points out:

There are a bunch of small problems with this analysis … but there is one huge problem: You can’t take overall percentages and infer how they were created. It’s a classic problem that social scientists refer to as the “ecological fallacy.” This is a fallacy occurs when we use aggregate results (like election outcomes) to mistakingly guess about individual decisions (like how groups voted).
To give a humorous example, I once saw a poster that said: “Half of Americans vote. Half of Americans read the newspaper. Let’s hope it’s the same half.” The joke lies in the fact that it could be that no American voters read the paper or that all of them do. We just don’t know. … Based on the outcome, Arab-Americans may have all voted for Sanders, gave zero votes to Sanders, or voted for some range in between.

Amid all this racially based political posturing and punditry, one interpretation of overall primary results is likely to hold: It stands to reason that if there’s any group taking sides based on ethnicity in this election, it’s the xenophobic hard-right Republican voters.

Robin Scher is a freelance writer from South Africa currently based in New York. He tweets infrequently @RobScherHimself.

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