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Opinion Biden’s Gaza policy is likely to cost him the election

A stance such as that of Biden on Israel would be electoral suicide, according to Dr Laurence Davis.

JOE BIDEN’S GAZA policy is likely to cost him the presidential election in November.  Polling, electoral and historical evidence all point overwhelmingly to a likely Biden defeat. 

Let’s consider the evidence.

First, in 2020 Biden was able to win over the so-called ‘Obama voters’, namely young voters, voters of colour, and college-educated women voters. Since Israel’s invasion of Gaza, however, all these demographics have become increasingly critical of Biden’s one-sided support for Israel. 

According to an NBC poll conducted in November, 70 per cent of American voters aged 18 to 34 said they disapproved of Biden’s handling of the conflict. Similarly, a New York Times poll published in December found that 46 per cent of voters between the ages of eighteen and 29 strongly disapproved of his Israel-Palestine policy.

In consequence, whereas exit polls in 2020 indicated that Biden won among voters under 30 by more than 20 percentage points, recent surveys show the president competitive with or in some cases trailing Trump among young people. 

Polls among people of colour show a similar declining trend. Moreover, all these findings correlate with more recent, general polling results. According to a major Reuters poll published at the end of March, a majority (55 per cent) of all Americans currently disapprove of Israel’s military action in Gaza and 75 per cent of Democrats now disapprove of Biden’s handling of the conflict.

All in the swing

Second, Biden is rapidly losing support in precisely those ‘swing states’ that were crucial to his victory in 2020. In Michigan, a three-week grassroots campaign urging voters to protest Biden’s Gaza policy by voting ‘uncommitted’ on the Democratic primary ballot was a surprise success.

‘Uncommitted’ came second in the tally with 13 per cent of the vote, totalling over 100,000 votes in a state vital to Biden’s electoral success, one which he won in 2020 by less than 155,000 votes when his approval ratings were significantly higher and those now protesting him were leading grassroots campaigns to get him elected.  


A half-dozen other Super Tuesday states saw a similar protest vote against Biden, notably including North Carolina, in which more than 12 per cent of voters selected ‘no preference’.

The ‘uninstructed’ vote in the key electoral battleground state of Wisconsin was 10 times larger than it was in 2020 and almost double Biden’s narrow margin of victory over Trump there four years ago. Similar campaigns are now gathering pace throughout the nation.

History repeats

Third, US politics has a historical precedent for what is happening now. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson was widely regarded as a relatively progressive liberal president in domestic terms, respected by many (and reviled by others) for his Great Society and Civil Rights Act legislative successes. However, his disastrous decision to support America’s devastating carpet bombing of Vietnam until the very last month of the 1968 election campaign sparked widespread anti-war protests, which divided Democratic voters and ultimately resulted in the shock election victory of Richard Nixon. 

president-lyndon-b-johnson-oval-office-meets-with-civil-rights-leaders-martin-luther-king-jr-whitney-young-james-farmer-18-january-1964-in-the-oval-office-white-house-washington-dc-usa President Lyndon B. Johnson, Oval Office, meets with Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., Whitney Young, James Farmer 18 January 1964. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

All of which raises the question: why, then, hasn’t Biden listened to those of his fellow Democrats who have been urging him to stop enabling Israel’s ongoing destruction of Gaza, which the International Court of Justice determined could plausibly amount to genocide, and which has so far resulted in the deaths of over 30,000 Gazans, including more than 13,000 children according to UNICEF, and the onset of a famine that is placing at grave risk the lives of over one million people?  

A similar question was put to me at a recent public seminar on the US presidential election, held at University College Cork. The questioner inquired how it was that a politician as experienced as Biden could continue down the apparently politically suicidal path that he has.

In responding to this question, I recalled my experience in the mid-1980s as a young Legislative Aide to the junior Democratic Senator from West Virginia, John D. Rockefeller IV. Biden was then a member of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with a reputation for being one of Israel’s strongest and most ardent supporters. Indeed, while in public Biden professed neutrality regarding Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, then Israeli prime minister Menachim Begin later revealed that during a closed-door Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting Biden expressed even more enthusiasm about the invasion than had Begin. 

Throughout his political career, Biden has been guided by an instinctive sympathy for Israel, coupled with what some have described as a striking incuriosity about and lack of sympathy with Palestinians. The result is that he has always prioritised providing Israel with unconditional military, economic and diplomatic support. Recent shifts in rhetoric in the wake of Israel’s killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers trying to bring food to the starving do not change that at all. 

Will he listen?

Is it possible that Biden may change course before it is too late to do so? Yes, and for the sake of the future of democracy in the United States and beyond, I very much hope so. But sober examination of the available evidence leads me to believe it is much more likely that Biden will dig in and continue to attempt to shield Israel from international accountability for as long as he possibly can, gambling that disaffected voters will return to the Biden fold in November rather than see the victory of an even more unsympathetic Donald Trump. 

Protests will continue to grow, including embarrassingly at major fundraising events, and Biden’s handlers will not be able to keep the protesters out of the public eye. Nevertheless, like Lear in Shakespeare’s great tragedy King Lear, or Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Biden will disregard the voices of those who are urging him to change course, for his own sake as well as for the sake of peace and humanity. As in 1968, the result will be a Democratic defeat, and in January 2025 a now vengeful and openly authoritarian Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 47th President of a deeply divided United States of America. 

Dr Laurence Davis is Senior Lecturer in Government and Politics at University College Cork and Director of its MSc International Public Policy and Diplomacy.

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