Election 2000

October 14, 2000

Source: The Boston Globe

On October 14, 2000, The Boston Globe reported that "Gore was set to have a private meeting...with Arab-Americans in Michigan, but he canceled it so he could head back to Washington for a White House meeting on the Middle East. Normally, a missed meeting with constituents - especially under these circumstances - would not have been noteworthy. But Arab-Americans are 300,000-strong in Michigan, and the state is a critical battleground in the presidential election. 'We are disappointed. We have questions for' Gore, said May Saba, president of the American Federation of Ramallah, Palestine, in Westland, Mich. Saba was supposed to attend last night's session with Gore. 'As a Palestinian-American, why should I vote for him?' Saba said, adding that Bush had not shown himself sympathetic to Arab-Americans, either." Gore aides said that they would reschedule the Michigan meeting.

"'We'll find a way,' said Greg Simon, a senior Gore adviser. 'He's not making it because he wants to find a way to stop the fighting' in the Middle East, Simon said. But the matter underscores the impact the Middle East crisis could have on presidential politics, particularly in the state of Michigan, whose 18 electoral votes could turn the election. Michigan is often pegged as an auto workers' state, and candidates tend to discuss labor issues, as Gore has done, or call for energy independence, as Bush did yesterday. But with the race so close in Michigan, Arab-Americans are enjoying a new prominence. The community constitutes about 4 percent of the vote, which could easily decide the election, especially with Green Party candidate Ralph Nader in the picture, said James Zogby, an Arab-American and Gore's adviser on ethnic affairs. 'There's an upside and a downside' to the Middle East crisis for Arab-American politics, Zogby said. 'The upside is that the nation is focusing on us. The downside is that it's a distraction. Is this the way we wanted attention to be paid to us? No.' Arab-Americans are a 'classic swing vote,' Zogby said, voting for Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic presidential primary... Arab-Americans later voted for Bush, but voted in 1996 for President Clinton at twice the national percentage rate of Americans overall, Zogby said. Gore's vice presidential nominee, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, has been more subdued on the matter of Israel, backing up Gore's policy and appealing for peace. The first Jewish nominee for a major presidential party ticket, Lieberman met with Arab-Americans in Michigan earlier in the campaign. 'We're open-minded,' Saba said when asked if Lieberman's presence on the ticket could affect Gore in Michigan. As a Jew, Lieberman 'may be more sensitive to us,' since 'Jewish people have known oppression, too,' Saba said. Arab-Americans don't expect politicians to promise not to be a friend of Israel, Zogby said. 'We can live with that. We just want them to say also, 'Arabs are our friends.'"