Bernie Sanders’s shocking win in Tuesday’s Michigan primary is one for the history books—it is the biggest upset in primary history.
Hillary Clinton was up an average of 21 points in the FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics averages, ranging anywhere from an 11 to 37 point lead. She was projected to have greater than a 99 percent chance of winning.
Somehow, Sanders emerged victorious; even his own campaign was stunned (Sanders spoke very early in the night, before results began to trickle out).
There are numerous factors that could have each incrementally contributed to Sanders’s overall win: pollsters heavily underestimated the youth vote and Hillary voters became complacent; the open primary allowed large numbers of Independents to participate; Sanders won a larger percentage of the African-American vote in comparison to his losses in the Deep South; Michiganders remembered the horrors the Clinton-backed NAFTA caused them; the United Auto Workers reportedly came through for Sanders.
Analyzing the demographics of the Michigan results allows for more than a few interesting takeaways. While Sanders still had difficulty with older African-American voters, he split the young African-American vote with Clinton (49-51). This demonstrates that, contrary to pundits’ claims, he does not only win the “white vote” or “white states”; he possesses a crossover appeal to minorities and people of color.
The vote in Dearborn verified this as well, but in a much different manner.
Sanders won the city by a whopping 67 percent, and it does not fit the mold of his purported demographics—nearly half of its population is Arab-American, and it holds the biggest concentration of Arab-Americans in the country.
As the Jews for Bernie Twitter put it, “[The] first serious Jewish Presidential contender wins the Muslim vote in Henry Ford’s stomping grounds.”
First serious Jewish Presidential contender wins the Muslim vote in Henry Ford’s stomping grounds. https://t.co/QjswwBK4UL— Jews for Bernie (@jewsforbernie) March 9, 2016
One Muslim voter from Dearborn, Widad Asoufy, said that when Sanders came to speak at Dearborn, she switched her vote to him from Clinton because “it seems like he’s welcoming all races and ethnicities. He’d be like the inclusive president. He’s spoken a lot against Islamophobia and made me feel comfortable to vote for him.”
Sanders has indeed emphasized the importance of inclusivity, denouncing the hateful rhetoric candidates such as Trump have spread, but it was not clear that his message resonated so deeply with Muslim voters until Dearborn.
Dearborn resides in Wayne Country (which Clinton won 60-38 due to the presence of Detroit), but the strong Arab-American vote undoubtedly helped balance Clinton’s reliable African-American vote.
The IB Times notes that media analysts were flummoxed by this phenomenon, despite the fact that Sanders had put in valuable time and effort to seek Dearborn’s Arab-American vote: “…This fascination with Dearborn’s support of Sanders actually demonstrates the media industry’s own all-too-prevalent prejudice — and reveals how much reporting on American Muslims is still rooted in an unsophisticated naiveté about what motivates them.”
Hend Amry, a Libyan-American writer, reflected on Dearborn’s motivation to vote for Sanders: “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. We are also seeing, perhaps, a response to the Sanders’ campaign’s attack of corporate America. Michigan’s blue-collar Arab Americans are suffering economic challenges too, not just white blue-collar Americans.”
The hard work paid off. Dearborn not only helped Sanders pull off the miraculous Michigan win, but it unequivocally demonstrated that his policies can appeal to a wide swath of voters, including minorities.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters