Fissures are emerging in the President's progressive support base
A new poll by the New York Times puts President Joe Biden significantly behind Donald Trump in five of the six key battleground states. The poll has Trump ten points ahead in Nevada, six ahead in Georgia, five ahead in Arizona and Michigan, and four ahead in Pennsylvania. Biden is only currently leading in Wisconsin — and even then, he is only leading by two points.
But this is only the beginning of the President’s problems. The war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip looks like it could shake up next year’s US election in profound ways. Americans predominantly support Israel, yet those who do not are both extremely passionate and politically important. The headline numbers show that 48% of Americans are more sympathetic to Israel, while only 10% lean towards Palestine.
When one looks further into the data, though, different trends emerge. For example, 24% of black Americans support Israel while 14% support Palestine. Among those aged between 18–29, 35% support Israel while 18% back Palestine. When looking at self-identified liberals, 30% support Israel while 18% express more sympathy for Palestine. From these polls it appears that around 14-18% of the most reliable and solid Democratic Party voters support Palestine in the current conflict.
The energy amongst these demographics can be seen in the large protests we are seeing both in the United States and across the world. Over the weekend, around 30,000 protestors marched on Washington DC in support of Palestine, with a substantial number of protestors tied to activist organisations strongly associated with the Democratic Party. Indeed, many of these people are likely the very activists on whom the Democrats rely to canvas on doorsteps or organise “get out the vote” programmes.
These trends are already becoming apparent in the predicted figures for third-party candidates, who are currently seeing their best polling results since Ross Perot. These surveys show independent candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr and Cornel West polling at 17% of the vote. Third-party politicians have previously upset American electoral outcomes by polling far lower: Ralph Nader affected the course of the 2000 election, depriving Al Gore of an expected victory, all while polls showed his support to be in single digits
Kennedy initially tweeted strong support for the Israelis after the Hamas attacks on 7 October, but has gone largely silent on the issue since. Unless a candidate’s personal feelings on the conflict are extremely strong, it would surely be hard not to see the opportunity for taking a more dovish line than Biden on the issue. Cornel West is a passionate advocate of the Palestinian cause, and there seems every possibility that he will use the issue and the accompanying protests in America to turbocharge his campaign.
The Biden candidacy is already in trouble. His time in office has been at best lacklustre, and it is no secret that while his progressive base has toed the line, these supporters have been less than impressed with the outcome. But the Israel-Palestine issue is one that sends emotions soaring, especially amongst this very base. With the war expected to last for some time yet, it could end up being the defining issue of the 2024 election for the Democrats. For Biden, it could be a presidential death knell.