Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders won their party primaries in Michigan Tuesday, March 8, but also attracted significant votes from among the Dearborn region’s large Arab and Middle Eastern Christian voting constituencies in the Southeastern corner of the Wolverine State. Muslims appeared to lean towards Sanders, who is Jewish.
By Ray Hanania
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both easily won Michigan’s Republican Primary election, but the not-so-surprising results show that they also won big among the region’s growing Middle Eastern constituents.
Wayne County which includes Detroit and a large African American voter population also includes an even larger American Arab and Middle East voter constituency based around the City of Dearborn.
Dearborn is governed by a City Council in which American Arabs control the majority vote, and that Middle East influence, which began in the 1950s, has continued to spread through the Southeast region of the Wolverine State.
In the elections on Tuesday, March 8, Sanders defeated Democratic Party stalwart Hillary Clinton decisively and against the polling predictions, 49.8 percent to 48.3 percent in unofficial vote tallies.
Sanders received 592,415 votes winning 65 delegates and Clinton received 573,861 winning 58 delegates.
In the Republican primary, Donald Trump received 36.5 percent of the vote compared to a weak showing by Texas Senator Ted Cruz who received only 24.9 percent barely beating 3rd place finisher Ohio Gov. John Kasich who had 34.3 percent of the vote.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio, one of the most anti-Arab candidates in the race next only to Cruz, received an embarrassing 9.3 percent. Rubio’s poor performance is important because it suggests that he may not be able to beat Trump in his home state of Florida, which is a must win fro anyone seeking to become President of the United States.
Typically, the Democratic contenders drew strong voter support among the large African American voter constituency in Detroit, while Republicans appealed to voters outside of Detroit.
Trump received a majority of the votes cast outside of Detroit in Wayne County, a region with a large American Arab and Middle East community.
The “Arab” community in Greater Detroit is almost entirely concentrated in Wayne County outside of Detroit, including in Dearborn where American Arabs control a majority of the city’s City Council.
But the term “Arab” is deceiving. One of the largest communities is actually the Chaldean community, Iraqi Christians who identify with Arab Culture but not Arab heritage. They consider themselves as “non-Arab Middle East Christians.”
Chaldeans voted overwhelming for Trump who has vowed to take a strong approach to rising Islamic violence. Middle East Christians have become a major target of radical Islamic groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, which began appearing in Iraq after the American-led invasion of 2003 that removed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Trump received 40.82 percent of 53,954 votes in Wayne County, outside of Detroit. Kasich received 27.72 percent or 36,634 votes. Cruz, who like Rubio has been vocally anti-Arab and even went so far as to insult Middle East Christians, received only 18.28 percent of the vote or 24,162 votes. Rubio, who delivered blistering and racist condemnations of Palestinians, received a negligible 8.38 percent of the vote or only 11,076 votes.
In addition to the Chaldeans in Wayne County, the Middle East population includes a large Lebanese Shi’ite population, and a vocal Palestinian Christian and Sunni Muslim population. Although the Dearborn region is viewed as an “Arab hub,” the truth is that the community is divided significantly.
Trump’s promise of changing a government system that has been traditionally hostile to all of the groups from the Middle East may have “trumped” criticism he has received for rhetoric seen as being “anti-Muslim. His message resonated with Christians from the Middle East, Arab or not. Plus his vow to remain “neutral” in the negotiations between Israel and Palestine appealed strongly to the Palestinian vote. Traditionally, candidates for president argue over who is more “pro-Israel.”Republican Donald Trump (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
While most Christian Arab and Middle East Christians voted for Trump in the Republican primary, Muslims tended to vote in the Democratic primary.
Most likely, most Shi’ite and Muslim Arab voters cast their votes in the Democratic primary for Sanders over Clinton. In that race, Clinton slightly edged out Sanders with 49.35 percent of the vote or 73,703 votes, to Sanders who received 48.51 percent of the vote or 72,451.
In Dearborn, the highly respected Press & Guide Newspaper reported that Donald Trump received 3,196 votes outpacing Kasich who ran second with 2,447 votes. Clinton lost to Sanders who received 7,258 votes compared to only 4,837 votes for Clinton.
(Ray Hanania has covered Midwest American politics for more than 40 years. He writes the TheArabDailyNews.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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