North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, New Jersey, Montana, California
History was made Tuesday night, as Hillary Clinton became the first woman to get the nomination for a major party. This formally puts an end to a long battle between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, though Sanders will remain in the race for the final primary taking place next week. Many Clinton supporters have chastised Sanders for his role to remain in the election, while Sanders supporters see recent events, including the Associated Press calling the race before yesterday’s primaries, as proof that the system is stacked against them. Sanders may be out of the race, but his movement may have long-reaching implications for the party’s future.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump easily swept five states on Tuesday, meaning the American public will get to witness a Trump-Clinton showdown over the next few months. This result has seemed inevitable for the last few weeks, yet before the race began, it’s unlikely that anyone would have predicted it.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on June 8 to get his thoughts on these results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Can you give our listeners a brief summary of the results from yesterday’s Democratic primaries?
Yesterday Secretary Clinton was able to get enough delegates to become the presumptive nominee. The turnout was a little bit low, as expected. Senator Sanders has run a pretty good campaign throughout, but it’s pretty much official that Secretary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee, as pretty much all the measures, like super delegates, pledged delegates, or even the popular vote, indicate.
Was the AP wrong to declare Clinton the Democratic nominee before yesterday’s primary results?
I think it definitely had an impact. I know folks are upset that it was done deliberately by major networks to call her the presumptive nominee even though the primaries hadn’t taken place yet. Having said that, I don’t know if it would have changed the results at all. She still led by a lot in the popular vote and in pledged delegates, so I think it still would have been difficult for Senator Sanders to catch up.
What does Clinton’s victory, the first woman to get the nomination, mean for the Democratic Party? Should it be a cause of celebration?
It’s not just a party thing. It’s a big step forward for the country because it’s about time we have a female candidate form any major party getting the nomination for president. There are several countries who have had female leaders. We’re actually behind the curve. We should have had a female president or nominee, at least, a while back. I think it was a special moment for Secretary Clinton, and she represents the challenges that she has gone through as First Lady, and then as Senator, and then Secretary of State. Our country does have a very rich history, of course, of leading the way in women’s rights. Having said that, it was a very good moment for the country itself.
Where do you think the momentum Sanders has generated during this campaign can go?
It will have long term implications for the Democratic Party. I think the smart thing for the party establishment, and Secretary Clinton, would be to reach out to Senator Sanders and ask him to run as her running mate to keep the momentum going for this particular election. But, regardless of that, I think Senator Sanders has raised a lot of concerns that will a long term impact in terms of how elections are done locally.
The establishment issues are not just at the national level, they’re also at the state and local levels. I personally have witnessed it with several of my friends who are involved in politics, running for office, and the challenges we’ve faced and we see as far as how nominees are chosen to run for certain seats. I think it’s a really big issue, and you will see new leaders emerging in the Democratic Party who will raise those issues brought up by Senator Sanders. I think his legacy as far as that is concerned will definitely stay alive.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on June 8 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
Can you give our listeners a brief summary of the results from yesterday’s Republican primaries?
Yesterday confirmed the Democratic and Republican nominees for the president. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be matching up for the next six months, and we look forward to seeing a Republican in the White House.
We’re starting to shift into the head-to-head battle between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. What do you think Trump needs to do to defeat Clinton?
I think he’s going to be going at it full force. He’s going to be reaching out to a lot of the minority voters, and he will be completely redesigning his campaign. His political strategy has worked so far in defeating his 16 other opponents within the GOP, and I think he’s well positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton in November.
What do you think the campaign redesign will look like?
I think he’ll appear more presidential, and he’ll definitely be making some amends with certain groups that he may have inadvertently offended. I think he’s going to be reaching out to Latino voters, to Muslim voters, and a lot of other minorities. We’re looking forward to having him in the White House, and we hope to see a Republican Congress, Executive and Supreme Court. The GOP is going to be working very hard in the next few months to make sure that we can secure the White House in November.
Are you relieved that Clinton will be Trump’s opponent? Many people, and some polls, are claiming Trump would have a much more difficult time against Sanders.
I think so. I think the GOP has been fully well-versed on Clinton, and they’ve been preparing for her to be the Democratic nominee. Bernie Sanders was kind of a surprise nominee that showed up. I think it will be interesting to see how they align. But, I think going forward it’s going to be Clinton and Trump, and Trump will likely take her out as well, in November.
Oregan & Kentucky
The battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders raged on Tuesday night. Sanders picked up an easy victory in Oregon, taking 56 percent of votes. Kentucky was a much closer contest, with the results only being determined late into the night. Clinton took this state, with a very narrow .3 percent lead in votes over Sanders. In comparison, Clinton defeated Barack Obama in Kentucky by 35 percentage points in 2008.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump picked up more delegates in Oregon, again running unopposed. Trump has begun to behave as the presumptive nominee, and on Wednesday released a list of his potential Supreme Court choices, a move many claim is an attempt to reassure the GOP base that he’s interested in conservative voices.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on May 18 to get his thoughts on these results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Can you give our listeners a brief summary of the results from yesterday’s Democratic primaries?
Bernie Sanders took Oregon, and Hillary Clinton declared victory in Kentucky, which was also very close. I don’t think anything really changed results wise. Senator Sanders didn’t close the gap, so we’re still suck in the same situation we have been for a while now.
Kentucky was a particularly close race, with Clinton winning by less than a percentage point. In 2008 she won by over 35 percent over Obama. What do you think this disparity in results says about Clinton’s current campaign?
The thing is that Kentucky is not as diverse as a lot of the other states, and Senator Sanders has done well among a lot of white Democrats. Senator Obama, when he was running, did well in places like Iowa, and so forth, but Hillary Clinton generally did better among Caucasian Democrats when she was running in 2008, as opposed to now where we’re seeing a trend where more of the Caucasian Democrats are more likely to vote for Senator Sanders. More African-Americans are definitely behind Hillary Clinton. As far as the campaign being not as strong as last time, it’s hard to gauge. It’s completely different opponents and circumstances.
In the last week there’s been a lot of talk about Bernie Sanders being particularly sexist, pointing out the threats made against Nevada’s Democratic Chair. Is this criticism fair?
I think both of the candidates need to stay above the fray. There’s a lot of finger pointing that goes on back and forth. But I don’t think it’s a fair criticism. I know that in the final stretch, things get really heated. But for me it’s irrelevant. I don’t think its fair, the name-calling. We just have to make sure the correct procedure is followed. I think that’s what Senator Sanders is intending to do in the primaries.
Unfortunately the supporters have heated exchanges and they say things that could be damaging in a general election. I don’t think that it will be damaging. I think that eventually the party will rally behind the nominee.
Are Sanders and Clinton doing enough to challenge this behavior from their supporters? Is that their duty?
It’s not the candidates’ responsibility. They’re running the campaign to get their message out. They can’t control thousands of people, and what their supporters are saying. Unless they are doing violent acts, like at a Trump rally, where supporters are punching and assaulting people. That’s something candidates should do, and let supporters know that if they come to their rally or event they will not attack people who are protesting. But on social media, going back and forth, the candidates don’t have time, nor should they, to correct every supporter. They don’t speak on behalf of their supporters. They only speak on behalf of themselves and their campaign.
West Virginia & Nebraska
Bernie Sanders kept his campaign alive Tuesday night, defeating Hillary Clinton in West Virginia, the only state in contest on Tuesday for the Democrats, by a crushing 16 percent margin. This victory takes Sanders to within 300 delegates of Clinton’s 1716, not counting super delegates. Some have predicted that Clinton’s loss may have been due in part to a comment where she stated that she would be seeking to put coal miners out of work.
Meanwhile, Trump cruised to an easy victory in both Nebraska and West Virginia. Trump’s past opponents were still on ballots, though Trump is the only Republican candidate left, but they captured 0 delegates. Trump is now less than 200 delegates short of becoming the official nominee and polls have already begun to be released examining whether Sanders or Clinton will fare better against him.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on May 11 to get his thoughts on these results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
There wasn’t too much that changed with yesterday’s primary. I think Senator Sanders’ performance was pretty expected. It’s really going to come down to what happens in California because that’s really the only major space that’s left. If Senator Sanders can somehow pull off an upset in California, then he will have a lot of weight in terms of having a conversation about who should get the Democratic Party nomination.
But again, as I see it right now, Secretary Clinton is pretty close to getting the necessary delegates she need sot clinch the nomination. She may not get it by the convention time, but she’ll still be well ahead of Senator Sanders. So I don’t think yesterday’s primary really changed anything.
Clinton made a comment back in March where she said she’d put a lot of coal miners out of jobs. How do you think this affect her performance in West Virginia?
She got about 36 percent of the vote, which is pretty low compared to some of the other states. I think it has somewhat of an impact. Having said that, the Democrats that make up the West Virginia primary are prototypical Bernie Sanders voters. He has done well in primaries and caucuses that are predominately Caucasian and she has done well in the states where the African-American population is much higher. West Virginia is no different than a state like Indiana. Everybody expected him to win. But I think his comments about coal miners probably had some impact, but probably not huge. I think she was going to lose that primary regardless.
Polls have begun to come out that show Sanders performing better against Trump than Clinton. One reason for this is Sanders may do a better job of capturing working class votes that could potentially go to Trump. The results from West Virginia may be an example of that. How can Clinton work to either keep these voters as Democrats, or sway them to the party?
There are so many issues with polling. I am a Senator Sanders supporter, and have been for a very long time, so I would want him to win, but just to be fair, polling can change in a matter of days. From now until November is a lifetime. It’s so hard to poll early on, and to really gauge how Senator Sanders will do against Donald Trump. The voters being polled may not be the voters that make up the electorate. There’s going to be a good seven to 10 percent of voters that might not vote, or even in a general election that might come out because Donald Trump is running or depending on who the Democratic nominee is.
That’s really going to throw the data off a lot. So much can happen. You have to really see the side by side analysis on how the Democratic nominees perform in a debate versus Donald Trump. The Presidential election is the only one where the debates matter. They don’t really have much weight in local elections. But the entire country will be watching them side by side, and it will really determine how Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton matches up against Donald Trump. It’s going to change the polling data so much.
Right now, I don’t really look at the polling data right now. What’s more convincing is what kind of voters they can inspire. Senator Sanders has shifted his message a bit, but his initial message was much better, that he can bring in more independent voters, or some Republican voters who might not like Donald Trump and will vote for him. That’s a stronger argument for me, as opposed to talking about polling data.
And then there were three. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race Tuesday night after suffering another substantial defeat to Donald Trump, and Kasich followed on Wednesday afternoon. Trump has 1007 delegates, meaning he needs just over 50 percent of remaining delegates to clinch the nomination. With no candidates left opposing him, this will almost inevitably happen. Trump also seems to finally be getting support from the GOP establishment, as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, tweeted Tuesday night that Republicans must unite behind Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton.
Meanwhile, the Democratic race is still going strong, due to a surprise victory yesterday. Many polling outlets predicted a decisive victory for Clinton, with FiveThirtyEight giving Sanders only a 10 percent chance of winning. Yet win he did, capturing 52 percent of votes in Indiana. After some hesitation last week about continuing his campaign, it now seems like Sanders will take it all the way to the convention, meaning there may be many more surprises in coming weeks.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on May 4 to get his thoughts on these results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Yesterday Senator Sanders won Indiana, so that was a positive sign for his campaign. Having said that, I still think it’s going to be tough for him to get the nomination. He really has to win a state like California because there aren’t that many states left.
It doesn’t look like Bernie Sanders has any intention of calling off his campaign after yesterday’s win. What should he focus on in the rest of the campaign in order to remain competitive?
He should focus on getting his message out, and convincing folks why he would be the better Democratic nominee. After yesterday, Donald Trump is going to get the party nomination. Ted Cruz with his last challenge, and now he dropped out. We definitely have to mentally prepare ourselves to run against Donald Trump.
The advantage for Democrats in a presidential election is the Electoral College, which is really in our favour in getting to that 270 mark. The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, will have to win states like Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Colorado to have a chance. Bernie Sanders will have to make a case of who is the better Democratic nominee: him or Secretary Clinton? Who presents less of a risk of losing those five states to the Republicans?
The last few primaries have shown that Hillary Clinton does have some weaknesses that Donald Trump may take advantage of. What can she do to prepare herself for a likely showdown between her and Trump following the convention in July?
Listening to the entire Democratic and not necessarily just the political center. The general rule for the two parties is that when you’re running for an election you want to appeal to the political center. I don’t know if that’s necessarily holds true in this day and age. The country is much more polarized, and a lot of the voters in the Democratic Party are looking at a full analysis. They’re not necessarily voting based on the political center like they were in the 1990s.
Back then President [Bill] Clinton was more of a compromiser. That might not hold true in the 21st century. So she really has to understand that, and make sure that she’s not leaving people out of the picture like the progressives who feel they’ve been alienated. I think that’s why Senator Sanders has done so well, because he’s really appealed to folks who do feel alienated by the Democratic establishment.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on May 4 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
Can you give our listeners a brief summary of the results from yesterday’s Republican primaries?
It was a really powerful night from Indiana. We got our presumptive GOP nominee, Donald Trump. Ted Cruz decided to drop out after his lose, and John Kasich will be pulling out today. So I think it’s a great time to rally behind Donald Trump, and hopefully support the GOP nominee.
What’s your reaction to Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropping out of the race?
It solidifies that the Republican Party is solidifying behind the main frontrunner candidate. They are looking forward to taking back the White House. It is crucial for all of us to lobby Donald Trump, influence his policies and hopefully get involved in his campaign.
Yesterday the Chairman of the Republican National Committee tweeted that all Republicans need to unite to defeat Clinton. How do you think the race will change if Trump now has the support of the GOP establishment?
It will only give him more power and credibility going forward toward the general election. He has a really strong chance of defeating Hillary Clinton, and we really do look forward to taking back the White House. That’s the ultimate goal for the RNC and all Republicans.
People have said that Trump’s rhetoric will tone down as he moves into the general election. This morning, on the Morning Joe program, the hosts asked Trump if he still believes Muslims should be banned from entering the country. Trump said the proposal will stand, and he doesn’t care if it hurts him because he’s doing the right thing. What do you make of this? How will the Republican Muslim Coalition respond to these sorts of statements?
He has toned down. When he spoke about it initially he wanted to ban all Muslims, now he’s said not U.S. citizens, not Muslim leaders of the world. He’s going to start changing his rhetoric. Last night he was very welcoming toward Hispanics, and he wants to reach out to all minority voters. Yes, he’s saying some things, but as we go toward the general election we still have five months, and I think it will be crazy busy for all of us. It’s a great opportunity for the Muslim Republican community to get involved with the Trump campaign and influence their views on Muslims and Islam.
So as the head of the Republican Muslim Coalition, you would say that you’re not disappointed by these statements because you believe he will progress in coming months?
I’m obviously disappointed in his anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim rhetoric, but at the same time I’m very positive it won’t survive through November. It has already started toning down since last December, and it will continue to evolve in the next few months.
Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island
There still hasn’t been a nominee announced for the Democratic or Republican parties, and yet it has started to feel like the race is now between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The results from Tuesday’s five-state primary have further legitimized these thoughts, with the frontrunners gaining massive ground and beginning to spend more time attacking each other.
Trump dominated on Tuesday, winning in all five states, capturing as much as 64 percent of the vote in Rhode Island. This victory came after Ted Cruz and John Kasich announced a plan to unite against Trump, which has failed to yield results thus far. Trump now has 77 percent of the delegates needed to claim the nomination. Meanwhile, Clinton also racked in votes, taking four of the five states. Sanders, who only managed to win in Rhode Island, is now on the ropes, and has announced that he’ll reassess his candidacy.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on April 27 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
Can you give our listeners a brief summary of the results from yesterday’s Republican primaries?
Donald Trump swept through all five states, and he is becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.
What do you think of Donald Trump announcing that he is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party? Is it too early to do that?
I think he has a strong delegate count behind him, and it’s very likely that he will be winning the Republican nomination. Now it’s a matter of coming to terms with that and the Republican Party preparing for the Trump nomination and seeing how it will affect establishment GOP status quo in Washington.
What do you think of Ted Cruz and John Kasich’s announcement that they will unite to attempt and prevent Trump from winning the nomination? Can they be taken seriously as candidates after doing this?
I think they’re going to try whatever they can, but I strongly think the voters are leaning toward Donald Trump. He’s winning everywhere; one state after another. He has a 50 percent plus lead over all the other GOP candidates. He has come quite far. There were 17 when we started, and now it’s down to three, and we’re very positive he’s going to win the nomination.
You mentioned a tension between the GOP establishment and Donald Trump. How do you think that will resolve itself?
I think he’s going to start being more presidential, and he will be reaching out to establishment Republican candidates. The Republican Muslim Coalition will be behind whoever wins the nomination. He’s definitely going to be reaching out to a lot of the Republican leadership, and hopefully mend things. He is in Washington. He’s spending quite some time here in D.C. talking to a lot of Republicans. I think he’s trying to win their vote and hopefully become the establishment.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on April 27 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Can you give our listeners a brief summary of the results from yesterday’s Democratic primaries?
In yesterday’s Democratic primary Secretary Clinton clearly did much better than Senator Sanders. A lot of people are coining the term preparation Tuesday. On both sides the front runners are extending their lead. From my analysis Secretary Clinton extended her lead and has made it nearly impossible for Senator Sanders to catch up.
Bernie Sanders has said that he’ll reassess his candidacy after Tuesday’s primaries, but that he’ll stay in the race. At this point, do you think this is the right move, or should he call off his campaign?
That’s for Senator Sanders to decide what he wants to do. He’s obviously raised a lot of important issues, which weren’t being discussed, or wouldn’t have been discussed if he wasn’t in the race. So I don’t see any harm with him staying in if he wants to. The convention can happen. Obviously it’s not over until it’s officially over. So I don’t think it’s harmful for the Democratic Party for him to stay in and have a dialogue about income equality and other issues he has raised.
Discussions regarding who Hillary Clinton will pick as her vice-president have begun, with many calling for her to pick a woman. Who would you be most interested in seeing as her VP, and do you think it’s important for her to pick a woman?
Having diversity as far as race, gender and different experiences is very important. But having said that, she needs to find a candidate that really represents core democratic values that will excite some of the younger voters. Where she has lacked , and where Senator Sanders has done really well, is the millenials. It would be important to keep that in mind with regard to what kind of candidate will excite the Democratic base. Not only the Democratic base, but even younger voters in the Democratic party.
President Obama was really successful in terms of the rate at which younger voters came out; it was record-breaking. Secretary Clinton has the establishment support, she has the core Democrats supporting her, and as we’ve witnessed, African-Americans are solidly behind her. But I fear that the younger voters do not feel as strongly about her, especially younger women voters who think she has the potential to be the first female President.
I know several females who are in their 20s and 30s who are not as excited about her, and a lot of them are supporting Senator Sanders, which I found surprising. Maybe it’s because of the generational gap, and they haven’t faced similar challenges as the older generation of females might have. She has to keep that in mind.
Whether it’s female or male, it should really depend on who will excite voters. There are a lot of great Democrats out there. Tulsi Gabbar, who is a Sanders supporter, is a very exciting candidate. Elizabeth Warren, who is the face of the progressive wing of the party, is a very exciting candidate. It’s going to be a very interesting decision. This Clinton campaign is very smart and calculating, and I’m sure they’ll vet and research everyone, and run the numbers over and over again to see who will be the optimal match for her.
Joaquín Castro, he’s an exciting candidate. He’s young, he’s vibrant, and he’s a Hispanic-American, so that could also be an interesting thing for her to do.
The results from New York’s primary on April 19 saw the frontrunners in both parties expand their lead. Hillary Clinton coasted to an easy victory in Bernie Sanders’ home state, pulling in 58 percent of votes. This snapped Sanders’ winning streak, which saw him take six of the past seven primaries. In the Republican primary, meanwhile, Donald Trump dominated in his home state, receiving over 60 percent of votes. There is still months left to go in the primaries, but a growing number of voices have essentially called the results, predicting that a Clinton versus Trump showdown is inevitable. Trump already has 68 percent of delegates needed to secure a delegate majority before the convention in July. Clinton can win a delegate majority even if she wins less than half of all remaining votes. She also has significantly more super delegates backing her than Sanders, by a count of 502 to 38, with 172 left still unpledged
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on April 21 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Hillary Clinton had a very decisive win at the Democratic primary by about 15 points. I really think she is going to be the nominee now because there aren’t that many states left that give Senator Sanders a chance to catch up. There’s only three big states left: California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Looking at the polling there, she has a pretty decent lead in those states. So it’s going to be very, very difficult for him to catch up. I know there’s this contention with regard to how the delegate counts work, but if you look at the popular vote of the primaries, she’s up by about two and a half million votes, so I think she pretty much has it locked down.
Do you see Bernie Sanders toning down his rhetoric in the days to come?
I think he’ll probably keep the same tone. I know he’s received some criticism, but that’s part of politics. You have to show people the differences between you and the person you’re running against. I think some of the criticism he received was unfair, from both sides, I mean, it’s just part of campaigning. So, will he tone it down? Possibly. If she becomes the nominee then usually people tone it down. But I think he’ll probably stick it out for another couple of weeks with the primaries. But I find it very difficult that he could take it up to June, to California. I just don’t know if he’s going to make it that far.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on April 20 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
Can you reflect on New York and tell me what you think it means?
I think it solidified Donald Trump’s candidacy and nomination for the Republican Party. He won with a 67 percent vote from New York, his home state. I think that basically eliminates Ted Cruz and John Kasich in terms of winning the nomination. There is still some talk about convention delegate counts, but I think Donald Trump is going to cruise through all of that.
You mentioned last time we spoke that you were trying to get Donald Trump, or his staff, into a mosque in New York. How did that go?
Well, we’re still working on his campaign. I think that now that he is going to be the nominee it’s more likely that he’s going to act more presidential and reach out to minority voters. He is toning down his rhetoric, and we hope to see him visit a mosque soon.
Do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to talk about for the upcoming primaries?
I’m looking forward to seeing Republicans win, and especially Donald Trump now that he’s winning quite a few states. It was also nice to see Hillary Clinton swoop through New York. That’s probably going to cause Bernie Sanders’ campaign to close in the next few weeks. But I’m looking forward to a Republican in the White House.
Wisconsin held its primary on Tuesday, April 5. The two underdogs held surprising victories. Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump, winning by about 13 percent and making it harder for Trump to gain the delegates he needs to win the nomination. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton, winning six of the seven past primaries. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has been dogged down by a sex scandal involving the D.C Madame. Donald Trump has recently made controversial statements about women who have abortions, saying they should be punished. Trump and his campaign later backtracked on those comments and others related to whether or not it was necessary to change abortion laws. Hillary Clinton has attacked Bernie Sanders on his know-how after his recent meeting with the NY Daily News Editorial Board, during which he admitted to not knowing how he would carry out some of his policy goals.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on April 6 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Wisconsin. Sanders had a big win. What are your thoughts?
He won by 13 points, so it was a much-needed win. He picked up a good amount of delegates. He won the last five contests. I know that the states are not as big that he won, but he’s definitely hanging in there and staying competitive. What will be key is what happens up in New York and places like Maryland. Because the same trend that we’re seeing is that he is able to win states that are predominantly Caucasian, and what will be interesting to see in New York, for example, is that will we see the same trend that we saw in places like Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Texas, where the Democratic voters are more diverse compared to the states that Sanders has won, to see if the same trend holds true. And he is about 10 points, according to recent polls, 10 points behind Hillary Clinton, so he’s definitely closing the gap. And there are about two weeks left. So if he can be in single digits, say if he only loses by about five points in New York, that’s definitely a good sign and indicator that going forward, the states that are remaining that he has a fighting chance to pull off an upset. But in order to really pull the win, Hillary Clinton, Senator Sanders, they’re going to need to win a big state like New York or California, which has a lot of delegates to really start a conversation in the minds of the superdelegates, to have them think, ok well shouldn’t they reconsider changing their support for him. He’s definitely I think doing well but is he really at that level that we need to have a conversation about … the convention. I don’t think it’s quite there but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.
Hillary Clinton has begun using a little stronger language when talking about Sanders. Perhaps she sees him as a formidable challenge. One of the things that’s dogged him down is his knowledge of how he’s going to do all the things he says he’s going to do. And Clinton has attacked Sanders on that point. Do you see a more edgier campaign from Clinton in terms of her fight with Sanders for the nomination?
Yes, absolutely. Whenever Senator Sanders has a win over Hillary Clinton, the rhetoric changes and gets a little bit nastier. It’s definitely nowhere near as toxic as what’s happening on the Republican side, but the Clintons are seasoned politicians and they know how to campaign well. A lot of folks say that negative campaigning and edgier campaigning is not effective, but research has shown that in order to really close the deal and win, you don’t want to be a pushover, you do want to take it to the next level if you see your opponents getting stronger. But that’s a good indication on Senator Sanders’ part, is that if the Clinton camp is getting nastier or their rhetoric is getting more negative, that means he’s definitely moving in the right direction. But he is competitive, so that’s a good sign for him, not a bad sign.
One final question about the Republican side, so Ted Cruz won also. As a Democrat, who would you want to be the Republican candidate in November in order to ensure a Democratic win?
I think that they both are, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, would be formidable opponents. Who would the Democrats defeat easily? I think it’s an equal chance because they both have their flaws and, this might not be a popular view, I know a lot of the experts will say Donald Trump or Democratic experts will say you want to face off against Donald Trump because he has turned off so many people by his very volatile nature and the things he said. Having said that, I don’t know if he will necessarily be a weaker opponent than Ted Cruz because Ted Cruz also, he might not be as volatile in his tone, but his views tend to be very extreme on certain issues. So I think that they both can be defeated, but I don’t underestimate, like a lot of the other Democrats are confident they can beat the other two, I don’t underestimate them. I think they have to work really hard to get the Democratic nominee elected. Because there are folks who are really fired up and generally it’s very, very tough to maintain the White House three consecutive terms for a party. So I think the Democrats cannot be complacent. They really have to come out in big numbers to ensure a Democratic win.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on April 6 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
It’s been an exciting week and a half. Ted Cruz won in Wisconsin by 13% to Donald Trump. What are your thoughts on his win?
I think it’s great. I think this is gonna make the Republican Convention much more interesting. I don’t think Donald Trump will get the delegates that he needs to win the nomination. So it will be an open conducted convention. But it probably will be between Donald Trump and Cruz, one of the two. So I think it’ll be great to see whoever wins it.
Ted Cruz has been sort of dogged down by a sex scandal. How do you think that has impacted his campaign?
I think he’s just being, I mean it’s part of the political games that the different candidates are playing. I think Trump has strong points in terms of his business background and his policies to actually turn the economy around versus Cruz is establishment candidate, but has an outsiders’ perspective as well. So I think we hopefully can move beyond the political dirty politics and get to the issues and policies that Americans really need to hear about.
Both Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have secured some interesting foreign policy advisers, including Frank Gaffney among others. And they are statedly anti-Muslim and Islamophobic. How do you reconcile that? What’s going on here? What’s wrong?
I think that’s primarily because there’s hardly any Muslim national security groups here in Washington, D.C. We are doing what we can at the Republican Muslim Coalition but we need many other Muslim voices at Capitol Hill and in national security circles. We can’t just be the reactionary Muslims that we usually are. We must get involved in the policymaking and have experts within our community that can speak to those issues and become advisers on presidential campaigns.
Another thing that has sort of trailed Donald Trump is his treatment of women. His recent abortion comment, that women who have abortions should be punished, was not welcomed by many people, including women, and you’re a woman. As a woman, what do you think he needs to do to attract the women’s vote and to say look, I’m looking out for your interests?
I’m very much pro-life. I did support, I’m very much anti-abortion, not a pro-choice person. Similarly one of the main reasons I came to the Republican Party was because of the Democrats’ stance on pro-choice, and a lot of the abortion rights. I don’t think Islamically abortion is allowed unless it’s extenuating circumstances. Otherwise I think Donald Trump needs to reach out to many groups he has offended, not just women, I think minorities and a lot of different places have been affected. But this is just campaign rhetoric and I think as the general election comes up, he will need to tone down his anti-Muslim comments, anti-women comments, anti-immigrants stuff. So I think when it’s about winning the presidential race, he will change his rhetoric.
So in general you think it’s ok for politicians to say something during the campaign and then change as a president what they’ve said during the campaign?
I don’t know if it’s ok or not, but this is just political games and watching politics. I think every campaign, every presidential election is different, but a lot of candidates say a lot of things during campaigns that doesn’t actually ever become policy or law. So I think it’s just campaign rhetoric and I think he will tone down on it and you’ll see it change it a lot more if he’s running against a woman candidate from the Democratic side.
Any predictions about the next primary coming up? Any thoughts?
Well, we’re looking forward to New York and Pennsylvania and others, although we’re actually hoping to host Ted Cruz in Pennsylvania, and possibly Trump in New York, so we’re working—
Yes, the Republican Muslim Coalition is working with some partner Muslim organizations to see if we can host them at a mosque or a meeting of Muslim Americans with the two front-runners. So we’ll keep you posted probably by the next round.
HAWAII, ALASKA, WASHINGTON, IDAHO & UTAH
Bernie Sanders’ astonishing win in the caucuses on “Western Saturday” has put some fresh air in a campaign that many people began to write off in favor of Hillary Clinton. His victories in Hawaii, Alaska and Washington state on March 26, as well as Idaho and Utah on March 22, gave him 128 delegates, bringing down Clinton’s lead among pledged delegates to 230. He’s still got a long way to go to beat Clinton (he would need more than 56% of the rest of the pledged delegates), who also has large support among superdelegates. We still have contests in 18 more states before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at the end of July. Nearly all of Sanders’ wins have been in caucuses, so it remains to be seen whether he can secure more of the primaries coming up, especially in the Northeast, where Clinton is expected to score big. Although she has a lot of support among minorities, the wealthy and the establishment, where she is really struggling is among young voters and progressive voters, whom Sanders has attracted significantly. Interestingly, an article in the Observer notes that the Democratic National Committee and its local affiliates have mismanaged many primaries and other aspects of the race that, in effect, translated to wins for the Clinton campaign.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on March 30 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Bernie Sanders won many states in the past week. What are your thoughts on that? Change in momentum? Yeah, definitely, it’s a change in momentum. He won three more states in Hawaii and in Utah, so he’s definitely picked up momentum and closed in the gap. But he’s still about 200 delegates behind. What it’s really going to come down to is if he can engage the African-American community and some of the minorities’ community of voters and attract them toward his campaign and his message. That really is necessary as we move on to California, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, where the minority populations are much higher than the states he won. So there’s definitely still a trend that we’re seeing, that with the Democrat voters who are Caucasian are generally in much larger numbers voting for Bernie. But African-Americans are still voting in larger numbers, or Latino-Americans in larger numbers are voting for Hillary. So there’s still that trend. But I think the campaign should be happy with their performance with the last few primaries and caucuses.
There’s been a lot about the fact that superdelegates are flocking to Hillary instead of Bernie. Do you think the process is skewed, some people have used the word “rigged,” “unfair”? Because right now, Hillary has a higher delegate count than Senator Bernie Sanders. So what are your thoughts on that? I don’t think the process is perfect, I definitely think it’s flawed. I understand the rationale when it came about with the superdelegates, but it’s not a democratic process. And we live in a representative democracy where voters really decide who should represent them. And I don’t agree with the process the Democratic Party has. I believe the establishment has a little too much influence. Especially if you see a nontraditional candidate like Bernie Sanders, yes he might be an older white male, but other than that, his message and his political views are kind of nontraditional compared to generally when Democrats who get the nomination. That’s why we’re in a tricky situation because the superdelegates are not leaning toward Bernie because his views to many might seem too liberal for the party. So I definitely see a problem, that it’s a flawed process. But I remain hopeful that in the end, whomever the nominee is, that the party will get behind them.
During elections, candidates often talk about their faith. And at a CNN town hall, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked about his faith and his spirituality, and he responded by saying something toward the idea that we’re all in this together and that what happens to you, it happens to me and to treat people as you would want to be treated. Do you think Senator Bernie Sanders’ faith being Jewish will have an impact in a general election? Will it actually be a liability for him? In Michigan, many Muslims came out and voted for Bernie Sanders. But that’s not to say that the general population will do the same. Do you think that his faith will have a negative impact? In this particular question, I am in a big disagreement with the current trends in the Democratic Party establishment. What the so-called experts or establishment decision makers, movers and shakers, who I believe are really out of touch with the average voter will say that faith, the background does play a role in the voters’ mind. I don’t think for the average American voter, that plays a significant role. I think it’s a person’s ideas and views outside of their religion, and their issues and policy that really resonates with the American voter.
I personally have faced hurdles where the establishment has brought up my faith, being Muslim, being challenged. I actually believe there was a story that broke this morning, there’s a gentleman of Jordanian background, a Muslim guy, Jesse Sbaih, it broke in the Washington Post this morning, who was running for Congress in a primary in Nevada. And Senator Harry Reid in a meeting had discouraged Jesse to not run in this primary. And I know that Jesse is not making this up, because I know Jesse personally and we had talked about this months back. And Jesse faced the same struggles. And I know personally that it’s brought up with several Muslims running for office, their faith is brought up, that it could be a disadvantage for an average voter … just given this background. Well if you look at the research, if you actually look at what’s happened, if you look at Bernie Sanders who has a Jewish background, Muslims voted for him, but not only Muslims who might have historical tensions with folks of Jewish background. If you look at the Democratic Party, the people who are voting for Bernie Sanders are Caucasian, Christian voters, the liberals who are the base of the party, they don’t have a problem with him being Jewish. So I don’t think it will be a liability for him. I think if any establishment folk have made that an issue, they think that it’s going to be a liability for him, I think they’re inaccurate, I think they’re wrong. Also I think it’s something that I believe we really need to get past.
FLORIDA, ILLINOIS, MISSOURI, NORTH CAROLINA, OHIO
With Marco Rubio out of the GOP race, the contest, in effect, is down to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. However, Trump has taken nearly all the states, and Cruz was left scrambling to rally Rubio’s supporters to his side. John Kasich took his home state of Ohio, his first win in these primaries, and pledged to stay in the race until the end. Although his chances are bleak, staying in the race means he may block Trump from achieving the 1, 237 delegates he would need at the convention this summer to secure the nomination. What’s even more interesting is CNBC’s report that House Speaker Paul Ryan is not ruling out accepting the presidential nomination should a deadlocked GOP convention ask him to.
On the Democratic front, Hillary Clinton officially solidified her lead over Bernie Sanders with a clean sweep, breaking Sanders’ momentum from Michigan. Sanders, who was hoping to win the Midwest with his anti-global trade stance, lost Ohio, a state that was expected to make or break the rest of his campaign. At this point in the primaries, about half the 4,765 pledged delegates for the Democratic side have been awarded. The only hope Sanders may have now is to win landslides from here on out, a possibility that looks rather impossible.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on March 16 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
So Trump had a sweeping victory yesterday, except for Ohio, where Kasich won in his home state. What are your general reactions about yesterday’s primaries? I think that’s where they’ll find our next president. We have Trump and Clinton in the lead, and we look forward to seeing Trump defeat Clinton and taking back the White House from the Democrats.
Do you think that Trump will have a formidable challenge ahead with the Clinton nomination? I think so, but I think yesterday, with Florida and Illinois, I think his lead solidified. People have tried challenging him in Chicago last week but we saw how that failed. So I think it’s important for all of us to come together and now lobby him to obviously change his views on Islam and Muslims. I don’t think we have the opportunity to see or take the chance of him not winning. Because I think now it’s just going to be an easy ride for him because he has obtained all the major challenges that he was going to …. . Rubio backing out and now Cruz as well, probably going in the back.
What do you think his strategy should be in the coming months to ensure a successful bid for office against Senator Clinton? I think we’re going to see a lot of his language become a lot more welcoming toward all people. And he is going to be reaching out to minorities and I think it’s a great time for our community to reach out and get what we want from his campaign and not let previous hurts get us sidetracked. I think we should look beyond that. He did win a decisive victory in Florida, by very high margins. And I think it’s time for all of us to come together behind his campaign and lobby him and campaign for him, and do the best we can to make sure that a Trump presidency is open and welcoming towards Muslims and Islam.
And have you been in contact with his campaign? Have they been welcoming to you? I have been in contact with his campaign manager. I’ve been traveling to Europe for the past few weeks, but I look forward to meeting with them when I get back, probably early next month. Like I said, we invited them to a mosque. They had not said no, they were just waiting to finish up on the primaries and I think now that that’s happening, now it’s a better chance of all of us actually making that happen.
How do you manage being a Muslim Republican for Trump? I know that a lot American Muslims are afraid of Trump becoming president because as a minority, they feel they are being targeted and discriminated against by Trump and his supporters. So I was wondering how do you manage, or do you get a lot of criticism for your positions and for your views, and how do you manage that? I do, but I think this is the best way. I mean, we can’t afford to ignore his campaign or his presidency. There’s a reason they’re so anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic is because there’s hardly any Muslims involved with his campaign. Unlike Hillary Clinton, who has Muslims on her staff and has been in regular contact with Muslims, Trump is only hearing from anti-Muslim advisers and people who hate Islam. And unless we’re on the table actively involved in his campaign, there’s no way he’s going to change his rhetoric. Therefore for us, it’s imperative to get involved with his campaign. I do take a lot of heat from our own community for trying to reach out to Trump, but I think it’s in the betterment for all of us. There are very few of us doing what we are and instead of fighting amongst each other and putting me down, I think we need to get together and think strategically and do outreach to the Trump campaign on behalf of our whole community.
A final note, you’ve been in Germany talking about being a conservative Muslim American. How has your trip been and have you been talking to a lot of Germans about their thoughts on the American elections? Yeah, and we actually just had the German elections here as well, where I think [German Chancellor Angela Merkel] got quite a setback with her stance on refugees and stuff. So I think it’s a lot of conservatives who are surprised to see a Muslim conservative speak. I spoke to about 400 Germans the other day and I was the only Muslim on stage, and it was an amazing experience because they’d hardly ever talked to a Muslim woman talking about American politics, let alone talking and supporting Trump and Republicans. So it was an amazing conversation. And they had a great time and I hope that we can continue doing that back in the U.S. We need more Muslims to get involved in the Republican Party and hopefully do our best to reach out to conservatives and change their mindsets about Islam and Muslims. We have so much more in common than we do and we don’t need to be fighting amongst ourselves. ow are you doing? Where are you these days? I’m doing well. I’m in Berlin, Germany. We are doing outreach for the Republican Muslim Coalition. I was invited here by the government of Germany to talk about Republican Muslims in the United States and how they are participating in the upcoming election. I’ll be giving a few talks in the next few days here.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on March 16 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to his response here or read the transcript below.
Clinton’s wins last night almost ensures her the nomination, and perhaps that has put some brakes on Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign. How are you feeling about Tuesday’s election results? I think last night was a big blow to Senator Sanders’ campaign because he didn’t win any state, and even Missouri, I believe Secretary Clinton was leading by about half a percentage point, so I know that they’re doing a recount there just to verify that all the absentee ballots are in. But Secretary Clinton had a really big day yesterday and I believe that, given the way the Democratic primary works with proportional delegates being assigned, the path to victory for Senator Sanders is nearly impossible.
What do you expect to see from the Sanders’ campaign from here on out? Do you think they’re going to go till the end or you think he might bow out early? I think he has the resources to go till the end because the fundraising has been really well. And just from what I gather and see from his campaign is that they are still being optimistic that they can compete in places like New York, New Jersey or California, which have a lot of … delegates still up for grabs. So it’s not over until it’s over, however he would have to win about 70% of the delegates from here on, which is really, really tough to do. But on the other hand, Secretary Clinton only has to win a little bit over 50% of the delegates. So unless he really somehow changes the polls, which are still indicating that Secretary Clinton is going to win in the big states, if there’s a dramatic change in the next week or two, I see it being very difficult for Senator Sanders to make a comeback.
He doesn’t make a comeback, but what do you think he has brought to this campaign season? What do you think his added value has been as a candidate? I think he’s done a phenomenal job as far as really addressing issues that were not being addressed or I think that would not have been addressed if he wasn’t in the race, as far as income inequality. In my personal opinion, income inequality is the biggest issue facing our generation of Americans, and he did a really good job in addressing that. He also did a phenomenal job in addressing how a lot of the millennials are struggling after college with high college debt and struggling with finding the jobs they need. So those issues I feel would have gone unaddressed if Senator Sanders was not in the Democratic primary.
So if Clinton wins the nomination, which she likely will win, what do you think she needs to do to blunt Trump’s momentum in the general election, if he wins the nomination, which he will likely win, if the GOP doesn’t change its course somehow? What do you think she going to need to do to face his challenge? One of the things that Secretary Clinton was exposed of in this election, which a lot of people found surprising is that she has not done so well among millennial voters and she has to do a better job in reaching out to younger voters, which President Obama did really well both in 2008 and in 2012. So that’s where a lot of the energy for Senator Sanders came from. So Secretary Clinton really has to reach out to the younger voters and have them come out in higher numbers in order to battle Trump. Because I anticipate that Donald Trump, regardless of whatever bigoted comments he makes on a regular basis, is still bringing in new voters and we’re seeing, especially if you analyze the battleground states of Ohio, Florida and Virginia, the Republican turnout compared to 2008 and 2012 primaries has almost doubled in each one of those states, and actually every single primary and caucus on the Republican side, we’ve seen a record-breaking turnout, which is a scary thing because for the general election, the spin the Democrats the experts have put on it, there are Democrats voting in the Republican primaries to stop Trump, or Democrats are not as excited because they know Hillary Clinton will likely get the nomination, so they’re really not coming out in big numbers. And they’re making a case, however, Secretary Clinton still has her work cut out, we cannot take anything for granted. She really has to engage the millennials, she also has to inspire minorities to come out in bigger numbers. African-Americans, I believe, generally have a really good voting turnout in election years, even outside of the years that President Obama ran. The African-American turnout was really good. Where work needs to be done is in the Latino turnout rate for the Democratic Party and also the Asian-American turnout rate, and of course the Muslim-American turnout rate. From the analysis I’ve done, the last presidential election cycles, Muslims voted in a higher number for President Obama as opposed to in the ’90s, but still not nearly close to the national average for presidential years. The national average is about in the mid-70s, and in our community the rate has been about in the mid-50s. So that really needs to improve.
MARCH 5, 6 and 8 PRIMARIES & CAUCUSES
Although the Republican establishment has begun stepping up its denunciation of Donald Trump’s positions on a large number of topics, the real estate mogul still managed to nab wins in Kentucky, Louisiana, Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi. Ted Cruz followed with his wins in Kansas, Maine and Idaho, and Marco Rubio trailed in third winning only Puerto Rico. On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders surprised everybody by winning Michigan, getting the support millennials, working-class whites, and Muslim and Arab Americans. Still, overall, Hillary Clinton has the lead in the number of delegates and Sanders has quite a bit of ground to cover to catch up. Clinton won Louisiana and Mississippi, whereas Sanders won Kansas, Nebraska and Maine in addition to Michigan.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on March 10 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
How are you doing? Where are you these days? I’m doing well. I’m in Berlin, Germany. We are doing outreach for the Republican Muslim Coalition. I was invited here by the government of Germany to talk about Republican Muslims in the United States and how they are participating in the upcoming election. I’ll be giving a few talks in the next few days here.
Do you know if it’s with Muslims in Germany or is it just a diverse crowd? [Inaudible] crowd. I mean I was invited by the government of Germany, so they’re hosting Muslims from America and other journalists and other folks. So I’ll be speaking at a few of their programs.
Is there a Muslim Democrat also there? No, I don’t think so. I think it’s primarily conservatives.
Well, that’s really fascinating. We’ll try to follow some of your work while you’re there in Germany. In the meantime, since we last spoke, we saw Trump’s win in Kentucky and Louisiana, and yet Cruz, who won in Kansas and Maine, this is of course all on March 5, then … just this past Tuesday, March 8, we saw Trump who won in Hawaii, Michigan and Mississippi, and yet Cruz was right there right behind him, and he won in Idaho. The last time we talked, you had a pretty strong belief that Trump will likely be the nominee. Do you still hold to this despite Cruz’s recent victories? I’m very confident. I think as we saw his victories in Michigan and other places, I think Trump is solidifying his nomination. Next week as well, we’ll see in Florida and a few other states, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be dominating the polls and the general and national election. Here, I’m only hearing news about Trump, and not even Cruz. [Inaudible] even in the picture when it comes to Republicans, everyone is talking about Trump and I’m pretty confident that he will win the nomination. Now it’s a matter of the GOP establishment accepting him as a candidate and also probably providing him with all the support that we’ve built up in the last few years to help him win through the general election.
We had received a number of comments since we started this online discussion, and one of the comments that we often get and we were hoping that you might be able to give us a deeper insight into, is the fact that lately, the party establishment released what some have said to be blistering criticism against Trump just this past week, and yet he still won and is still winning. Do you see this as a question of, if the Republican Party is out of touch with the majority of its supporters or is there something else going on here? I think so, I think people are fed up with the establishment candidates, and therefore they are looking to Trump and other outside candidates to come and shake things up a notch. And I think in the general election, Trump has a very good chance of winning too. We do want to see change, and his rhetoric is resonating with hardworking Americans who want to see changes in the economy and jobs, and his business background is what is attractive to a lot of people, and I think that’s the type of leadership we need. I think people are overlooking a lot of the other rhetoric that he is coming, you know the comments about the Muslim ban and [inaudible] and comments about Mexicans or other communities. But I think he’s kind of turning that around and also we’ll be reaching out to all communities as he works through the general election, he needs all the votes that he can get. But he is definitely garnering support from a lot of [inaudible] communities.
We don’t get an opportunity to ask you about questions happening on the other side, with the Democratic races, and I think this might be a really good question to end with. It’s interesting that Sanders had just won a surprising victory in Michigan despite being a Jewish candidate and yet Michigan being heavily concentrated in Arab and Muslim voters. And he’s also been pretty vocal about being supportive of Muslim issues or issues that generally draw Muslim voters. I was curious if you can reflect on the Michigan win for Sanders and what you think this might mean for the Democratic nominee process? I think he won because of the Muslim community vote in Michigan. And it’s nice that the Democrats addressing the Islamophobia issues and other reaching out to Muslim Americans. I would love to see Republicans do the same thing. But at the same time, I’m not exactly very excited about Bernie Sanders. I think his campaign’s going to get burned in the general election pretty easily, so, we’re looking forward to having a Republican in the White House.
One other comment that we were getting especially after the Michigan win for Sanders is several readers have basically said that it’s interesting to create a contrast between Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish and yet very vocally supportive of Muslims in this country, to someone like Trump who, as they say, they consider to be more anti-Muslim vocally so. I know we’ve talked about this theme throughout this entire series. It’s interesting to create that contrast. Do you have any reflections on that contrast that some of our viewers have been painting? Well, for me, I think Democrats are basically talkers and Republicans are kind of straight to your face type of people, if they don’t like something, they’ll say it to your face. Democrats will do the same thing but they will sugarcoat it and then tell it in a very nice way. But Trump has rhetoric, like I said, we’re ignoring a lot of it because I know that will never become law of this country. It’s unconstitutional, banned, religious discrimination, we have many federal laws that will back such enactment. But his rhetoric is just tempting talk, it’s never going to actually become law, that’s why we’re supporting his candidacy. And we hope he’ll be a good Republican in the White House. Otherwise, Bernie Sanders or Clinton or any Democrat for that matter, I don’t think any of their policies are actually going to be helping America and that’s how we are very strongly looking forward to winning back the White House in November.
We later asked Saba another question via email:
Do you want to address Trump’s interview where he said “I think Islam hates us?” It seems to fall back in to Samuel Huntington/Bernard Lewis language of an us vs. them mentality or that we as American Muslims are outsiders in some form and our religion, Islam, is inherently the problem? Islam loves America regardless of Republican views on Muslims. We need to become model citizens within the GOP to change their campaign rhetoric. As always, I sent my views to the Trump campaign. God Bless!
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on March 10 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to Atif’s response here or read the transcript below.
Sanders had a pretty big and surprising win in Michigan. Do you have any thoughts on that? It was pleasantly surprising that Senator Sanders won Michigan. I expected that he would pull off an upset there because of the scene geographically how things are happening, that Secretary Clinton is winning in Southern states, but specifically in areas that are more where there’s an older population of African-American voters. But Senator Sanders is doing really well in Northern states and Midwestern states. Michigan was a very good run for him because, we also know that places like Dearborn where there’s a very high concentration of Arab Americans and Muslim Americans, a very diverse area. Exit polls showed that, in some polls indicated about 70% of Muslim Americans voted for Senator Sanders who were voting in the Democratic primary. I think the lowest poll I saw Muslims in a different exit polling, I think it was like 59% of Muslim Americans voted for Senator Sanders in the Democratic primary, which is really high. It’s really interesting to see that. I believe the reason for that is because he’s striking a nerve, I feel like Muslim Americans are disenfranchised, they feel that they are missing out on some things that are not being accessible to them, and I think Senator Sanders’ message is really striking a nerve with them. And also a lot of the voters that came out, and you’ve seen where he’s won is that the millennials are very excited, and we saw the same results in Michigan, there were a lot of millennials, for the Muslim American population there were a lot younger voters, college students or millennials coming out and voting. We’ve seen the same trend over and over again, it’s very interesting.
As you mentioned, because of the higher populations of Arab and Muslims in Michigan, and as you pointed out that the exit polls do demonstrate that many of them voted for Sanders. At the same time, Sanders is a Jewish candidate. Could you reflect on that? I don’t think the religion really matters. I think it’s what the message is, it’s very significant. But it is also an interesting fact given the history of the tensions between the Arab world and Jewish world and the issue of Israel and Palestine. But the millennials living over there are second generation Americans, some are third generation Americans, the issue is not really, it is important, it’s significant, but I don’t think it’s really discussed as much. I think there are a lot of domestic issues like income inequality issues, the issue of college tuition. So overall the package that Senator Sanders is presenting, I think it’s really resonating. And I’m not surprised that exit polls showed that a lot of Muslims voted for him because that’s what I’m seeing also is that message is resonating with him. Also when we went to colleges and high school and so forth, a lot of the Muslims were friends with a lot of these folks. One of my good friends happened to be that background and I think there’s a lot of things that we can relate to together. I don’t think it’s that significant of an issue as far as whatever’s happening in the Middle East. And I think that really hindering, a Jewish background or an immigrant background, they’re very similar to a lot of the stories that Arab American families or Muslim American families, it resonates with them, that he talks about it, [inaudible] about how his father came from Poland and he had to work hard and that immigrant story, the trauma. I think it resonates with a lot of immigrants. So I think that’s why we saw a high turnout amongst another group of Americans who recently migrated. You see a rise in migration in the last 30, 40 years and I think that if that message were to get more out to other immigrant communities, you would see some more of them vote.
It’s fascinating you say that. I’ve been following a lot of the social media discussions today with regards to this reflection of Arabs and Muslims openly and strongly rallying behind Sanders, even with the history of how Muslims have tended to vote in Blacks … I think it’s very exciting because here’s the thing, that’s why I’m a big advocate of getting more diversity in leadership positions, elected positions, because [inaudible] for Muslim Americans, because we are really going to out and change the world. Part of the crisis that we see globally with terrorism, with the tensions with Palestine and Israel, so forth, Muslims Americans are united. I think if a lot of the establishment folks both on the Republican side and the Democratic side start to realize that we are a huge asset to our country, that we really can lead the way. This is actually, the first time we did it [inaudible] is just the beginning of I think a very positive change that we’re going to see in the next coming decade. Because we are putting all those differences, they don’t matter anymore, what really matters is what the message is, and I think a lot of Muslim Americans in this election, more so than in 2008 and 2012, are very very engaged and they’re really excited. I’m seeing a lot of excitement, on especially on the Democratic side, with Senator Sanders it was very evident what happened in Michigan, so I wouldn’t be surprised that in other states that are coming up, that you’ll see those things. ??? we’ll have some in Illinois to see if we can make up some ground where if a lot of Muslim Americans were to get behind him. There I know ??? population like New York or California, we might see some more results. So there are a lot of exciting things happening.
I’m glad you addressed that, because I think it’s a pretty interesting and fascinating time to watch how Arabs and Muslims are voting for the candidate based on issues and not just on blanket categories that may have traditionally been at the forefront in guiding people’s choices. Is Michigan in your opinion an example for the rest of the country as to where Arab and Muslim support may generally lie if they are voting Democrat? Is this the petri dish? I think it is, because it’s such a large sample size. It was hard to get a good sample from Virginia because the population is not that big. It’s only about, Northern Virginia is only about 2%, and overall in Virginia it’s only about 1%. And it’s like that in most of the states, like the national voting population is only about 1% for Muslim Americans, and it’s like that in most states. But Michigan is the largest sample size you’re going to get, so I think that this is a good indication. And that’s why I mentioned places like New York or California, where you might not see it at a state level, but if you see it in concentrated areas, in New York there have been data where there are high concentrations, or New Jersey, or places like Illinois, where there are high concentrations of Muslims there, I think you’ll see some more results, and I think Michigan was probably a very true indicator of how Muslims will vote this year.
The issue of delegates is very critical on the Democratic front, and it’s very significant with regards to Sanders and Clinton, particularly since Democrats have super delegates that can decide the nomination should none of the candidates actually achieve the required minimum. This seems like it may take the nomination process out of the hands of voters. I’m interested in hearing your thoughts and if you think it’s a fair system. Well the system itself of course is not perfect. Before there have been issues, because the Democratic Party did not want a takeover [inaudible] like we’re seeing on the Republican side, so this is why they came up with the superdelegate system. It’s not the most democratic system and what folks have to understand is that we live in a representative government, we’re not a direct democracy in the United States, and that’s how it works. And that’s something that we can [inaudible] our forefathers [inaudible] they started when they came up with the U.S. Constitution and how elections will be done. So it’s not a perfect system but that is something that we have to live with. And you can’t do it by situation by situation. If somebody Senator Sanders [inaudible] they might not be happy with the delegate system. But one year if they were in a different situation they might be happy. I think overall it’s a good system, but there’s a lot of things that need to be addressed. What I think is going to happen is that if Senator Sanders were to hit a scenario, one were to pull off more upsets like Michigan, I think you’ll see superdelegates switch, the situation there and [inaudible]. The superdelegates do not want to vote against their states because they will have a hard time [inaudible]. So I think, in the end, you’ll get the fair results that the majority being Democrat voters want, so I think it will work out in the end. And on other side, I think he’s still trailing in pledged delegates. We have to understand that even though he won Michigan, he’s still about close to 200 pledged delegates behind Secretary Clinton. She’s still winning, the majority of the voters are still voting for her. So she still wants to change, continue to address the conversation and change the conversation because they both have weaknesses, I think she has weaknesses as far as exciting millennials. And I think Senator Sanders has shown that he lost his [inaudible] of the African-American voters, which make up a huge chunk of voters for the Democrats. They both have a lot of work to do and I think the conversation with superdelegates is [inaudible]. I know folks from Senator Sanders’ campaign have made a big deal out of it, and I understand [inaudible]. But having said that, I think they really need to continue to focus on exciting millennial and [inaudible] Muslim Americans to come out and vote in big numbers for that.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton won hefty leads above their opponents on Super Tuesday, but not enough to clearly and decisively grab their parties’ nominations. However, their victories are making it that much harder for their opponents to catch up to them. Clinton won seven states to Bernie Sanders’ four, getting hefty support from minorities as well as demographics that are heavily white. In the meantime, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have been battling each other for second. Rubio lost that battle with his one state, while Cruz got four. Observers say that having John Kasich and Ben Carson stay in the race is weakening Rubio and Cruz’s positions against Trump. The GOP establishment is still nervous over a Trump nomination during the convention come July. Although Super Tuesday is generally seen as a herald for what’s to come, all eyes are now on the next primaries to determine the real power of Clinton and Trump’s opponents.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on March 2 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
Saba, who do you think had the bigger victory on Super Tuesday, Clinton or Trump? I think Trump had landslide victories in a lot of different places. I’m really excited about his campaign getting finalized and I think yesterday kind of gave that green light to him for a strong presidential run. Clinton, obviously, won Virginia and a lot of other places. But I think Republicans have a great chance of getting back the White House this year. I’m very excited.
And do you think we’re looking at a Clinton-Trump decision in the general election? Is that who we’re going to see going against each other for leading up to November? I think so, that’s what it’s looking like. I think Trump would have beat Clinton or Sanders, but Clinton is the establishment candidate on the Democratic front, so we look forward to beating her.
Can you give us a sense of what is happening within the GOP party? Are there members of the leadership that may be alarmed that a Trump nomination may possibly lead to a loss in November for the Republicans? I know there are many people who are very scared and just because Trump is changing the rules of the game, he is completely redefining politics as we know it. He is using his celebrity status to shake things up within the Republican Party and the general election. But I think it’s a great opportunity and with new rules come new ways to [inaudible] the government. And we’re actually very excited. I know there are many people who are very scared about what he could bring to the table. He is not the politically correct person. He is outspoken on a lot of different issues. But I think Republicans want to win back the White House, and so they will get behind whoever wins the nomination.
We’re seeing some leading Republicans have started to come out criticizing Trump, we’ve heard of the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Are there some within the GOP believing that the criticism of Trump’s bigotry in some ways is too little too late, or do you think they don’t see it as any sort of bigotry, or any type of anti-racial rhetoric, anti-Muslim rhetoric, what’s the sense from within your work that you’re hearing from the GOP leadership? I think they’re all very supportive of different minorities. It’s just like they haven’t been as vocal and they’re trying to play it straight in case they do have to support Trump later. I mean that’s politics and it’s just the way it works in this town. But I think everybody is really looking forward to just taking back the White House from the Democrats. So yes they can have candidates make certain remarks during their campaign trail. But at the end of the day, I think if we can get a strong GOP showing up for their general election, we can definitely take back the White House and hopefully change a lot of the Republican policies.
Just a few days ago, we saw an article that was published in the International Business Times, and it highlighted the Muslims who support Trump. I followed a lot of the social media conversations that happened once the article was published, some of the words I read were, “this is a disgrace,” “it’s disgusting,” “confusing,” “baffling,” “disloyal.” And of course some of this is because of the statements that Trump has made about Muslims, including these Muslim Americans who are supporting Trump. There was a poll by an independent organization that showed that 7% of American Muslims do plan to vote for Trump. Within your work with the Republican Muslim Coalition and you’ve come out saying that you will be in support of Trump should he get the nomination, are you getting the sense that there is a growing support for Trump by American Muslims and how do you think that’s going to continue? Yes, definitely. I hope to bring back a lot of the Muslim American vote to the Republican side, that’s our ultimate goal. But definitely, I think this election year is a great opportunity for Muslims to get involved with the Republican Party. I hope the article highlighted that Islamic values align with the Republican values, that’s why we’re supporting them. I don’t know how Muslims justify themselves being Democrats, because you’re clearly supposed to be against abortion, we’re against LGBT, we’re against high taxes, I mean things that are liberal values that Democrats espouse are completely against Islam. And I don’t know how a lot of the Muslims support them. But regardless, I think for us, we really truly believe in what we’re doing, and I think it’s actually calling us names and hatred and bigotry, it’s something we’re very used to being Republicans, and I think it’s mostly coming from Democrats who are upset. I think this election year is going to change the status quo and it’s about time, we need to get back involved and being with the people who are actually going to be winning back the White House.
How do you respond to Muslims that ask you, how do you reconcile the anti-Muslim sentiment stated by Trump, who wants to put a lot of this into motion in a policy format, such as banning Muslims from coming into this country, with yourself being a Muslim? What is your response to them? I know those policies will never become law. Any type of unconstitutional, religious test will be struck down by Congress or courts. There is no way that that can ever be implemented, so that’s not so much of a concern for me. What’s more important is the economy and turning things around with jobs and mainstream American issues of what’s important. And I feel like Trump’s business background and his skills in that arena could help turn things here in Washington, D.C. So I’m very much hopeful with this campaign. I think he is an outsider, he is blunt but he’s planning to start appearing a lot more presidential and he will be reaching out to a lot of our communities, and we should be there. If you looked at the International Business Times article, there was a video in there of a Muslim, an Egyptian from Miami, who actually went and met with Trump. I saw the video where Trump was shaking his hands and saying see, he’s a Muslim and he supports my campaign. That’s the type of things we need to see, I would like to see Muslims on Trump’s campaign trail and on his campaign staff and featured on his cabinet in leadership positions. I think it’s a great opportunity for Muslims to get involved with his campaign and we need to stop complaining about whatever issues we do have. We influence and change those policies. He’s obviously not saying that about any other religious groups because they have people from those groups involved with his campaign. So we should too.
Are you hearing anything about possible running mates? There are quite a few options running around, so we will see. But I think it should be a very strong Republican combination whoever ultimately wins with Trump.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on March 2 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to Atif’s response here or read the transcript below.
Atif, who do you think had the bigger victory, Clinton or Trump? I believe Donald Trump definitely had the bigger victory. It may not seem like it according to the current delegate count. However, going forward, I think he definitely set a big footprint indicating that he can win in multiple regions. I think his victory in Virginia was very key because it’s a battleground state. I analyzed the numbers for the returns that were coming in from different states, but specifically speaking about Virginia, because I’m most familiar with that. With President Obama in 2008, when he was running a competitive primary against Hillary Clinton, the Democratic turnout was about 990,000 voters, and the Republican turnout in 2008 with another competitive primary when John McCain and Mike Huckabee and other folks were running, the Republican turnout was about 490,000 voters. Yesterday in Virginia, the Democrat turnout was 700,000 voters, so it dropped by 300,000 voters. But the Republican turnout doubled — about a million people voted in the Republican primary and we’re seeing the same trend in all the primary and caucus turnouts with Republicans, that they have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. So that’s definitely the key for [why] Donald Trump had a bigger victory yesterday.
And what about Clinton? Clinton won a majority of states this year, but in 2008, she also had a major victory on Super Tuesday against Obama, but then she lost in June. Do you think that this could be a repeat from 2008, in other words, is there still hope for Sanders? There is still hope for Sanders. It’s not over until it’s over. But it’s a tougher road for Bernie Sanders. But I think both of the Democratic candidates will have a very tough challenge in the general election. They both have been not as good because the Democrats might not be happy to support either one. Having said that, the enthusiasm is much lower this time around. Senator Sanders is obviously someone with, relating to African American voters and Latino voters, even though his message should resonate with a lot of minority voters, but still, he’s not seeing those results. Secretary Clinton, who a lot of people are aware of her policies, have been around for a very long time, she’s having such a tough time energizing the millennials. So that’s really the concern to me as a Democrat that either one will get the nominee will have a tough time. But the Republicans made a big mistake in underestimating Donald Trump and he’s really brought in newer voters in the mix to the Republican Party and I think people are still trying to fully wrap their brains around what is going, what is happening. And I worry that if he gets the nomination, that both Hillary Clinton and Senator Sanders will struggle against him.
Let’s talk about the American Muslim support for Sanders versus Clinton. In your opinion, what is it that differentiates the two? I don’t think there is much difference. I like both of them. I personally lean toward Senator Sanders for personal reasons, but I know equally the same amount of Muslims, who I think Muslim Americans. But I know it’s split between the two because they both have good ideas. Just like other Democrat voters, I found that Muslim voters are split for similar reasons. There are folks who are supporting Bernie Sanders, they like his message of addressing the income inequality issues, and the debt with college loans and so forth. And as far as Secretary Clinton is concerned, the Muslims supporting her, I hear that they really like her experience and her strong record with the progressive Democrats. So I really believe that Muslims are split on both of them.
If this is a Clinton-Trump race moving into the general election, do you think it will easy to migrate the voters who are in support of Sanders to Clinton? Saba seems to believe that more and more Muslims will start to come out in support of Trump. Where do you stand on this? I disagree with that because I am a Sanders supporter and I know several Muslims who are Sanders supporters. They might say now that hey, well, they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because they don’t like her because she has integrity issues and she’s been dishonest and whatever the perceptions they have had of her through the years. I can see, for example, my wife, who you would think of is a stereotypical Hillary Clinton supporter, or would be because of [inaudible], she’s supporting Bernie Sanders because she likes his integrity and she really dislikes some of Secretary Clinton’s dishonesty, that’s the perception she has. But I don’t see other Muslims voting for Donald Trump because it comes down to the issue of voting for the lesser of two evils. And Secretary Clinton versus Donald Trump is a by far a much better choice for Americans. And I’m trying to be as objective as possible, I’m not trying to put a partisan spin to it. But she is not the one out there making xenophobic statements about Hispanic Americans or Muslim Americans. So I highly doubt that Muslims all of a sudden will come out in big numbers for Donald Trump. A few of the Muslims I do know like Saba who are supporting Donald Trump in [inaudible], their reasons have been is that, which I don’t agree with, is that they’re fearful. They feel like they have to cave into, and if they feel like that they support Donald Trump, that they might not be targeted. And I think that’s completely wrong, and I don’t think most Muslims feel that way. I think they have to stand up and have some dignity, that hey, this is an individual who is a neo-Fascist is making terrible statements repeatedly, and is getting endorsements from groups like the KKK, that’s an alarming thing. So I highly doubt that majority of the minorities in America will vote for Donald Trump.
In our conversations with Saba, one of the things that she points out is she believes that Republican values more closely align with Islamic values and it’s confusing to her how somebody could actually be a Muslim and a Democrat. And I know you touched upon this the last time we spoke as well, and as a result, she really believes that Trump is the better choice for Muslim American issues. The Islamic values, like I said in our last interview, Islamic values are not going to fully align with any political philosophy. What is Islam about, there are so many different issues and what I have noticed with a lot of the Christian-minded voters and Muslim-minded voters who tend to align with those [inaudible] issues, they are fixated on one issue, and that is the issue of gay marriage or marriage equality. Other than that, the Republican Party is really not aligned with a lot of Islamic values. When I was growing up and learning about, when I was taking Islamic studies classes or when we were at [George Washington University] together and when we had halaqas [religious study meetings], and we’d talk about the life of the Prophet and study the Quran and understood what the good Islamic values were, a lot of the conversations were on income inequality, taking care of the elderly, equal rights for everyone including women, those really were the Islamic principles I see in the Democratic Party. And the Prophet (S) was debating with the Quraysh, even his own clan, and initiating the policies about Islam, he talked about ending the burying of girls when they were kids, and talking about treating women fairly, those are the things we see in the Democratic Party. When he was talking about taking care of the elderly, that equates to focusing on plans like Social Security and Medicare. Those were plans that were introduced by the Democratic Party. Beyond the New Deal era and those were plans the Democrats would fight for very strongly. Additionally, income inequality, he was fighting for, we need to take care of the poor and there should be fair income distribution, those are the things like minimum wage increases that Democrats fight for. Additionally one of the main pillars of Islam, correct me if I’m wrong, is giving zakat, providing charity and so forth. And Democrats are much bigger on that. So I see majority of the Islamic principles align with the Democratic Party and there is a perception, unfortunately, that has been created in the last 30 years or so that somehow the Republican Party is stronger on family values. That is not true, that is not accurate. I deeply care about family values and family structure and Islamic principles and that is why I’m a Democrat.
SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY
Hillary Clinton handily took the lead in South Carolina over Bernie Sanders on February 27, winning many demographics, but most importantly, the African American vote, a segment of the population she failed to attract in 2008. Her 74% victory gave her 39 delegates to Sanders’ 14. Though Sanders has worked hard to court the Black vote, the results from South Carolina may foreshadow the route that other Southern states plan to take on Super Tuesday on March 1.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on February 28 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to Atif’s response here or read the transcript below.
What are your reflections on the results of the South Carolina primaries? The results yesterday showed that Secretary Clinton won by almost 50 points over Senator Sanders. That really showed that the African American community, especially the older African American community, is behind the secretary. Which I think will be similar going forward on Super Tuesday in some states that we’ll see similar results in the state where the African American community vote is larger. We’ll see Secretary Clinton doing much better than Senator Sanders.
It’s interesting because one of the messages that were coming out of the Sanders’ campaign today and yesterday as well — he left South Carolina pretty early to move on to other Super Tuesday states — was mentioning how their campaign is just beginning and to not be so moved by Clinton’s victory in South Carolina because in many ways it’s now putting them on an even playing field. How do you react to the messages coming out of the Sanders campaign today? I think you obviously don’t want to have a defeated mentality, that we are going to fight hard and be optimistic, which you expect any campaign to do because there are still a lot of states up for grabs. The voters still have to decide. So the message that they’ve crafted is the right message, that I would expect from the campaign. Having said that, I think it’s an uphill battle for him because Secretary Clinton has a very strong relationship with the African American voters in the Democratic Party, which tend to be, according to research, the most loyal voters. If that particular group makes up their mind and really believes in a candidate, they tend to be more local. Even on the local level, what I’ve noticed through my experience is the voter turnout is not necessarily high in local elections for minority voters, including African American voters. But for those speaking at different churches and folks who vote all the time in the African American communities, once they decide on a candidate, they’re very, very loyal, they stick with that candidate. I’ve personally witnessed that at the local levels, working with the African American communities, I believe that Secretary Clinton, because she has invested a lot of time over the decade working closely with the African American community, I think that’s why she’s doing so well. It’s going to be an uphill battle, because Alabama, 51% of their voters in the Democratic primary, are African American voters in, I believe, in Georgia as well. So of the 13 states that are up for grabs on Super Tuesday, I believe half of them, the majority of the voters in the Democratic primary will be African American. So it’s going to be tough for Senator Sanders in a couple of days to really try to win voters over. Where he can be successful and I see a path for victory for him is that if somehow the turnout for millennials is higher, because according to entrance poll results, almost half of the African American millennials did vote for him in the South Carolina primary but the turnout of the millennials was very low.
Since you’ve been obviously doing a lot of engagement with American Muslims as a Democrat … in your conversations that you’ve been having with American Muslims, I think Super Tuesday will be very telling, of course, in what direction the nomination will go. But do you sort of sense that it will be easy to move the Muslims who are supporting Bernie Sanders over to now supporting Hillary Clinton, or vice versa? I think it’s likely that most of the American Muslims voting in the general election will likely vote Democrat and I anticipate that, especially if Donald Trump is the nominee, I don’t see a lot American Muslims voting for him. Endorsements are irrelevant in politics from my experience, so bloggers or Facebook groups that are labeled “Muslims for Donald Trump” are not going to move voters, it’s really the candidates who move voters in what they say. So that’s what I’m hearing from, and I talked to Muslims who have all kinds of political philosophies and we have these debates all the time. I think as far as voting for a Democrat versus a Republican, I think one of the arguments I’ve heard from Muslims over the years, which I think is a very elementary level argument and kind of fixated on one issue, and that’s the issue of gay marriage, that in Islam it says this about homosexuality so therefore we should only vote Republican. And I think that’s a very elementary view because Islam is not going to necessarily fully align with a political philosophy. It’s just not going to. But what I feel is that the principle that I learned growing up as a Muslim was that hey, the Prophet (S) was all about social justice, fighting for ending the practice for burying girls … he fought for really equal rights for women, he fought for a lot of poor people, and those principles, I see in the Democratic Party, and I think a lot of Muslims see that also and I think that’s why they gravitate towards voting for that party. So I see most American Muslims will vote for a Democrat, but I think if Donald Trump is the nominee, I think they will even more so switch over and vote for a Democrat nominee because they are just so afraid. And they should be afraid, that if Donald Trump is the nominee, and as you can see even today, he was endorsed by the head of [Ku Klux Klan]. And when asked about, hey, well what do you think about that, he gave a very roundabout answer. And that shows that he is really representing the very neo-Fascist view, which is very scary, and even within the Republican Party, a lot of folks are nervous if he is the nominee, they’re saying what is he really going to represent? So I think that’s where the American Muslims will be, I think most Muslims will not vote for Trump.
And just as a final reflection, there’s a lot of movement that’s been happening over at the Republican side, with the recent primaries that have been taking place and of course Donald Trump’s latest comments … with regards to pig’s blood and bullets being shot at Muslims. But we’re now seeing Chris Christie come out supporting Donald Trump. Do you have any quick reflections on what’s going on over at the Republican side? To answer the first part of the question, when Donald Trump makes statements like putting a wall at the border to keep out the Mexicans or ban Muslims from coming in the United States, what the message is going to the average person, the average, I guess, blue-collar Caucasian voter, they’re like, hey, I might not be doing as well because I’m losing my job to a person of color. And this is what they are hearing. And this kind of rhetoric is very similar to 1950s and ’60s rhetoric of segregation and politicians were making statements of really fighting for segregation. And actually, a lot of folks don’t recall this, but when Donald Trump was up and coming, and he was a developer in New York in the ’80s, there were actually a lot of battles between people of color and white communities in integrating neighborhoods, and so forth. And he was up and coming, and becoming a developer during that time, so there was a lot of tension and infighting going on within New York. And we’re seeing that played out at a national stage. So that’s the first part of your question. The second part, as far as Chris Christie endorsing him, he’s a political opportunist. The Virginia chairman for Trump’s campaign is my county chair where I reside, who is thinking about running for higher political office, is very similar to Chris Christie and he endorsed Donald Trump. I did an op-ed in the Washington Post about that. These are the politicians who are looking for political opportunity. Chris Christie is thinking that, hey, there is a surge behind Donald Trump, he’s going to be elected the nominee, he’s going to likely win the presidency. What can I get out of it? Can I get an appointment? Can I be a part of the Cabinet, and what not? So that’s just the selfish thing that Chris Christie is doing. And most people are going to start doing that after Super Tuesday, I just think, more and more people will support Donald Trump as well, I anticipate that he will, you’ll see more and more people getting behind Donald Trump because they’re opportunists, they’re politicians and they’re just looking for their self interest, not the interest of the American people.
NEVADA REPUBLICAN CAUCUS
Donald Trump once again took a hefty lead in the GOP race for the nomination, with 46% of the vote in Nevada on February 23, compared with a distant second from Marco Rubio, who received 24%, and Ted Cruz trailing just behind at 21%. However, we’ve known for a while that Trump had strong support in the state, and how he fares on Super Tuesday will likely determine the rest of the campaign. Many in the GOP establishment, alarmed by Trump’s momentum, have been flocking to endorse Rubio as the best alternative to Trump.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on February 24, to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to her response here or read the transcript below.
We just saw the results coming in from Nevada yesterday. What’s your take on Nevada? I think that was an expected win for Donald Trump just because of his Trump hotel all over Vegas, and he has quite a few business dealings there. But I think it’s bracing ourselves to accept Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in a few weeks. I think it’s going to only get solidified next Tuesday.
Since we’ve started this series … we’ve received a number of letters and comments from a lot of our readers talking about this, how can someone be a Muslim Republican especially in this day and age, especially with the rhetoric that Donald Trump has been coming out with during his rallies. … So you just mentioned that Donald Trump looks like he’s heading toward becoming the nominee, will you vote Republican if Trump does receive the nomination? Yes. I look forward to supporting the Republican nominee, whoever it ends up being. And even with Trump, I think Muslim Republicans are in the best position to change the negative mindsets of Republicans when it comes to Islam and Muslims. I think the difference that we’re making, I think it’s tremendous. Just our presence at Republican events shows GOP leaders that we are very serious about what we’re advocating for. And not all Muslims are terrorists, and obviously when they see you in person, they can’t bash the religion as much. And I think that it’s [inaudible] slow progress because there’s so few of us, I would like to see more Muslims get involved in the Republican Party. Just this week, I met with Reince Priebus [chairman of the Republican National Committee] and I asked him about his position, why Donald Trump has been making these anti-Islamic remarks and he’s trying to win the Republican nomination and become the candidate and spokesperson for the Republican Party, and so how is that going to be affecting the upcoming elections, and he was actually very supportive and he said they will actually be reaching out to a lot of the Muslim community and especially young voters. And he told me, just like they reach out to churches and other faiths, I think Muslims also need to get involved with the Republican Party, especially because of our Islamic values that align with the Republicans, such as the pro-life stance, traditional marriage, issues that we agree on, we need to focus on those, and come together and provide solutions for America’s problems.
How do you suspect that this will come about? If a lot of American Muslims are already extremely upset by the leadership within the Republican Party for not coming down harder on Trump with the type of anti-Muslim rhetoric he’s been stating at some of these rallies, how much of an uphill battle do you think that will be, and how much traction do you think that that’s actually going to gain? I think that’s why we need to demand that they speak up for us. I mean Reince Priebus, when I talked to him, he said he obviously spoke out against when Trump makes comments, but one or two people aren’t going to change the whole party’s views about Islam and Muslims. That’s exactly why Muslims need to, instead of complaining about it or getting angry about why they’re talking so badly about us, get involved in the Republican Party and change their mindset. You can’t sit and complain about it at home. We have to be in their meetings, we have to be at their party events, we have to volunteer our time on presidential campaigns, we have to raise funds for these candidates, we have to get involved. And unless we’re at the table, we’re never going to change their views on us.
One of our readers said that being Muslim and Republican is a big contradiction. How do you respond to something like that? I don’t think it’s a contradiction at all. I think it’s actually serving a [inaudible] in the best way possible is for you to defend your religion. I think I get to defend my faith every time I step into a Republican event or any Republican gathering, because I’m usually the only Muslim there and then their whole views about Islam and Muslims change just because they’re meeting a real Muslim and they can ask questions and stuff.
Could you give us some real example how you worked within the Republican Party or even directly to the Trump campaign in pushing back against use of this type of rhetoric [of killing Muslims with bullets soaked in pig’s blood] that actually could potentially incite a lot of violence directed at Muslims? I spoke to the Trump campaign, mainly through his campaign manager. [inaudible] Every 10 minutes, something happens, I either email or text or call or something. But the thing is, the problem is bigger. It can’t just be me doing this on my own. There has to be Muslim American leadership needs to act strongly, not complain in the media but actually sit down with the campaign and actually be very respectful in our communications and get involved in the Republican events. We have CPAC [Conservative Political Action Conference] coming up, there’s not a single Muslim group that’s sponsoring this conservative gathering. Muslims are not even at the table in a lot of Republican circles, I think it’s important for Republican Muslims to show up and just show up as Muslims, and forget about being Republican. Just show up and defend your faith and just be like [inaudible]. And I’d like to attend conservative events like CPAC is coming up in March [2-5] in Washington, D.C., and we have lots of other stuff coming up. I mean, RNC is coming up, the delegate caucus is going on right now in a lot of states. So run for office, get involved in the party and vote for the candidates and then actually meet them and ask questions and do whatever you need to.
Could you give us a sense of Trump’s campaign manager’s reaction to this stuff that Trump has been saying? Is it apologetic? What’s the rationale behind some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out? I think there’s immediate silence, they’re just trying to get votes in a lot of swing states. And I think as his lead solidifies and he’s the clear winner, I think they’re going to start focusing more on the policy side and actually advocating, hopefully meeting with a lot of different groups. I think Trump is that independent voice that people are speaking to counter the government’s abuse of power and all that. So hopefully we can get behind his campaign and actually change his views. I think the best way to change somebody’s perspective is meet with them directly and talk to them. If Trump is meeting with the Jewish groups, he’s meeting with Christian groups, he’s meeting with every group, why not Muslims?
How about from within the Republican Party itself, have you received any backlash from within? Obviously there are Republicans now and those who attend these rallies, and may actually support the types of things that have been said about American Muslims and don’t believe in Muslims as being part of America at all, who may look at you and think that you too are also a contradiction on the other side. How can you be a Republican and American on top of that? Have you received any negativity within the party itself, do people think you just don’t have a place there? I feel actually very welcomed in the party. I feel like they want to hear from the Muslims, they want to hear from Islam in a positive light and most places I do receive a positive welcome. But at the same time there are those fringe haters here and there, and I do deal with them all the time. But I think ignoring them is the best solution and then focusing on all the larger audience and getting our message across: who are we, who are Muslims, what do we represent, what are we trying to defend in this country. So as citizens, we shouldn’t have any fears of anybody throwing mud at us, we should defend ourselves to the best of our ability.
NEVADA DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS
Hillary Clinton bested Bernie Sanders in Nevada’s Democratic caucus February 20, but only by about five points. Sanders, however, doesn’t appear to be too concerned, with his campaign going from a fringe movement a short while ago to a serious contender against Clinton’s more established presence. Nevada has shown that Clinton has much to do still to sway independent and young voters, but she does have the support of Blacks. Bernie has much to do to win over their support.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on February 21 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to Atif’s response here or read the transcript below.
The Nevada [caucus was] yesterday and we’re seeing Clinton come out as the winner. She picked up 19 more delegates over the 15 that Sanders had picked up. Some say that this was a lost opportunity for Sanders. Do you feel that Nevada is an unexpected setback at all for Sanders or was this just the inevitable? I think that he definitely needed to win Nevada to continue on the momentum that was going because it’s a more diverse state compared to New Hampshire and he really needed to show that he can make inroads with the Latino community and the African American community. Part of the entrance polls showed that for the African American community, about two-thirds of the vote went to Hillary Clinton. It’s going to be tough for him in South Carolina unless he can get within single digits in South Carolina, I see a very tough road for him to get the nomination.
Clinton seemed to do well amongst the minorities and Blacks yesterday in this state. Of course, this will perhaps bode well for Clinton moving into South Carolina on February 27. But one of the things that polls did show from yesterday is that she’s still struggling with younger voters. Is this struggle with the younger voters enough to keep Sanders in the race or is there more at stake here? I think it’s enough to keep him through the race through March because he does have a strong fundraising base. However, the turnout rate will be key, it depends on the turnout rate for the millennials, even though they pretty much voted for Sanders, about 70-plus% of them, it’s still not as high compared to what traditional Democrats vote. The Nevada caucus turnout was actually much lower than the 2008 turnout. If Sanders had increased voter turnout among younger voters, then you would have seen a different result. So he really needs to capitalize on that in order to get the nomination, which is of course possible. But after South Carolina, when we get into Super Tuesday and there are 20 states up for grabs, we’ll really see if he has the organization to really compete with Hillary Clinton, who I believe has a much stronger organization.
Sanders calls himself a Democratic socialist. Does that make him an outsider in the Democratic Party in your opinion? For a lot of establishment Democrats, he makes them a little nervous using the term, and he made me nervous too, but after doing research, after reading about what Democratic socialism stands for, reading about a lot of the good public work programs that were introduced during the New Deal, Democratic socialism deals with Social Security, Medicare and what not. I think most of the Democrats have gotten over that. How does it play out in the general election is hard to predict because the term “socialism” by itself had such a negative meaning 20, 30 years ago. There’s been a lot of effort from Sanders to explain Democratic socialism. It’s hard to predict what kind of impact this term will have in the general election.
You’re obviously very involved as a Muslim Democrat in this election cycle as you have been in the previous years for as long as I’ve known you. How do you understand where Muslims are divided within the Democratic Party between Clinton and Sanders? I don’t necessarily see a divide between Muslims. I have Muslim friends who are supporting Hillary and I have Muslim friends who are supporting Bernie Sanders. And it’s not necessarily on the issue of maybe specific to the Muslim community. It’s just various issues, like economic reasons. Just like other Americans, Muslims in the Democratic Party who are Democrats are picking their candidates based on various issues that impact them. My friends are supporting Bernie Sanders who happen to be Muslim and Democrat. A lot of stuff I heard from them is things like income inequality, college debt and so forth. But I also have friends who are Muslim who are supporting Hillary Clinton because they believe that she has been a strong progressive. They really respect her record as secretary of state, as a former U.S. senator and a first lady.
As a Muslim Democrat, do you have any reflection on how the GOP campaignings are shaping up? We’re seeing obviously Bush who suspended his campaign yesterday, but we’re also then seeing Donald Trump who is emerging as a clear potential nominee using rhetoric about bullets, for example, soaked in pig’s blood to address terrorism. Where is all of this headed? What was very alarming for me, and it should be for a lot of the Muslim Americans who will be voting in the primaries and in the general election, is that 74% of South Carolinans who voted in the Republican primary said that they support a ban on Muslims into the United States. And that’s very alarming for me. If you look at the policies of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz or Donald Trump, they’re very similar as far as just concerns of people of color, or immigration and what not, or even Muslims. However the rhetoric, the tone that Donald Trump is stating is very dangerous because it’s really created an atmosphere, a very tough culture and there’s a fraction of Americans who are angry for whatever reason they’re angry at Latinos, or Blacks, or Muslims, feel that Donald Trump has given them an avenue to really channel that anger and be more vocal about it and be more disrespectful. So it’s alarming. I certainly hope that somebody like him does not get the nomination and somebody like him is not our next president.
SOUTH CAROLINA GOP PRIMARY
The Republican race heated up February 20 in South Carolina, with Trump soundly defeating his closest opponents and Jeb Bush unexpectedly dropping out of the race. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio came in behind him nearly tied. With Bush out, Rubio is branding himself as the only candidate who can now unify the entire party and he’s hoping to win over all of Bush’s supporters. Trump’s victory has much of the Republican establishment scratching their heads and wondering what’s next.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on February 21 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to Saba’s response here or read the transcript below.
Trump came out as the clear winner yesterday. What do you make of those results from South Carolina? I think it’s really important for Muslim Americans to get involved with the Trump campaign and educate him on Islam and Muslims. We’re doing what we can, but I think it’s very essential that we need to step up our efforts to reach out to the front-runners. Obviously, Rubio and Cruz came in right after him. But I think with the top three candidates definitely need to be given a good understanding of our problems for Muslim Americans.
A few days ago, we heard Trump who was using a story in his rally about a U.S. general who executed Muslim terrorists by using bullets that were soaked in pig’s blood, and then he stated that we as a nation should go even further than that. So obviously the sensationalized rhetoric was distasteful and it’s alienating to American Muslims, of course. What can you tell us as a Muslim Republican about what other Muslims within the party have been doing from within to further prevent this type of language from coming out on these prominent Republican platforms? Does Trump receive any pushback on this? Where is that momentum happening from within? Obviously when I heard, I reached out to his campaign and I did what I could, but obviously much more needs to be done. I think instead of being disrespectful, I think we need to be very very patient and tolerant and obviously reach out very respectfully to his campaign and educate them on what Muslims believe and why what they’re saying is completely illegal and unconstitutional. I think he’s saying a lot of rhetoric to gain votes. Sadly in South Carolina, anything against Muslims is actually helping them and that’s exactly what we need to change, and I believe it’s never going to change unless Muslims get involved within the Republican Party and take the higher, moral ground and just be like, ok, these are ignorant people that we need to educate.
Many people say that Trump has a ceiling on his support. If he is the nominee, how will rank-and-file Republicans that do not support him, how will they continue to view him then? I think he is becoming a clear winner of the Republican nomination. I think he has won New Hampshire and now South Carolina, and he’s well on his way to winning a lot of the other states. And a lot of the other candidates are dropping out. I think the Republican establishment is starting to take him seriously and myself, I’m meeting with the RNC chair tomorrow [inaudible] and hoping that Republican National Committee will start stepping up their efforts in terms of reaching out to all minorities, including Muslims. But I think, again, more Muslims need to make the effort of reaching out to Republicans instead of the other way around.
How will we continue to see partnerships with the candidates who have remained in the campaign with those, for example, Jeb Bush, who suspended his campaign yesterday. Where is the Republican Party, in your opinion, heading in this direction in terms of choosing a nomination when we continue to see every primary cycle, more and more candidates drop out. How will this start to change in the coming months? It’s very important to reach out to the candidates, even the ones that have dropped out because they still have a significant following and they can be instrumental in changing the views of the Republican [inaudible] because they are kind of the main candidates. Even though they may not be the front-runners anymore, I think Muslim community should still reach out to all of them and change their mindset about Islam and Muslims.
Just pushing more on this partnership, do you think that there’ll be additional partnerships that are made with the candidates who are still prominent in the race, like Rubio for example and those who suspended their campaigns? Of course, yeah, that’s the most important, for us to reach out to all of them and then have [inaudible] speak for the Muslim community. Unless we ask for it, we’re not going to get it. In politics, if you don’t show up, you don’t win; 80% of winning is just showing up. And if Muslims aren’t even showing up to Republican events. I’ve talked to several Muslims and I feel like there’s a fear of going to some Trump rallies or Republican events and they seem like it’s very destructive, but it’s actually not true. This is America, we have love of the land. And don’t go and protest, be very respectful when you go to different events and make the point in a good way just like other people are able to. So we need to go to all the front-runners and hopefully change their minds.
Can you give us any predictions about what will happen moving into Nevada on February 23? I think Trump is going to sweep that as well, and then on for Super Tuesday as well, I think there are clearer Trump victories coming up. He has lots of businesses in Nevada. I think a lot of people have seen his Trump hotels and I’m pretty sure, he’s a very savvy businessman and he’s using his trademark and branding strategies, to Make America Great Again, I think he is definitely keeping all the other candidates out of the race.
NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY
Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were the clear winners in New Hampshire’s primary February 9, giving political outsiders a valuable edge over the establishment. With about 35% of the Republican vote, Trump beat out Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, drawing in a lot of new voters as well as Republicans who like frankness. New Hampshire, which in the past has been generally supportive of the Clintons, dealt Hillary Clinton a major blow, winning 89,000 voters to Sanders’ 139,000. She has mainly been losing the working-class vote. Sanders won 60% of the Democratic vote. Below is what a Muslim Democrat and a Muslim Republican have to say on the primary and what they see as coming next.
We interviewed Democratic activist Atif Qarni on February 10 to get his thoughts on the results. Listen to Atif’s response here or read the transcript below.
The Iowa caucuses were last week and the New Hampshire primary was yesterday. As a Democrat, how do you reflect on the results from last week and last night? I think the results show that there was a high turnout, so I’m optimistic that the rest of the primaries for the states, the turnout will be high. It seems that a lot of the voters are very engaged in this election, and we see a lot of younger voters who voted yesterday. I’m optimistic that going forward, in different primaries, we’ll see more younger voters engaged in the election and also a lot of minority engaged in this election. So I think it was a good sign by the Democrats and I think both of the campaigns are doing a good job in getting people excited.
The results were surprising and not so surprising out of the Democratic Party with regards to Bernie Sanders. How do you forecast what’s to come after this and what do you think needs to happen, or what might happen in the upcoming primaries? I think Bernie Sanders, like Donald Trump, has hit a nerve and I think a lot of Americans are frustrated with the government for various reasons. So I think that’s why you’re seeing a high turnout and I think that’s why you’re seeing a movement of both of the candidates. Having said that, I don’t think there’s a clear front-runner on the Democratic side. I think the work is cut out for both campaigns. They have to still continue the work to get their message out. I believe they did well because the turnout was high, a lot of young voters voted, but he’s also from a neighboring state, so people expected him to do well in New Hampshire. It will be interesting to see how his message resonates with other voters when we see the primaries in South Carolina and, especially when we see the 20 states up for grabs on March 1.
We interviewed Saba Ahmed, founder of the Republican Muslim Coalition, on February 10 to get her thoughts on the results. Listen to Saba’s response here or read the transcript below.
We just saw the Iowa caucuses last week and New Hampshire primary yesterday. How do you reflect on the results of both? We’re very excited for all of our Republican presidential candidates. I think it’s an exciting time to see Cruz won Iowa and yesterday Trump got a decisive victory. I think reaching out to all the Republican candidates is very important. We are excited about all of our candidates and hope to change their views on Islam and Muslims. But at the other end, we were excited about their economic policies and to hopefully turn things around in Washington.
What do you think these results mean looking ahead? How do you forecast what’s going to come or what do you think should be coming out of the Republican Party? I think it’s a really exciting time to be a Republican and the Republican Party has a lot of shakeup going on. Yesterday’s results probably shook up a lot of people here in Washington, D.C., but I think it’s for the better. And we’re looking forward to seeing what Trump has to bring to the table. I think he has the skills to really turn things around for our economy and to create jobs and things. So we’ll have to see how that plays out. But we’re looking forward to it.
A video of you has gone viral, that’s a video of you wearing an American flag as a headscarf on FOX News. Do you have any reactions to that? Well we’re proud patriotic Americans, so I think it’s exciting to wear the headscarf, proudly, as an American Muslim. I think we just need to own our identity as Americans and do the best we can to defend Muslims in America.