Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) said on Sunday, October 29, that President Joe Biden’s full-throated support of Israel is going to cost him come Election Day 2024. She’s likely technically correct – but what the progressive congresswoman doesn’t seem to understand is that he would lose even more had he sided with Palestine. Even ignoring the conflict entirely would alienate millions of voters. Once Israel declared war against Hamas, Biden ran out of “good” options; he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t. The best he could do is exactly what he did: Pick the side that more Americans support and hope the minority of voters who abandon him aren’t enough to send him packing.
Biden on Blast
Rep. Jayapal warned the president to “be careful” when it comes to supporting Israel in the war in Palestine, as he will eventually have to answer for his actions. “He is, I think, going to be challenged to explain an issue of this moral significance to people,” Jayapal said in an interview for Meet the Press. She warned he stands to lose Arab and Muslim voters in America, as they’ll see his siding with Israel as a betrayal.
She isn’t alone. Other Democrats in Congress have been working toward a ceasefire in Gaza, but Biden has resisted calls to join them. Eighteen House Democrats joined a resolution calling for the White House to support “an immediate de-escalation and ceasefire in Israel and occupied Palestine.” A group of senators including Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and about two dozen others recently urged Biden to work with Israel, Egypt, and the United Nations to deliver fuel to Gaza.
Sen. Murphy also targeted Biden’s open-ended funding approach. “We should support Israel’s right to defend itself. Hamas must be held accountable,” he wrote on X, nee Twitter. “But if America is going to pay for a big portion of the war’s cost, then of course we should care about the war plan. It would not be good to fund a plan that doesn’t work.”
America Stands With Israel
“The American people are actually quite far away from where the president and even Congress – the majority of Congress – has been on Israel and Gaza,” Rep. Jayapal said in her Meet the Press interview. “They support the right for Israel to defend itself, to exist. But they do not support a war crime exchanged for another war crime. And I think the president has to be careful about that.”
A couple of recent polls do, in part, support this. A Gallup poll released Thursday, October 26, found that Biden’s approval rating dropped 11 points in a single month among Democrats – and according to the survey, it was largely because of his support for Israel. The progressive firm Data for Progress published their own poll results last week, which indicate that 66% of likely US voters strongly or somewhat agree that the US should call for a ceasefire.
But on the question of which side – if either – to support, Jayapal is dead wrong.
A recent Fox survey asked respondents: “In the Middle East conflict, do you side more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” The overall response was 68% for Israel, 18% for Palestine, 7% for neither, and 8% who hadn’t decided.
Can He Cover the Cost?
The president – or, at the very least, the folks in his administration actually calling the shots – surely know this. They know that most Americans, even most Democrats, actually support Israel in this – regardless of where they stand on a ceasefire, the morality of the tactics used, or just how involved the US should be. He – or they – surely also know that backing Israel in any degree is likely to cost them the most progressive portions of the base, especially among Muslim and Arab voters.
The question isn’t if he will bow before Jayapal and her ilk; it’s if he can cover the cost of ignoring them. The Fox poll also split respondents by who they voted for in 2020. Among 2020 Biden voters, 62% support Israel, 21% back Palestine, 8% say we shouldn’t be supporting either side, and 9% don’t know.
How much of at 21% – or the 29%, if we assume the 8% who don’t want us involved are voting elsewhere whether he backs Israel or Palestine – can the president lose in the general election and still be president come January 2025? That is, of course, assuming he makes it through the primary process.
According to the Cook Political Report, Biden received more than 81 million votes to Trump’s just over 74 million, leaving a gap of just 7,059,547 between them. For this hypothetical, assume nothing else has changed – that aside from this survey, everyone votes for the same candidate they backed in 2020. If Biden loses 21% of his base, that’s over 17 million votes – more than twice the gap between him and his predecessor, giving Trump a clear win. To stay in office, Biden would have to lose no more than about 8.7% of his total voters.
Now factor in the plummeting overall approval of his performance and the bevy of debacles that have plagued his first term from inflation to the Afghanistan withdrawal. One can’t help but wonder if Biden was destined for electoral doom the moment Israel declared war, regardless of his response – if he wasn’t on the way out already, of course.