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Making the Muslim Vote Count in ‘08

November 21, 2007 by  


By Inayatullah Ibrahim Lalani

It is not generally understood by American Muslim electorate that a very small group of voters generally get what they want out of American political system if they know what they want and if they understand how American Democracy works.

There is much nay-saying among Muslim Americans who start out with pessimistic misconceptions based on the fact that we are very small in numbers. We are not. Actually, an argument can be made that Muslims, along with non-Muslim Arab Americans who see their interest not very different from our own, can squeeze out close to 4 million votes if they made a determined push to put every vote to use.

We also predicate our voting patterns on the premise that the rest of the American electorate is hostile to our aspirations. It is not; it is simply ignorant.

American political system is constructed along extra-ordinarily fair principles. One of these principles is that democracy is not simply tyranny of the majority and U.S. constitution and laws go to extreme lengths to protect the political rights of all minorities. There is a presumption – a very wise one indeed – that American society is not monolithic but consists of very large number of small interest groups based on economic class, regions, races, ethnicity, religion, national origin and even sexual orientation (not to mention gender) and that each group has the right and duty to assert itself, defend its interests and carve out its own niche in the power structure of this country through the legal, peaceful and constructive machinery of politics. An iron-clad system of elections based on the principle of one-man one vote goes far to assure that these principles work in practice and not be merely theoretical constructs.

Understanding, digesting and taking advantage of these very fair principles presupposes a reasonably sophisticated electorate. If the voters belonging to a certain small interest group are savvy, that group enjoys power out of proportion of its numbers. This becomes a rout if that group is crafty enough to strengthen its position further by making coalitions with other groups. Conversely, even a fairly substantial minority is apathetic or not educated in the things political, it exposes itself to marginalization. Hispanics (excluding Cuban Americans) seem to fall in that category.

Power of money and of public relations is considerable but is exaggerated. It is that votes that count in the ultimate analysis and not how much money was spent on 30 second TV commercials.

There is some basic arithmetic American Muslims need to understand. Of the 300 million plus American citizens, it does not take more than 150 million (a majority) to elect the next president. A startling fact of life is that less than six million Americans – 2% of the populace – will decide who is inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States on January 20th 2009. Sounds incredible? Then consider this.

Of 300 million Americans, about 245 million are registered to vote. Most of these do not have sophistication, patience or interest in the primary elections which decide the nominee of each major political party. Therefore only about 25 million voters, roughly divided between two major parties–will turn out for primaries.

Because of the many candidates in each party, it is very unlikely that the eventual nominee of either party will have received more than 40%, i.e. five million, votes in all the States’ primary elections on the road to nomination. Whoever wins the November election will thus have been picked by about five million Americans!

As I said earlier, Arab Americans and Non-Arab American Muslims can garner as many as 4 million votes in the primary elections if they can be induced to go to the polls. These numbers are still not sufficient to pick the nominee all by themselves but with smart coalition making, they can definitely deny the most hostile of the major candidates a spot on the November ballot. And when the dust settles, “Muslim Vote”, will for all times, be something to reckon with in American politics.

There is one more fact that is extremely favorable for American Muslims. It is believed that Muslims are concentrated in ten most populous states in the union. I believe this number comes from a study conducted by the Council of American Islamic Relations a few years ago. What is the implication of this fact? Those ten states will supply more than half, perhaps 60% of the delegates to the two major party presidential nominating conventions late next summer. If Muslims gravitate toward one major party and their support coalesces around one candidate, their influence on the nomination process will be even more profound (but they should not chortle about it). In all likelihood, that major party will be the Democratic Party in 2008. Their favorite candidate need not be any of the ‘front-runners’ but someone who articulates their concern.

Ah! But it all starts with timely voter registration. And if the statistics we have are reliable, only one out of five Muslim Americans is registered to vote and the window of opportunity will start closing within a few short weeks in most states.

Inayatullah Ibrahim Lalani; 6801 Bellaire Ct. S; BENBROOK TX 76312; (817) 504 0636.

Inayatullah Lalani is a free-lance writer and can be reached at assadiq@gmail.com.

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