Listen to Michigan was a primary campaign which convinced voters, disillusioned with Biden’s ceaseless support for the genocide of Palestinians, to vote “Uncommitted” in the February 27 Democratic Primary. With only five weeks, a modest war chest, and an effective media strategy at their disposal, Listen to Michigan was able to rewrite the media narrative of the 2024 Democratic Primary. The campaign picked up 2 delegates and more than twice as many votes as candidates Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson combined.

In the last two weeks I have spent a good deal of time with this campaign. I was first introduced to this team in my capacity as a member of the National Electoral Commission’s Endorsements subcommittee. I will confess freely that I didn’t really “get it” at first. The theory of change that the campaign organizers put forward seemed unproven, if not altogether disproven by the results from the New Hampshire primary. I advocated for national endorsement for this campaign because I believed reinvigorating our No Money For Massacres (NMFM) volunteer network to be of critical importance. Once DSA was on board, I helped run a series of phone banks with our NMFM team, a joint effort of DSA’s NEC and Internationalism Committee. It was not until I was on the phone with Michigan voters that the efficacy of this campaign strategy clicked.

Michigan was understood as uniquely suited for a campaign of this form. It is a populous swing state, there is a substantial Arab-American population, and there is a printed “Uncommitted” option on all primary ballots. There is a large swath of voters, necessary to Biden’s electoral success in November, who are furious with Biden’s complicity in the carnage being unleashed upon Gaza by Israel’s government. Listen to Michigan was able to present these voters with a mechanically simple means of putting that anger and frustration into writing. Michigan’s history of community organizing, high union density, and the endorsement of prominent local politicians, as well as Rep. Rashida Tlaib, also bolstered this case.

In the span of about three weeks, Listen to Michigan, with support from Metro Detroit DSA and DSA’s NMFM team, was able to assemble hundreds of volunteers and make over 500,000 phone calls. Through GOTV Weekend, Metro Detroit DSA knocked thousands of doors. In other words, Listen to Michigan was a major undertaking.

The results speak for themselves. Over 100,000 voters, including the majority of voters in Dearborn (home to the greatest concentration of Arab Americans of any city in the country), sent their message to Biden on Tuesday. This story was picked up by The New York Times, BBC, NBC, Politico, NPR, The Guardian, and Al Jazeera. Within hours of the polls closing in Michigan, plans sprung into action to launch similar efforts in Washington, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, efforts born out of a coalition of Arab American advocacy groups, anti-Zionist faith groups like If Not Now and Jewish Voices for Peace, and local DSA chapters. Some of these elections will be happening within a matter of days.

Michigan was understood to be unique. None of the states mentioned check every box that Michigan did. However, Maine checks none of them. The anguish and frustration of the Democratic base towards their own president found a new vocabulary in the Uncommitted vote, which was enthusiastically (if not necessarily supportively) amplified by major media. So long as Palestine supporters continue to vote Uncommitted in large numbers and in an organized fashion, the only story coming out of the Democratic primary will be Joe Biden’s rapidly eroding base of support. A highly publicized poor showing will weaken that narrative.

DSA is a small organization, but we punch far above our weight. To do so, we have to make difficult decisions about where we allocate our limited resources and the time of our volunteers. As a member of Maine DSA, I am proud to be a part of the Maine Coalition for Palestine, and wish to salute the tireless work of Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights and the Maine Party for Socialism and Liberation in confronting the brutal realities faced by the inhabitants of Gaza, and further tying this systematized mass violence to the broader political context of American imperialism and hyper-militarization. However, I would caution against taking on abortive write-in campaigns. What is already a complicated task is compounded further by Maine’s ranked-choice voting scheme. “Ceasefire” write-ins will be marked as blank, confused or cautious supporters will rank Biden after their “Ceasefire” write-in, thus voting for him anyway, and the Maine press has not been sufficiently seeded with the notion that a blank ballot is a pro-Palestine ballot. New Hampshire was considered a model state for a mass write-in campaign, and even there the results were deflating. If you want to keep the pressure on Genocide Joe, I would encourage you to sign up for a phonebanking shift for Uncommitted WA or Vote Uncommitted Minnesota. That is where you will find me.

DSA was asked to co-sponsor Listen to Michigan’s campaign debrief last night, and I will close with a quote from Wamiq Chowdhury, DSA’s NEC endorsements co-chair and NMFM organizer:

“[V]oting for an actual uncommitted option consolidates our voices into something measurable, something that can be right up there on the screen alongside Genocide Joe’s name. He’s our target, and a campaign with this kind of strategy forces him and everyone else to pay attention. And we’re seeing that clearly—just look at all the media attention this campaign has garnered. And the other benefit of a smart strategy is that it can be reapplied elsewhere, which is important since we need to keep this momentum rolling. Let’s do everything we can to make sure that Michigan was not just a warning shot, but the start of something even bigger.”

Tzara Kane is a barista from Portland, ME. She serves as chapter co-chair for Maine DSA and on DSA’s National Electoral Commission Steering Committee.