Make no mistake — When you eat a dish, you might not like every ingredient [keukeuh]
Dr Khalid Khan is an internal medicine physician in Houston, Texas. Even in the face of a pandemic that has cost almost a quarter of a million American lives, and an administration that often seemed to demonize Islam, the doctor and self-proclaimed devout Muslim cast his ballot for Donald Trump.
“When you eat a dish, you might not like every ingredient. But you like the whole dish. We should take the good and leave the bad,” Khan said, comparing the US president to a mediocre meal.
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Trump spent much of his presidency pushing anti-Muslim policies. Trump’s travel ban that targeted mainly Muslim countries in 2017 sparked outrage not just from American Muslims but from Senator Bernie Sanders; the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer; and the then US senator for California and now the vice-president-elect, Kamala Harris.
“Make no mistake — this is a Muslim ban. Broad-brush discrimination against refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, most of whom are women and children runs counter to our national security interests, and will likely be used as a terrorist recruitment tool,” Harris said at the time.
But despite Trump’s policies against the religious group, some Muslims like Khan, still voted for him. In fact, the margin between Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden among Muslims was closer than experts predicted, revealing Muslim voters are not a monolithic bloc and can be courted by Republicans, even when apparently targeted by their policies.
We should take the good and leave the bad
Dr Khalid Khan
A survey conducted by the Associated Press revealed that while the majority of Muslims interviewed voted for the president-elect, 35% said they voted for Trump. That percentage was higher than the results from an exit poll conducted by the Council on American Islamic Relations, or Cair, that counted 18% of Muslim votes going for Trump.
Though Muslims account for less than 1% of the total US electorate, in places like Michigan, these voters can potentially be key to winning a state in a tight election battle, as happened in 2016 and again in 2020.
Exit polls can be notoriously misleading due to a number of factors such as the time the poll was conducted and whether or not a voter is telling the truth about if and who they voted for. But Trump-voting Muslims who spoke to the Guardian revealed a wide variety of reasons for backing a president who had termed their own religious group “a massive problem”.
Even as the United States leads in coronavirus case count and number of deaths, Khan said he believed Trump handled the pandemic as best he could, but wished he would advise Americans to wear a mask more.
Isaiah Rendon was certain that he had registered to vote by the deadline. But when he went to the polls in San Marcos, Texas, on election day last week, the 21-year-old was only offered a provisional ballot.
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It was Rendon’s first time voting. He hadn’t been interested in politics before. But this year, amid so much party infighting, he felt the urge to speak up.
“I need to go ahead and make sure I am heard,” he said, “for what I believe in.”
Confronted with a faltering economy, systemic racism, the accelerating climate crisis and a global pandemic, young Americans showed up to vote this fall, far exceeding turnout from four years ago. Youth, especially from communities of color, were one of the key constituencies that propelled Joe Biden to victory. And nowhere did they generate more buzz than in Texas, as Democrats aggressively pushed — but ultimately failed — to turn the red stronghold blue.
During early voting, more than 1.3 million Texans under age 30 helped drive surprisingly high voter participation in a state infamous for chronically low turnout. However, consistent with a long history of voter suppression, young people still got caught in onerous laws and frustrating bureaucracy, even after doing everything by the book.
“There’s just a lot of confusion on the ground, especially for first time voters, of what is their right, what is the law, and how can they vote,” said Catherine Wicker, a deputy field organizer for Texas Rising and graduate student at Texas State university.
In Hays county, Wicker’s home base, Texas State dominates the city of San Marcos with a majority-minority student body nearly 38,000 strong. Hays flipped for Biden last week, but not everyone from the area was onboard: San Marcos recently made headlines after a caravan of Trump supporters literally drove a Biden campaign bus out of town.
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There would be a long week of uncertainty ahead, much that hinged on his state, but Certaine didn’t know that yet. For now, he and his “brigade” of trained volunteers were settling in to respond to acts of voter suppression on election day.
In the days leading up to the election, violent protests against the Philadelphia police shooting death of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr, deployment of the national guard and repeated taunting by Donald Trump had the city on edge. The city’s district attorney had fired back at the President that if his “goon squad” tried to disrupt the vote, he “would have something for you”.
In that fraught atmosphere, thousands of election observers, from non-partisan groups like Common Cause and the city’s election commission, would roam the streets on Tuesday to try to keep voting from going off the rails, making it probably the most observed election in city history.
Certaine and his group would be among them, ready to roll at Greater St Matthew Baptist church, in a predominantly Black neighborhood in the northern part of the city. This would be the 73-year-old’s “last rodeo”, as he put it, crowning a lifetime of activism in voting rights and politics.
Joe Certaine at a training meeting with volunteers before the election.
FacebookTwitterPinterest Joe Certaine at a training meeting with volunteers before the election. Photograph: Jeff Garis
From a childhood in foster homes in Philadelphia, Certaine had risen to become the managing director of the city, Philadelphia’s highest unelected office, its chief operating officer. He was a campaign official for the former two-term Democratic governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell. He helped get the city’s first Black mayor elected, in 1983.
Tuesday’s work was not out of the norm.
The day began with a few hitches. Without keys to the church, Certaine had to wait in the cold for the church administrator to arrive. The person getting the vans the night before had a problem with his credit card and wasn’t able to have them delivered. The guy with the two-way radios hadn’t come through, either.
“Murphy’s law,” said Certaine, as shortly before 7am the administrator unlocked the door. “I’m off to a really good start.”