The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Young progressives stray from Democratic party

Pro-Palestine, Generation Z activists express frustration with state, national leaders.
Ava Neumaier
Student protestors gather on the University of Iowa campus to demand more support for Palestinian students and anti-apartheid causes, and for University administrators to be held accountable for providing resources to Israel. The demonstration began outside of Jessup Hall and then marched to the President’s Residence on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2033.

Mariam ‘Mimi’ Daoud grew up hearing about friends and family dying at the hands of the Israeli
Defense Forces.

Daoud, a 22-year-old Muslim American living in Cedar Rapids, said her family told stories about loved ones who were detained by the IDF in the Gaza Strip, which is being destroyed by bombings and war since Hamas, the organization governing the Gaza Strip, launched its Oct. 7 rampage on hamlets, villages, and cities across Southern Israel killing 1,400 Israelis.

She found a passion for organizing college students since the war started to fight for a free Palestine despite recent backlash from Iowa Democratic leaders.

Daoud, who hails from Peoria, Illinois, graduated from Coe College with a bachelor’s in social and criminal justice and psychology in May. She has dedicated the last month to engaging college students in the Free Palestine movement, where she said pro-Palestine voices have been underrepresented and wrongfully criticized.

Two months ahead of caucus season and less than a year out from the 2024 General Election, Democrats say they are relying on the youth vote, but are now unsure of how the Isreal-Hamas war will impact the election.

According to a Nov. 5 New York Times/Siena College Poll, President Biden is losing in swing states that were critical to his win in 2020.

A Nov. 19 NBC News poll shows that Biden’s support among young voters is dissipating, with 70 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 disapproving of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The poll occurred before Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary ceasefire, but shows that young people — a key voting block for Democrats — are turning away from the party’s leader due to his handling of the conflict.

Since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, the Gazan Ministry of Health, run by Hamas, reported over 10,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombings and soldiers. Israeli officials reported the deaths of 1,400 Israelis since the war started.

Daoud found her voice organizing eastern Iowa protests where she believes college students and young Iowans are mostly overlooked.

“We have to get loud and annoying and in people’s faces for them to pay attention to us …” she said.

Daoud said she is overtly disappointed in the statewide response to the Israel-Hamas war, especially after the state Board of Regents released a statement on Nov. 1 supporting Israel and condemning all acts of terrorism.

She cited the recent conflict between the University Democrats at Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party as a possible reason young Iowans are straying away from traditional politics — especially the Democratic party.

Tensions between state party leaders and three leaders at the University Democrats at Iowa boiled over in early November after three members of the group’s executive board posted a statement in support of Palestinians on Nov. 1 calling for Palestinians’ freedom from oppression by the state of Israel.

The group used a controversial phrase, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which people who support Israel say calls for the genocide of the Jewish state, and those in support of Palestinians feel it calls for equal rights for Palestinians.

Following their statement on Nov. 1, the Iowa Democratic Party also released a statement from chair Rita Hart condemning the student group and calling for the resignation of the leaders who signed the letter.

Iowa State University Democrats announced after the statement that they would disaffiliate from the party due to concerns about Hart’s hardline stance against the University Democrats at Iowa.

“It’s unfortunate that a state party that has said they advocate for the freedom and liberation of Palestinians … to turn and criticize the [University Democrats at Iowa] is unnecessarily cruel, and honestly a little embarrassing,” Daoud said.

Republicans join young progressives in disapproval of Biden

The NBC News poll also shows 69 percent of Republicans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the conflict.

The conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom at Iowa Vice Chair Justin Petkus told the DI in an interview at a pro-Israel demonstration in Hubbard Park on Nov. 13 that he believes the Biden administration has not been explicit enough in his condemnation of Hamas.

“I don’t think the Biden administration — I won’t speak on specific political parties, but I feel we need a proper and firm stance against Hamas, a terrorist organization. We need a firm stance against them,” he said.

Iowa GOP chair Jeff Kaufmann posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, shortly after the University Democrats at Iowa posted their original statement.

Kaufmann called the student group “insane” for their alleged support of “Hamas” equating support for Palestinian women and children to supporting the militant group.

“There’s being liberal and there’s being insane. UIowa Dems are siding with militantly anti-LGBT Hamas terrorists – who gleefully slaughter women and children,” Kaufmann wrote in the post. “Of course, we’ll hear nothing but crickets from Rita Hart as antisemitic loonies take over her party.”

Shortly after this post, the Iowa Democratic Party released a statement condemning the student group.

The Iowa GOP could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts by The Daily Iowan.

Young voters follow national trend

Daoud is among a growing number of young activists who are separating themselves from the Democratic Party in light of the Israel-Hamas War.

Voters under 45 years old will make up roughly half of the voting electorate in November 2024, according to the Brookings Institute.

According to a Nov. 5 New York Times/Siena College poll, Trump would win five of six key swing states if the election were today.

Although a temporary ceasefire took effect last week for Hamas and Israel to release hostages, the White House has otherwise opposed these calls and upheld Israel’s right to self-defense in the wake of Hamas’ attack.

Because of the conflict between the two groups, Daoud said she has “1,000 percent” seen a shift in the narrative and conversation ahead of the 2024 general election.

In her view, both parties are relentlessly cruel in their unconditional support for Israel, which, in return, will take away the Democrats’ youth vote.

“It’s unfortunate that people who were once passionate about the Democratic Party are now seeing that the party, much like the Republican Party, is truly just prioritizing self-interest,” Daoud said.

Some Iowa Democrats express frustration, worry about youth vote

Brian McLain, chair of the Iowa Progressive Caucus, often engages with young voters who don’t share views with the Iowa Democratic Party.

Young Democrats are often the party’s door knockers, activists, and the people out on the campaign trail promoting candidates, McLain said, and the state party already has a hard enough time bringing those people in. Now he finds himself scrambling to find a plan to retain younger people in the party.

“[The Iowa Democratic Party] took young Democratic leaders, actually active Democrats, and threw them under the bus,” McLain said.

According to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, 42 percent of Americans said they sympathized more with Israelis in their longstanding conflict with Palestinians — just 9 percent said they sympathized with Palestinians.

McLain said it’s heartbreaking the Democratic party fails to recognize the hard work of young activists, but he hopes young voters can find a place in the progressive movement.

“Unity without solidarity is obedience,” McLain said, referring to the IDP. “The progressive caucus doesn’t do that very well.”

Newman Abuissa, chair of the Arab American Caucus, shared similar frustration as McLain and said he asked IDP Chair Rita Hart to issue an apology. Hart did not issue a public apology for the statement.

The Iowa Democratic party did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the DI.

“We want [students] to stay in the party and be a part of this discussion to foster communication and understanding,” Abuissa said. “We shouldn’t be heavy-handed.”

Abuissa, originally from Damascus, Syria, has been involved with the Iowa Democratic party from Iowa City for over 20 years, where he specializes in Middle Eastern issues. He recognized the stance the Iowa Democratic party has taken throughout time, which has long supported
Palestinian freedoms.

According to the state party’s official platform most recently updated in June 2022, the state party supports:

  • Eliminating military aid until Israel abides by 1967 borders, which secured clear borders for Palestinian  and Israeli land
  • Ending Israeli/Egyptian blockade in Gaza

The Iowa Democratic Party opposes:

  • Israeli settlements in West Bank/Golan Heights
  • Israeli apartheid
  • Legislative interference on the pro-Palestinian boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement

“These students are just trying to learn the ropes and understand international politics, we want to get them engaged as much as we can,” Abuissa said. “We want to have a position that leads to solutions, not empower one extremist group or another.”

Ryan Melton, a Democrat running his second campaign for Congress in the 4th Congressional District covering western Iowa, considers himself to be a progressive, pro-Palestine Democrat.

He said he was also disappointed by the Iowa Democratic Party’s leadership for calling for the University of Iowa students’ resignations.

“If the [Iowa Democratic Party] leadership does not learn from this and modify their statement, there is a risk that the leadership is alienating our young activists and our young voters in the state,” Melton said.

Melton said he believes the UI students were well-intentioned and the state party’s leadership needs to grow from “punishing their young leaders,” and instead support and engage youth voters.

Now, he says it’s important for Iowa Democrats’ leadership to be open to feedback and listen to young people.

“We need to realize that people are just trying to do the right thing, and it’s important to be less defensive so we can better advocate for those who are suffering,” Melton said.

Polling doesn’t seal Biden’s general election fate

Timothy Hagle, a UI political science professor, said it’s hard to know how the youth vote will turn out a year from the 2024 election because younger voters are generally more unreliable and unpredictable.

“Most people sort of think younger voters tend to … favor Democrats more than Republicans,” Hagle said. “Democrats have to be prepared for that. That’s where you need to increase your turnout efforts.”

Hagle said that it’s rare for international affairs to deeply impact the outcome of a U.S. election, but he said he believes the Israel-Hamas war has gained more attention and may influence more voters than the Russia-Ukraine war that started in February 2022.

However, most presidents running for reelection have less enthusiastic voters than their initial run, Hagle added, using former President Barack Obama’s terms as an example.

“We saw a huge turnout for Obama in 2008, particularly among younger voters, because he had that sort of energy,” he said. “But then in 2012, the shine had worn off.”

According to the PEW Research Center, Obama captured 66 percent of youth in 2008. In 2012, that number dropped to 60 percent.

Obama’s 66 percent contrasted Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s 31 percent of youth voters, but voters aged 30 years or older were roughly divided evenly between the two candidates.

Presidential candidates promise all kinds of things they can’t deliver on, Hagle added, which already puts Biden at a disadvantage going into the 2024 race.

Some students continue to fight for a free Palestine

UI graduate student Sofia Ramirez has attended multiple Free Palestine protests on campus because she feels it’s intrinsic to her identity to stand up against oppressors.

“My Arab siblings deserve the support from people who aren’t from their country, which is why I’m here today,” Ramirez said as she marched down Clinton Street to UI President Barbara Wilson’s residence during a walkout.

Ramirez compared the deaths of Palestinians under siege by the Israeli military to genocide within her home country of Guatemala. Israel provided Guatemala with arsenals of weaponry, aircraft, and state-of-the-art intelligence during the Guatemala Genocide, which spanned from 1960-96.

“Why not advocate for people who are being brutally murdered in their homeland for simply existing?” Ramirez said.

The Democratic Party has a history of hypocrisy, Ramirez added, which is why she is a leftist, not a Democrat.

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About the Contributors
Grace Katzer, Politics Reporter
Grace Katzer is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communications, Political Science, and a writing certificate. Previous to her position as a politics reporter, she has been a higher education news reporter at The Daily Iowan and interned with the Spencer Daily Reporter as a news reporter and Iowa Starting Line as a news media reporter.
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.