Lebanese American voters and the US elections

If Lebanese were allowed to participate in the upcoming American presidential elections, they would cast their votes based on their own political inclinations -- March 8 vs. March 14 than rather Republican vs. Democrats.

In such a scenario, anti-Hezbollah March 14 sympathizers and political parties who want to see an end to Iran’s influence in Lebanon would chose President Donald Trump, whose tough policy toward Iran they welcomed, while others who sympathize with groups in alliance with Hezbollah and object to the US administration's maximum pressure policy on Iran would cast their votes for the democratic candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden.

In addition to following around the clock the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound, which collapsed against the US dollar, now the average Lebanese asks about the latest polls between Trump and Biden. This obsession with the results of the American election is fed by politicians, analysts and conspiracy theorists who believe the solution to all of Lebanon's miseries will come from Washington.

You can even go with sectarian politics and say right-wing Christians prefer to see another four years of Trump in the White House, in the hopes that Trump will force Hezbollah to relinquish its weapons and subsequently restore political balance in the country.

But thousands of kilometers away, American Lebanese -- mainly early immigrants -- became more involved in American politics and cast their votes according to local issues.

Research groups estimate that the number of American Lebanese in the US to be around 1.3 million. They are spread from east to west with a large concentration in the battleground states in the 2020 elections.

In the hotly contested elections, American Lebanese voters can play an important role in key swing states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio.

Recent surveys show that American Lebanese exceed the American general population in education and voting turnout. College degree holders among American Lebanese are among the highest in the nation, a demographic that Trump didn’t fare well with in 2016.

Recent polls suggest that Trump continues to struggle with voters with bachelor degrees.

Early Lebanese immigrants where mostly Christians and brought with them conservative values and tend to associate with the Republican Party. However, recent immigrants which include a sizeable Muslim community, drew closer to the overall Arab American political sentiments, which identify with Democratic Party and its diversity.

No wonder then that a mere 20 percent of Arab Americans voted for Trump in the 2016 elections -- American Lebanese were not that far from the overall Arab American voting preference.

Most pollsters expect Arab American and American Lebanese to vote predominantly for Biden.

In 2016 Trump won the state of Michigan by 11 thousands votes. This would make the Arab American voter bloc an important factor in winning the state and of course the American Lebanese community is a major component of this bloc.

This year foreign policy was not a top priority for presidential candidates. It was rarely mentioned in the presidential

debate outside the context of alleged Chinese, Russian and Iranian meddling in the electoral process.

While most Americans of Lebanese descent increasingly affiliate themselves with the Democratic Party and vote accordingly, American Lebanese won more seats on a Republican ticket than on a Democratic one. Some would argue that second- and third-generation Lebanese integrated more with the American society and local issues while recent immigrants are still affected by Middle Eastern issues, mainly attitude toward Muslims and immigration policy. The shift from The Republican Party toward the Democratic Party has become obvious in past presidential elections, with the younger generation increasingly attaining a higher level of education.

Nevertheless, there are American Lebanese who are still linked to their country of origin and are affected by their relatives back home and vote on Lebanese political sentiments rather than local American issues.

Hopefully, American Lebanese can in turn influence voters in their country of origin to vote on issues and not tribal and sectarian lines.

Mouafac Harb is a veteran American-Lebanese journalist based in Beirut.





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