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  How the GOP Lost Arab-American Voters
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ContributorIndyGeorgia 
Last EditedIndyGeorgia  Aug 03, 2016 10:50pm
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CategoryPerspective
AuthorNancy Kaffer
News DateThursday, August 4, 2016 04:00:00 AM UTC0:0
DescriptionThe year 2000 was a good time to be an Arab-American Republican. For the first time in the community’s history, a presidential candidate had come courting.

Then-Texas Governor George W. Bush was determined to woo Michigan’s Arab-American voters in the run-up to that November’s election, which meant targeting Dearborn, the vote-rich Detroit suburb where one-third of the residents are of Arab descent. In October, Bush held a closed-door meeting with about 30 Arab-American community leaders at a ritzy Dearborn hotel. He sent campaign surrogate Condoleezza Rice to an American-Arab Chamber of Commerce-hosted luncheon. And a Dearborn-based rally the weekend before Election Day was headlined by big names: Colin Powell and Bo Derek.

For a community long considered political untouchables—in 1984, Walter Mondale returned a donation made by Arab-Americans, and in 1988, Michael Dukakis refused the endorsement of the Arab American Institute, among a litany of slights—these were heady times.

The alliance made sense: The Arab-American community is strongly entrepreneurial, socially conservative and fiscally cautious, all qualities that align with the GOP brand. And the GOP was eager to find new voters, to expand its electoral foothold in a state that had gone blue since 1992, but which sends Republicans to the governor’s mansion about as frequently as Democrats.

The next month, Bush won the presidency. And while he lost Michigan, he won the state’s Arab-Americans: Some estimates placed Bush’s support in the community as high as 72 percent.

“Four years from now,” the New York Daily News predicted, “Dearborn will very likely be a stop on the ethnic campaign trail, along with Notre Dame, Harlem, Miami Beach and Bob Jones University.”

That was then.
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