The Challenges of Running to Be the First Muslim Governor

One of the Trump supporters I follow on Facebook posted something that grabbed my attention (and not in the way he hoped):

Be forewarned.
> Be ready > for an “Obama like” being groomed by George Soros…
> Etch this man’s face and name in your mind.
> His name is Abdul El-Sayed.
> He is 32 years old, born in the USA , and an extremely well educated Muslim Doctor in Detroit Michigan. (education funded by George Soros)
> He is handsome, articulate, charismatic (more so than Obama), and smart.
> He is sympathetic of the Muslim Brotherhood, and is running for Governor of Michigan.
> Which is Step 1 in his preparation to run For President Of the United States.
> He has the potential to be Obama #2, but far more openly Muslim
> In 2020 he will be eligible to run for President!
> Democrats’ mouths are watering in anticipation and raising money.
> Elizabeth Pocahontas Warren is already campaigning for him.
> Another Trojan horse????

I suspect that he got a lot of that from this article about Abdul el-Sayed at World Net Daily. Since when does that publication devote an entire article to someone running in a Democratic primary for governor more than a year before the election? The answer is too easy…when they are Muslim. Here is their conclusion:

“It’s Obama II,” Manasseri said. “Elizabeth Warren will be coming to campaign for him, the Democrats in other states will be raising money for him. The DNC number-two man [Keith Ellison] will be raising money for him. Of course this guy is going to be on the Sunday morning talk shows. He’ll be everywhere. A candidate for governor who is Muslim Brotherhood …if that doesn’t tell you there’s a Shariah swamp in Michigan I don’t know what does.”

You might suggest that is hardly surprising coming from the Islamophobes at World Net Daily. But in an otherwise informative article published in Politico today about El-Sayed, take a look at the title: “Is Michigan Ready for a Governor Named Abdul?” The point they make is to ask the question of whether or not his Egyptian heritage and Muslim faith will be a problem for white working class people in Michigan.

This is a perfect example of what I wrote recently about the fact that it is not Democrats who make wedge issues out of things like race/gender/religion. It is the Republicans and their right wing extremists friends who do that, especially in the Trump era. Abdul el-Sayed isn’t running as “the Muslim candidate.” As a matter of fact, given his medical degree from Columbia and his time spent as director of the health department in Detroit, here’s what he said inspired him to run for governor:

I watched as Governor Snyder and his team of accountants were cutting costs and cutting corners. Their inattention to communities ultimately poisoned thousands of children – and those children were the very ones that I was serving at the helm of the health department.

I realised that the poisoning of 9,000 kids in Flint was really a result of running government “like a business” like Governor Snyder had – more focused on cutting costs than on ensuring that essential and basic services make their way to real people who rely on them to survive.

And that’s something I didn’t believe in. I believe in government as something we do in this country for the people and by the people. I believe in a government that focuses on people, their opportunities, and their promise. As a doctor, educator, and public servant, I see my responsibility as refocusing on the dignity and prosperity of working people, whether they are black Americans in places like Detroit or Flint, or white Americans in places like Cheboygan or Ishpeming.

Beyond that, those of you that have followed Bernie Sanders closely will remember when he decried what he called “identity politics.” It’s interesting to note that El-Sayed’s campaign has attracted a lot of enthusiasm from Sanders supporters.

The Sanders vibe is obvious everywhere: His staff is made up of former Sanders campaign workers (who still wear Bernie 2016 stickers and clothing), a bunch of college-age interns and campaign manager Max Glass, a veteran of a number of come-from-behind congressional campaigns…

The goal, Glass explained, is to replicate how Sanders’ insurgent campaign simultaneously energized anti-establishment Democrats and also bring in outside voters to the party’s primary.

It’s not that El-Sayed does anything to hide his Egyptian heritage or his Muslim faith. That would be ridiculous. Take a look at how he talks about what he learned from his immigrant parents in the video that launched his campaign.

It is those who use “identity issues” as a wedge that simply see people though the lens of their race/gender/religion. In other words, those who assume that white/male/Christian is the default. The only way for Democrats to avoid that problem is to ensure that all of their candidates fit the profile. Personally, I’m glad that people like Abdul el-Sayed are blazing a different trail.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.