‘Uncommitted’ movement pressuring Biden over Gaza brings in half a million dollars

<span>Uncommitted voters in Michigan in February.</span><span>Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images</span>
Uncommitted voters in Michigan in February.Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

The uncommitted national campaign has brought in nearly half a million dollars to finance the movement that is aiming to push Joe Biden towards a ceasefire in Gaza.

The shoestring movement started in Michigan’s presidential primary, where more than 100,000 voters cast ballots for uncommitted, a signal to the Biden campaign that he is out of step with his likely voters on the war in Gaza. Since then, other states – such as Minnesota, Washington and Wisconsin – picked up the idea, organizing rapidly to turn out people who wanted to send Biden a message.

After the Michigan presidential primary, the Movement Voter Project, the biggest funder to uncommitted’s national organization, Listen to Us, gave $160,000 to help push the plan forward. The second-largest funder, according to the group’s FEC filing, is Arab Americans for Progress, a Michigan-based political group.

The progressive Movement Voter Project funds dozens of local groups, particularly in battleground states, that do the on-the-ground work of politics. It has tens of thousands of donors and moves tens of millions of dollars each election cycle as a “fund of funds” that doles out money to smaller organizations, said Billy Wimsatt, the executive director of the Movement Voter Project.

Some Democrats have criticized the uncommitted movement, saying it will pull voters away from Biden and throw the election to Donald Trump. But organizers have said the movement is not anti-Biden, and is instead focused solely on getting Biden to change course on the war in Gaza. Uncommitted voters are highly unlikely to vote for Trump, so Democrats hope they will return to Biden in November – but organizers say whether they will is up to Biden.

In the context of what the Movement Voter Project funds, the amount for uncommitted is small. But the funding has led to some trepidation among donors, Wimsatt wrote in a blogpost shared with the Guardian, who worried that the uncommitted campaign will jeopardize Biden’s chances in November.

“In every single conversation, many donors start out very concerned,” Wimsatt wrote. “But after we’ve had a chance to really discuss it, every single person has come away with a very different perspective. Many have come away expressing a sense of cautious optimism and hope. ‘OK, I get it now – this makes a lot of sense’ is a common refrain.”

Wimsatt described the Movement Voter Project’s support of uncommitted as a “win-win-win”. He said: “It helps people in Gaza, helps Biden be better in policy, and supports a grassroots group that is good at engaging voters.”

Those voters, he wrote, represent a real “Biden enthusiasm gap” that uncommitted organizers have worked to engage and will help turn out in November. In some of the states with uncommitted pushes, like Michigan and Wisconsin, the number of voters who chose that ballot option exceeds the margin Biden won the states by, a worrisome note for Biden’s re-election campaign.

“To state the (hopefully) obvious from MVP’s perspective: we would never support this strategy if we thought it would hurt Biden’s chances this fall. We believe that it is strategic for Democratic-leaning donors to support them right now to win major policy changes in the coming weeks and months – both to save lives in Gaza and to make all of our jobs easier as we work to, again, in the Uncommitted movement’s own words: keep anti-war voters engaged to fight fascism and strengthen our democracy in November,” Wimsatt wrote.

There have been some signs the movement led to changes in the Biden camp, at least in language. The Biden administration started calling for a “temporary ceasefire” instead of dubbing it a “humanitarian pause”, for instance, though the crux of the idea was largely the same. Now, with Iran launching missiles and drones into Israel, it’s not clear what tack the Biden administration will take in the region.

The uncommitted campaigns won delegates in several states to send to the Democratic National Convention, where vocal supporters of the movement plan to use their platform to continuing pressing Biden on Gaza.