Washington Examiner

Biden’s Evolution: From Supporting Protests to Becoming Their Target

The article explores the evolving dynamics of the 2024 election, ​focusing on the changes in protest movements affecting Biden’s campaign. It details how Biden initially supported protests but is now facing protests himself. The piece delves into the Democrats’ splintering views on supporting protests and​ the GOP’s stance on backing Israel amid Democratic disagreements. The ⁢article delves into the shifting landscape of the 2024 election, emphasizing the impact of protest movements on Biden’s campaign. ‌It highlights Biden’s transition ⁢from supporting protests to being protested.⁤ Furthermore, it discusses the Democrats’ divided stance on protests and the GOP’s⁢ position on supporting Israel⁣ amidst Democratic discord.

Election Day is less than six months away, and voters have a familiar choice of President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Unless it’s The Godfather Part II, sequels rarely live up to the hype created by the original. While the main attraction looks like a 2020 repeat on the surface, the star players are competing in a different game, under different rules, and with greater stakes. This Washington Examiner series, Judgment Day: Why 2024 rematch won’t be any old sequel, investigates the key differences from 2020. Part Two is on the changes in the protest movement that have hurt Biden’s campaign.

As Black Lives Matter protests took hold across the nation four years ago, Democrats rushed to embrace the fury that erupted in major cities and found common cause with them.

Vice President Kamala Harris, then the junior Democratic senator from California, fundraised money to bail out Minnesota protesters arrested by police for demonstrating against George Floyd’s murder.

President Joe Biden, then a Democratic presidential candidate, emerged from his basement to hold his first in-person campaign event since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020 to make overtures to activists and black leaders in Wilmington, Delaware. After visiting a protest site, Biden pledged to establish a police oversight board in the first 100 days in office.


In a viral moment that swept social media, Democratic leaders such as then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), draped themselves in kente cloths and knelt in the Capitol Visitor Center for eight minutes and 46 seconds in tribute to Floyd, who died after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.

In contrast, then-President Donald Trump did not rush to embrace the anguish pandemic and the protests. Nor did many members of the GOP.

Trump raged against Antifa for inciting some activists to burn down police facilities and cars in multiple cities throughout the country. At times, Trump threatened to unleash dogs on protesters and suggested looters will be shot.

Looting leads to shooting, and that’s why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night – or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don’t want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night means….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020

In an infamous moment, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) called for federal troops to quash the protest, prompting heavy blowback.

Four years later Biden and Trump are competing against one another again for the presidency and the nation finds itself again in a state of protest. This time, however, the outrage is over Israel’s battle against Hamas and Biden finds himself in an unfamiliar spot.

Biden is no longer an ally to protesters; he has become the one being protested.

At campaign rallies, Biden and Harris’s speeches have been interrupted by activists pushing for a ceasefire in the Middle East conflict. Even Biden’s government employees are being targeted for disruption as the anger has spread nationwide to cities and college campuses.

Many of the protesters are members of the coalition that won Biden the presidency in 2020. Now as the 2024 battle heats up Democrats can’t afford to ignore the rising anger of the very same voters they need to retain the White House.

Some in the GOP, seizing on the disunity among Democrats, are already declaring victory ahead of the November election.

“Biden’s already lost as a result of the protests, the violence on college campuses. I think he’s done,” said Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), a key Trump ally. “Stick a fork in him. It’s over.”

Democrats splinter over supporting Israel

One of the chief differences between then and now is that Democrats are no longer as united in their support for protesters as they were in 2020. These differences have erupted in Congress, on college campuses, and in several primary contests ahead of the November election.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas has erupted simmering tensions in the Democratic Party on how far the U.S. is willing to support Israel, as allegations of genocide against Palestinians living in Gaza have been lobbied against the beleaguered nation.

A man visiting from New Jersey holds up a poster in support of bringing Israeli hostages home behind a protest where a large banner that says “Biden: Ceasefire Now” along with fake white body bags, representing those killed in the escalating conflict in Gaza and Israel, is displayed in front of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Arab, Muslim, progressive, and young voters—key voting blocs in the Democratic coalition, have continually pressured the Biden administration to cut off support to Israel.

They’ve gone so far as to stage protest votes in several state primaries, beginning with Michigan’s primary in late February when more than 101,000 Democrats opted to snub Biden and vote uncommitted.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, (D-MI), a progressive member of the Squad, claimed she was proud to vote uncommitted in a public rebuke of the leader of the Democratic Party.

The movement spread to several states in the primary calendar and poses a serious risk to Biden’s reelection. If just enough of these “Abandon Biden” voters refuse to vote for him in November or stay home, it could cost Biden key battleground states and ultimately the election.

GOP capitalizes on Democratic disagreement

Republicans remain largely united that the U.S. should remain unequivocal in its support of Israel and rejecting antisemitism.

But they have pounced on the infighting among Democrats to push forward on messaging bills in support of Israel, running on a theme of law-and-order similar to the 2020 election, and denigrating university leaders by claiming their embrace of DEI initiatives has led to a rising tide of antisemitism on college campuses.

Many congressional Republicans have slammed the college encampments that at times have led to violent protests and disruptions and demanded law enforcement step in. It’s a move long consistent with the GOP’s support of police officers going back to Richard Nixon’s successful 1968 election where he pushed for justice and order in the nation.

“In this particular case, you have people disrupting academic settings, trespassing and destroying property and threatening Jewish students. There’s an anti-Semitic component to it. That’s troubling,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told the Washington Examiner.

“What’s behind this movement at the end of the day is this argument that Israel’s committing genocide and targeting and killing civilians for purposes of punishing Hamas and the Palestinians. This is a false narrative, and it’s giving fuel to these groups,” Rubio continued. “But no matter what Biden does, don’t ever appease them, he can hold back weapons like he’s trying to do now. It’s not going to appease these groups. These groups want the destruction of Israel.”

Republicans have also found success in pillorying college presidents who have struggled to quell the ongoing protests.

Rep. Elise Stefanick (R-NY) was widely credited with leading to the ouster of two Ivy League leaders, University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill and Harvard University President Claudine Gay, after holding congressional hearings on antisemitism with university presidents.

The resignations earned her high praise from Trump and consideration as his running mate.

The GOP has continuously condemned any actions from Biden appeasing members of his party who want the U.S. to end support for Israel.

After Biden claimed that if Israel invaded Rafah he would block specific 2,000-pound bombs from Israel, Republicans were universal in their disapproval.

FILE – Protesters demonstrate against the war in Gaza outside the entrance to the campus of Columbia University, Tuesday, April 30, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

The House GOP brought forth a vote on the Israel Security Assistance Support Act, forcing Biden to send $1 billion in weaponry to Israel but it has little chance of passing into law.

Instead, the Biden administration is pushing forth a $1 billion weapon shipment to Israel that includes $700 million in tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles, and $60 million in mortar rounds.

The measure did little to appease the GOP.

“That is a pittance. That is a window dressing. That is to try to give him political cover,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said during a press conference Thursday morning. “Those are things that were already determined a long time ago, we just passed the aid package just less than three weeks ago. And now they’re defying the will of Congress.”

From left, GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., speak to reporters about President Joe Biden pausing a shipment of bombs to Israel, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, May 16, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The political risks for Biden are high

Biden is walking a delicate fine line between appeasing the wide-tent coalition whom he needs to win re-election and not breaking with the American tradition of supporting Israel.

Young and minority voters were key to Biden’s success in 2020 but could be his downfall in 2024 if they refuse to support him again.

But as he tried to acknowledge their grievances to Israel, it came with instant backlash from Congress. The red line Biden drew with regard to Israel invading Rafah was rebuked by both Democrats such as Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) and most if not all Republicans.

Biden’s efforts have proven unsatisfactory to many vocal Left-leaning Democrats who pushed back against descriptions that the protests are antisemitic.

“I would, first of all, reframe them (protests), not as pro-Palestinian but pro-human rights and pro-humanity,” Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), a progressive member of the Squad. “Because they just want peace and they’re anti-war. And so they’re protesting the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians, and the Democratic Party should be aligned with them and working for humanity together. That’s what I would hope we will be doing.”

FILE – Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-N.Y., from left, speaks alongside, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., Rep. Jonathan Jackson, D-Ill., and Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., during a vigil with state legislators and faith leaders currently on hunger strike outside the White House to demand that President Joe Biden call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on Nov. 29, 2023. (AP Photo/Nathan Howard, File)

Bowman, who is in a tough primary election where American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is working to elect his opponent, would go on to dismiss the GOP’s support of Israel.

“The GOP will weaponize any opportunity that they see,” he added. “If they see a little bit of disagreement they’re gonna paint it as division and then weaponize it to create a narrative.”

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Thursday showed 44% of registered Democrats disapproved of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas crisis, with those same Democrats being less likely to commit to voting for Biden in November, a worrying sign for the president.

Other Democrats pointed out that young voters are voting on a host of issues, not just over the Israel-Hamas battle.


A Harvard Youth Poll from March showed economic issues were the top concern for respondents at 27%. The Israel/Palestinian conflict only received 2% support. However, 76% said they disapproved of how Biden is handling the war, and only 18% approved.

“Well people feel very, very strongly but the polling I saw said that even amongst youth, amongst young voters, that this is not … it was listed last in terms of their top voting concerns,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). “That being said, you know, the best thing possible, not just for elections, but is to get a ceasefire and get those hostages released.”

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