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Abdul’s eligibility question is dog-whistle politics

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On January 29th, Bridge, a Michigan online publication funded by the DeVos family, published an article questioning Abdul El-Sayed’s eligibility to run for governor, because he moved out of state and registered to vote in a different state (New York). The article cites anonymous sources in an effort to substantiate claims of ineligibility.

What prompted Bridge to investigate El-Sayed? Was there a similar investigation of all the candidates? The Michigan Secretary of State never cancelled El-Sayed’s registration. All lawyers who have chosen to go on the record since have stated that his eligibility is not in question.

What makes this article insidious is its attempt to question his legality in spite of substantiated fact. This is the definition of dog-whistle politics.
Therefore, we believe that the Bridge article is an empty story based on suggestion and innuendo, intended to plant seeds of doubt.

We, the undersigned, stand by the Abdul campaign’s position that this eligibility question is nothing but a smear in the same vein as the birther accusations against former President Barack Obama.

We believe that white people should not tell people of color what racism or xenophobia looks like. Following in a very long line of white men policing how people of color and religious minorities perceive racism, Democratic Party leaders such as Chris Savage, chair of the Washtenaw County Dems and the author of the popular “Eclectablog” blog site chastised El-Sayed for making the birther comparison. Conan Smith, the chair of the Washtenaw County Commission and the husband of State Senator Rebekah Warren, published a statement on social media strongly supporting Savage’s remarks.

We believe El-Sayed was absolutely justified in speaking out against the Bridge article and making the comparison he did. Furthermore, we find it deeply disappointing that prominent Democratic leaders in Washtenaw like Savage and Smith and the Chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, Brandon Dillon have bought into the dog-whistling, and amplified it. By denying that this has anything to do with El-Sayed’s ethnicity and religion, and claiming that these are justified accusations that he needs to clear, they are recreating problematic structures of white supremacy that hold people of color to different and higher standards than white people, and then deny that very thing is happening.

If Bridge had a real story, they would have put legal experts on record to make a court-worthy argument deligitimizing El-Sayed’s eligibility. What the article presented was not a “valid concern” but a smear.

The Democratic Party leadership should respond to this accordingly, as they would a smear. Those in positions of power, especially white men, should absolutely speak out against this article, rather than legitimize it. We urge them to retract their statements and call on all Democrats to stand in solidarity against dog-whistle tactics, regardless of which candidate they prefer. 


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