The Uncommitted Campaign in New Jersey: The Fight To End Genocide Continues

Image by John Cameron.

A sense of urgency loomed over Fatima Mughal, one of the leading organizers behind the uncommitted campaign in New Jersey. Some emotional containment was necessary in the midst of an ongoing genocide.

“The people who’ve lost so much in Gaza don’t have the time to sit with their feelings,” she expressed, referring to the 40,000 Palestinian lives killed by the Israeli state since late last year.

The uncommitted movement had initially started in Michigan, where over 100,000 registered Democrats voted “uncommitted” instead of voting Joe Biden in the party’s primary election. Voting “uncommitted” in the primary was a rebuke of Biden’s support for Israel’s war against Gaza and the West Bank. The campaign to vote “uncommitted” and to challenge Biden’s support for Israel has now spread to New Jersey, as well as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, crucial swing states for the general presidential election.

Despite Biden’s moments of disagreement with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s far-right leader, the administration has shoveled more and more military aid and funding toward Israel, as it’s targeted civilian areas across the Gaza Strip, from refugee camps to churches. Hospitals have also been reduced to rubble, leaving Palestinians with very little in terms of medical support or any semblance of normality.

The purpose of the uncommitted campaign has been to channel the rising anger against Israel’s war and the U.S. support for it in ways that would finally compel elected officials to listen. The movement wants officials to cut all funding for the Israeli state, for a ceasefire to be brokered, and broadly, for a liberated Palestine that has the resources and rights to grow and develop.

A growing segment of the U.S. public has now been turning against Israel’s war. In New Jersey, the campaign has succeeded in gathering over 3500 signatures, well over the 2000 that was required for the “uncommitted” campaign to get on the ballot in nearly all 21 districts across the state.

But there’s no time to take a breath or slow down.

“Now, we’re figuring out how to rally the voters for this,” Fatima expressed. With the primary vote slated for early June, the goal is to now inform more of the Democratic party electorate about the campaign and their opportunity to send a message to the Biden administration regarding the genocide.

“We have to keep going,” said Carissa Cunningham, one of the other leaders of the campaign in New Jersey. “It’s been exciting! But we can’t slow down. The Democrat establishment doesn’t want this to work and so, we’ve had to figure all this out on our own, and now find a way to get people to come out for this.”

The uncommitted campaign has become a reflection of the growing divide in this country between those who desire a truly progressive force and others who reduce collective political horizons to choosing between one element of the ruling class elite over the other.

Admittedly, on some domestic issues, like labor, Biden is not Trump. Trump himself has only become far more vicious in his language against fellow Americans and groups of people he finds abhorrent. However, much of Biden’s own policies, whether it’s been his shifting to the right on immigration or his reluctance in effectively dealing with student college debt, has generated antipathy, if not outright hostility, among those who otherwise would be anti-GOP or anti-conservative.

Biden’s recent support for the extreme rightwing government in Israel, a government that has targeted and killed tens of thousands of innocent people, has heightened the level of disappointment and disgust for a president who portrays himself as the anti-Trump candidate, a man who during his presidential run had promised no future wars and subsequently, withdrew troops from Afghanistan. Ideologically speaking, Biden is a Zionist, having said this in the public. Still, the manner in which the administration has supported the far-right agenda in Israel has been disturbing for many, prompting Fatima, Carissa, and others they know in their organizing circles to put forward the uncommitted campaign as a means of leveraging some form of accountability or humiliation that could lead the Biden administration into finally doing what’s right.

“We cannot allow this genocide to continue,” Carissa stated..


At the time when the uncommitted movement emerged in Michigan, Fatima admitted she’d been feeling extremely worn down and disgusted by elected officials’ refusal to call for a ceasefire, and found it difficult to keep attending rallies and protests.

“None of these elected officials were listening to us,” Fatima expressed. She added how watching the news about the uncommitted campaign in Michigan, along with other organizers, finally flipped a switch for them.

Seeing how just a few days after the Michigan primary VP Kamala Harris mentioned “ceasefire” for the first time was exhilarating. Quickly, a group of organizers from the three NJ chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, convened, and started to think through how they too could do something similar.

Both Fatima and Carissa, along with several others, had already cut their teeth organizing within the DSA and beyond it. Fatima had already been one of the main organizers in the central New Jersey chapter, having pulled people together on issues ranging from defunding law enforcement to fighting for immigration justice and immigrants’ rights. Carissa too has been a long-time member of the chapter, but more importantly, has been a labor organizer at Rutgers where they teach and are wrapping up their doctoral research.

Others too either organize within labor unions or around labor and tenants’ rights issues across the state. Immediately after deciding on pursuing an uncommitted campaign of their own, several core members took on the task of figuring out the process of getting the uncommitted onto the ballot. Another team began to mobilize, based on the information they learned, on conducting canvasses around the state in every district available to collect the necessary number of signatures. In each district, at least 100 signatures from registered Democratic party voters had to be collected for the uncommitted to show up on the district ballot.

Teams of volunteers spent days at major intersections, outside train stations, and at mosques, gathering signatures. At first, people assumed they were with the Democratic party and voiced their displeasure but upon learning that they were involved in something called the uncommitted campaign, people began signing their names.

“We were genuinely surprised by some of this,” Carissa said, “But there’s something guttural about this too, for people, especially when we connect with people at the local mosques and other parts of the state where you have people who’ve felt alienated from everything, and just disappointed.”

The Democratic party has been a bundle of contradictions. It has, compared to the GOP, managed to attract a far more diverse base of support, and in recent years, has even generated an increased turnout for some of its candidates. The Obama years exemplified this. However, the party has oftentimes relied on gathering support for its candidates by contrasting them against the extreme rightwing candidates within the Republican party. But in recent years, as its own leadership has failed to deliver on major campaign promises like healthcare and other domestic economic issues, it’s seen a growing level of dissatisfaction among its base, including young people.

Biden’s support for Israel and his general rightwing foreign policy agenda, which includes his backing of other extremist regimes such as Saudi Arabia, has caused many Muslims and Arab Americans to feel frustrated and alienated, having been encouraged to vote for the Democrats time and time again.

With the uncommitted campaign, the hope is to draw those same people who’ve drifted away mainstream politics back into a campaign, and longer-term, develop a constituency that could be instrumental in not just ending genocide in Palestine but on other critical issues, like Medicare-For-All, or fighting for labor rights, and a more robust government welfare system. In terms of foreign policy, the goal is to generate opposition not just against the U.S.’s relationship with Israel but it’s general imperial policies, from its support for other reactionary regimes and of course, its funding for antidemocratic and anti-socialist/anti-progressive movements since the dawning of the Cold War.

“It’s clear when talking with Democrats that they wanted something different, something they can actually support,” Carissa explained, recounting their time conversing with registered Democrats for the campaign.

It’s evident, according to Fatima and Carissa, that there’s energy amongst Democrat voters and those who might’ve aligned with the party for a truly progressive force to emerge, whether that’s an independent pro-workers’ party, or a general movement bent on enacting progressive demands. The uncommitted campaign, however, has been important in gaining the attention of many Democrats who had become disengaged with mainstream politics due to their anger and disappointment in Biden.

“The coalition of people we’ve been building so far includes people of all ages, all ethnicities, all religions, all gender identities too,” Fatima explained. “We have people who learned about the campaign from us and want to volunteer. They want to be part of something bigger than them.”


Next steps include phone-banking and more canvassing to mobilize the vote for the uncommitted. The Democratic primary in New Jersey is June 4. If enough votes are delivered, delegates representing the uncommitted campaign would be sent to the DNC Convention where they could once again leverage their power to compel the Biden campaign to relent on its support of Israel.

However, as the core members organize upcoming rallies and events to generate excitement for the uncommitted campaign, there’s also the realization that now, more people need to be actively recruited into the campaign for it to sustain itself. Currently, much of the work being done has been conducted by organizers like Fatima, Carissa, and a few others, which could inevitably lead to burnout.

The movement also has yet to reflect some of the diversity that can be found across New Jersey in terms of race/ethnicity.

“Recruitment had taken a back seat earlier on to figuring out the logistics of getting onto the ballot,” Carissa said, “But we are out there again, trying to encourage more black and brown people to take part in this.” Some of this has meant once more returning to mosques, not just for peoples’ support, but to encourage members to take a more active role in the campaign itself.

New Jersey is one of the country’s most densely populated regions but also, one of its most racially and ethnically diverse, with concentrations of South Asians and Arab Americans in central and north New Jersey. Paterson, once a major hub of industry, remains an incredibly dynamic city due to its Muslim and Arab population. Major politicians running for higher office in the state need now to demonstrate some sense of responsiveness to some of the needs and interests of such black and brown communities.

At the same time, much like the rest of the country, the left-wing is still oftentimes outmaneuvered, due to lack of resources and having to rebuild from years of repression and misdirection in terms of strategy, by the Democratic party establishment. Not to mention among our communities there are, of course, dividing lines like class that are just as incredibly important to pay attention to as it is for our white counterparts. If the left doesn’t engage with such communities, it allows more opportunities for our class enemies to do so instead.

Another major issue that the campaign has to contend with is emotional and physical burnout. Once again, there is a core group that’s been effectively leading efforts in getting uncommitted onto the ballot and now spearheading a mass campaign to get out the vote. However, given the emotional toll of the work at-hand, it can be extremely draining.

“I cry every day, seeing what is happening in Gaza,” Fatima expressed, also sharing how many other Muslims that she knows have continued to feel extremely marginalized and emotionally spent. The daily exposure to what’s going on in Palestine is not something any of them can ignore, and yet, remains disturbing and can elicit at times, a sense of hopelessness.

Even with the work that’s being done as part of the campaign, the dread and anxiety doesn’t simply go away. Sometimes, it can become less intense but even then, one can’t escape the reality that there are thousands of Palestinians being attacked almost every day, losing more and more land in the process.

Still, the leadership of the movement have been aware of these issues and more. And regardless of how one may feel about what’s going on, the campaign’s leaders are committed to making sure that New Jersey voters are heard on June 4 and that the Biden administration finally starts to draw down its support for the Israeli state.

“Maybe at some point we will assess how we are feeling and what’s happened, the scale of it,” Fatima expressed, “But right now, we have to keep going.”

Go here to learn more about the campaign in New Jersey.