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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Harrop: Biden needs Haley voters

By Froma Harrop
Published: April 11, 2024, 6:01am

Barack Obama got it right. He refused to be held captive to his party’s left wing.

He adopted a strenuous policy of border enforcement, even as some Latino activists threatened to withhold their support for him.

He had tense relations with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu, but when anti-Israel protesters interrupted a Biden fundraiser over the Gaza conflict, Obama reprimanded them: “Here’s the thing, you can’t just talk and not listen.” And the hall broke into applause.

Should Biden worry about keeping members of the Democrats’ perpetually unhappy left on his team come November? Not to the extent that it costs broader public support — or goes against U.S. interests.

The far left’s power comes not in its big numbers but in its members’ ability to bully Democrats into taking positions that cost them elections.

It’s happened time and again.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, prominent leftists urged followers to vote for spoiler Ralph Nader instead of the moderate Democrat Al Gore. A handful of Nader votes in Florida delivered the presidency to George W. Bush.

In 2016, Bernie Sanders and many followers slashed the tires under Hillary Clinton’s campaign, thus helping elect Donald Trump, who had cleverly egged them on.

Many of the disrupters waving Palestinian flags feel genuine despair at the Gaza horror. They have much company in this.

But a lot of what they’re after is attention. Getting pats on the head on social media is more important than helping defeat Donald Trump.

Exactly what was the point of pro-Palestinian demonstrators’ disrupting an Easter Vigil Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral other than to get on the news? They know where the cameras are.

Come November, the hard left may deprive Biden of some needed votes. How much wiser to concentrate on Nikki Haley Republicans in the battlegrounds where moderate Republicans reside. And the Biden campaign is reportedly doing that.

According to a February Quinnipiac poll, 37 percent of Republican-leaning voters who supported Haley said they’d vote for Biden. That doesn’t include the percentage of Republicans who would simply sit out an election that has Trump on the ballot.

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Biden can’t emphasize enough his support for the border enforcement bill that Trump had killed precisely because it would have worked, thus depriving him of a potent campaign issue. Any notion that this stance would turn off Latino voters is belied by polls showing Trump actually gaining some support among them as well as Black voters. And that’s despite Trump’s talking about mass deportations.

Perhaps Blacks and Latinos want different things from their political leaders than having their identities massaged.

Other polls show illegal immigration — as well as crime — rank high on the list of these voters’ concerns.

No surprise there. Poorly controlled borders intensify competition for workers without college degrees. These jobs are in construction, manufacturing, restaurants and hotels, retail — positions that are heavily occupied by people of color.

Contained in Obama’s message to the anti-Israel left was the reality that the conflict in Gaza is complicated. But when you get down to the Squad level on the left, the problem isn’t so much what many believe as their lack of depth in understanding the issues.

Trump Republicans can’t help but love them. Here are would-be Democrats helping a candidate who, as president, introduced a ban on Muslims even entering the country — and says he would restore it in a second term.

Haley voters could well be the key to a Biden victory, especially if the president doesn’t torment them with woke nonsense.

Biden needs to keep Democrats united as is politically doable while getting the never-Trump Republicans to actually cast a vote — if not whole-heartedly for him, at least for the democracy.