Mitt Romney Deserves the Arab-American Vote

Mitt Romney Deserves the Arab-American Vote

George Salem |

The coming presidential election presents a consequential choice for American voters. Many Americans are concerned with the direction their country is heading. Arab Americans are no different. As a community we are well integrated into American political life and an important voting constituency in many areas of the country. Our vote matters, as do the concerns and insight of our community matter this election season. In September 2012, the Arab American Institute released a poll on how the community will vote. The poll found that 16% of voters remain undecided and therefore up for grabs by both campaigns. These voters are listening closely for a campaign message that speaks to their concerns. On issues such as the economy, education, and engagement of the community, Governor Mitt Romney has made a strong case for why he deserves the Arab American vote.


The past four years under President Barack Obama has seen a record 42 consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent. 23 million Americans are out of work and one in six Americans is in poverty. It is no wonder given these economic conditions that jobs and the economy are far and away the most cited issue of importance to my fellow Arab Americans. AAI’s poll shows that 82 percent of Arab Americans rated the economy as the most important issue to them this election season.

Romney’s campaign message, focused on jobs and economic growth, has resonated with Arab Americans across the country. Arab American voters appreciate Romney’s private sector experience and find his belief in entrepreneurial spirit and individual achievement consistent with their values. His economic plan, in particular his pledge to lower taxes and simplify the tax code, would provide relief to the many Arab Americans seeking to expand their business or simply find work. Romney’s pledge to champion small business also resonates with the Arab American community. Many Arab American small business owners feel that Romney’s policy proposals aimed at reducing their tax burden and eliminating regulations and red tape would help their businesses grow. Our community is one that values education. 45% of Americans of Arab descent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 28% of Americans at large. Romney’s education policies speak to those who place high value on quality and choice in their children’s education. As President, Romney would promote affordable and innovative options to students trapped in bad schools. His policies would attract and retain better teachers, as well as hold teachers accountable for results. His record as Governor, in which Massachusetts schools led the nation, appeals to voters on this issue of great importance.


Arab Americans’ role in the Romney campaign has been active and substantive from the start. I am one of several high profile advisors to the Romney campaign from the community, as I serve on Governor Romney’s labor policy committee. Former Governor and Arab American John Sununu serves as one of Romney’s most visible surrogates in the media. A record number of Arab Americans participated in the Republican National Convention as delegates. This month the Romney campaign announced “Arab Americans for Romney,” a national coalition of Arab American supporters of Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency of the United States. This involvement is also a testimony to how far the community has come. 30 years ago, when Arab Americans made campaign donations, our contributions were returned. Now members of our community are able to participate in politics while wearing their ethnicity on their sleeve and campaigns like Governor Romney’s tout their support from our community.


As a member of a religious minority himself, Governor Romney holds a personal belief in the need to protect religious minorities. Romney was the pastor of his church in Belmont Massachusetts when it was burned down in a suspected arson attack. This experience helps the Governor understand what many religious minorities in the United States, including American Muslims, experience. It is likely that this experience would also inform his decisions on protection of religious minorities in the Arab world.

Many of us have liked what President Obama has tried to do in the foreign policy area, but are frustrated that he has failed to deliver. Some of Governor Romney’s statements on the campaign trail, particularly on the peace process, indicate that he needs to better understand the Arab world. Romney’s career, however, shows that he is a highly analytical person, who is always open to new information. The Romney campaign’s embrace of its Arab American support suggests that he would be willing as President to learn from our community about issues relevant to the Arab world. Between President Obama’s record and Governor Romney’s statements on the trail, we are not presented with a clear choice on foreign policy. This disappointment among Arab Americans in their foreign policy choices is yet another reason why we will be casting our votes in November based on issues like education and the economy.


The stakes are high in this election for Arab Americans, as well as for all Americans. More than any other issue, this election is about Americans’ economic future. American voters in general are rightly concerned by the slow pace of recovery and persistently high unemployment. Arab Americans are business owners, doctors, lawyers and public servants, and together as a community they are an electoral constituency that matters. Mitt Romney knows this, and his campaign speaks to the concern our community has about our future and the future of our country.


George Salem is the Chairperson of the Arab-American Institute AAI and serves on Mitt Romney’s campaign Labor Committee.