RISE Together Fund

MASA Communities at the Forefront: Lessons from the 2018 Midterm Elections

By guest author Lida Azim, RTF Consultant

Summary

From RTF’s donor partner education, to our grantees’ critical organizing and civic engagement support, the MASA field, like many communities of color, saw historic rates of engagement during the 2018 midterm elections.

Organizing During the Midterms

From the Justice for Muslims Collective’s voter registration events to Asian Americans Advancing Justice providing crucial Know Your Rights materials, RTF’s grantees made a significant impact on organizing and engaging voters during the 2018 midterm elections.

RTF grantee Arab American Institute Foundation provided get out the vote (GOTV) information, a nonpartisan election protection phone hotline resource, and other important support to Arab Americans through its Yalla Vote efforts. Through its GOTV efforts, Emgage reached 100,000 households and held candidate forums and town halls. Other grantees were active on Twitter, promoting the #MyMuslimVote hashtag, and reminding members of the public to vote and to remember that MASA communities should not be forgotten or demonized by candidates, many of whom spewed Islamophobic rhetoric during campaigns.

The RTF-funded MASA Organizing team, which provides critical rapid response and coordination functions for the field, developed a Tumblr site which houses key organizing and civic engagement resources designed specifically for the MASA field. In addition, the MASA Organizing team along with a working group composed of RTF grantees and field partners such as the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), the Brennan Center, and several Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) chapters, created a graphic for community engagement and nonpartisan voter education which outlines key issues pertinent for MASA voters, such as ensuring a fair census count, and ending the Muslim bans.

Post-Election Analysis

These engagement efforts paid off. CAIR released the results of its “American Muslim Voters and the 2018 Midterm Elections” exit poll indicting that 95 percent of eligible Muslim voters turned out at the polls. In addition, the poll showed that since the 2016 Presidential election, 53 percent of Muslim voters became more interested in politics. These statistics may be key for to continue to build on the community’s civic engagement efforts.

RTF Program Director Shireen Zaman facilitated a post-election funder briefing panel, “Breaking the Cycle, Building Long-Term Immigrant Political Power,” during which panelists discussed how immigrant communities are becoming more civically engaged, and how philanthropy can help support immigrant communities, especially in engaging new voters and supporting community based civic engagement that centers issues of concern to the community.

CAIR, Jetpac, and MPower Change released The Rise of American Muslim Changemakers: Political Organizing in the Trump Era. This report tells the story of the rise of the American Muslim political class during the Trump era and provides readers insight into the mechanics of running a campaign and organizing at the grassroots level. The report deepens the nationwide conversation about the American Muslim community’s involvement in the political sphere as it prepares for the 2020 election.

The midterms were also an unprecedented time for diverse candidates running for office. Palestinian American Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) and Somali American Ilhan Omar (MN-05) were the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress. In addition, an estimated 128 Arab Americans ran at all levels of government.

Conclusions

From grassroots organizing to donor partner education, MASA communities are becoming more civically engaged and their involvement in the 2018 midterms indicates that they continue to be a key voting bloc moving into 2020. RTF’s grantees’ efforts demonstrate that the MASA field as a whole is continuing to help shape and support a more empowered, resilient, and civically active MASA community.