Corporate Media Say No On Ceasefire, Want To Cease “Uncommitted” Voters Instead

There is a sound strategy behind the “uncommitted” vote that the corporate news media ignore

by Kate Horgan

By: Nolan Higdon

“I understand you’re upset, we talked about this yesterday. I understand you are upset, but, you know, either we [Democrats] are going to fix it together or we are not. And the other guy [Donald Trump] is not going to fix it at all,” exclaimed comedian Whoopi Goldberg while co-hosting a February 2024 episode of the popular day time talk show The View. Goldberg and her co-hosts were venting their frustrations that earlier in the week, during the Michigan state Democratic Party Presidential Primary, 13 percent of voters, more than 100,000 people, voted by writing “uncommitted” on their ballot instead of voting for sitting President Joe Biden. As a result, “uncommitted” won two delegates who can vote for whomever they want to be the party’s nominee at the national convention this summer in Chicago.

The “uncommitted” vote was a way for citizens in Michigan to express their frustration with Biden in general, and his support for Israel’s assault on Gaza in particular. Indeed, activists in other states such as California, Maine, and Washington are considering protest votes similar to what happened in Michigan in 2024 states. The establishment news coverage of the protests demonstrates that those in corporate media are either unwilling or too ignorant to understand the activists they claim to be covering. It seems the corporate media are uncommitted to understanding that rather than using the lesser-of-two-evils strategy, a substantial portion of Democratic Party voters are choosing the “uncommitted” option to express their disapproval of the President and his party.

The establishment media was quick to deride and dismiss those who voted “uncommitted.” Former Democratic Party U.S. Senator and MSNBC contributor Claire McCaskill argued that the protest vote did not matter because these people would never vote for Biden anyways. Her colleague and former Republican member of the House of Representatives Joe Scarborough echoed the sentiment, arguing that there is plenty of time to change these voters’ minds. Meanwhile, CNN portrayed the young “uncommitted” voters as unreasonable by asking, “What can President Biden do in terms of outreach to younger voters that he has not already. I mean he has already forgiven all the student debt that he can he has already shown up on Seth Meyers and Tik-Tok, how does he reach the younger crowd?”

Rather than blame Biden for alienating voters from his coalition, much of the media criticism warned that “uncommitted” activists’ opposition to Biden will result in Donald Trump returning to the White House. This was summed up in a CNN segment where Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer argued “that any vote that’s not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term.” Similarly, Daily Beast framed the activists as naïve while arguing that ‘“uncommitted’ voters must accept Trump is much, much worse than Biden.”

The corporate media seemed unaware that the “uncommitted” vote has a strategic purpose, and it is nothing new. In 2008, supporters of the then Democratic Party presidential primary candidates and Barack Obama and John Edwards voted “uncommitted” in the Michigan primary to express their frustration with rival candidate and Hillary Clinton. If past is prologue, the uncommitted strategy clearly has a tactical purpose. In a democracy, voters choose to engage and agitate the party that they think is the most likely to give into their demands. For young leftists, the Democratic Party –which contains some progressives such as U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and some members of the so-called “Squad” in the House of Representatives – is viewed as more likely to be concerned with issues of war and peace, and of Islamophobia, than the Republican Party. Once in office, politicians no longer need voters’ support as they already attained a seat of power. It is during runup to the election that activists can extract concessions by withholding their vote until their demands are met (or at least very seriously considered).

Indeed, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who worked in the Democratic Party from 1989-1995, explained why this logic was sound and right in 2006 noting,

If you want to pull the party, the major party, that is closest to the way you are thinking, to what you are thinking, you must, you must show them that you are capable of not voting for them…..If you do not show them that you are capable of not voting for them, they don’t have to listen to you, I promise you that. I worked within the Democratic Party. I didn’t listen or have to listen to anything on the left while I was working in the Democratic Party. The left had nowhere to go. [Emphasis added]

What is odd about the news media’s derision toward “uncommitted” voters is that over the previous decade they have witnessed how inter-Republican Party antagonism, similar to the “uncommitted” vote on the left, saw activists transform conservatism into so-called Tea Party or MAGA (Make America Great Again) conservatism. Indeed, in the 2010s, rather than unify and accept the party establishment’s approach to politics, the Tea Party members regularly undermined and clashed with their party’s leadership, until they gained so much power that then Speaker of the House stopped negotiating with the President of the United States because any compromise that was made between the two was often undermined by the Tea Party wing of the Party.

More recently, with a narrow margin in 2024, MAGA Congress members succeeded in withholding their support for the establishment Republican Party apparatchik Mike McCarthy as Speaker of the House until they received concessions. Evidenced by Trump’s victories thus far in the 2024 primaries and his high poll numbers in the 2024 Presidential Election coupled with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s recent retirement announcement, some have argued that the last decade of protests within the party have resulted in the Tea Party/MAGA wing of the party becoming the face and heart of the current Republican Party. That is what the “uncommitted” voters are trying to do within the Democratic Party.

During the last 50 years, the left in the U.S. has been shamed, by the news media and Democratic Party establishment, into avoiding confrontational tactics similar to the Tea Party and MAGA activists. Instead, the leaders of the Democratic Party advocate for the lesser-of-two-evils strategy, which argues that the Democratic Party is far from the progressive party that many leftists want it to be, but the Republican Party is so much worse that they must vote for the Democratic Party (and no third party) to somehow protect more progressive-leaning values. What this essentially means in practice is that the Democratic Party is willing to move a little further to the right each election to win more voters (even if they still lose in the electoral college like in 2000 and 2016), but in doing so over a 50-year period, the nation as a whole has moved far away from most progressive policy agendas. As a result, it is no surprise that Joe Biden, who was known as one of the most conservative members of the Democratic Party in the 1970s, is now the leader of America’s supposed liberal party. Those are some seriously shifting baselines.

To keep voters locked into the lesser-of-two-evils strategy, the news media and Democratic Party establishment have vote-shamed the left into supporting non-progressive Democratic Party candidates. For example, in 2016, 2020, and 2024, the party claimed that all that progressive criticism of the Democratic Party did was enable Trump. Similarly, in 2020 when the Democratic Party had a slim majority that launched the Force The Vote campaign – which asked the “Squad” members to withhold their vote for Pelosi until she promised to hold a vote in the House of Representatives on MedicareForAll- but progressives were shamed into supporting Pelosi as Speaker of House after the news media and party apparatchiks falsely claimed that a vote against Pelosi- you guessed it- would result in a Republican Speaker of the House. More recently, in 2024, Pelosi played into discredited Russiagate narratives by attempting to shame the Israel/Gaza ceasefire activists, many of whom are presumably part of the “uncommitted” vote campaign, with the claim that they were Russian plants who needed to be investigated by the FBI.

The “uncommitted” vote seems to be the latest iteration of a half-century effort by the left to reestablish the Democratic Party as a remotely progressive entity. However, to find success, the movement aims to put the establishment Democratic Party loyalists on the defensive. This can be achieved in part by having activists force party loyalists in the establishment news media to answer simple questions about their fixation on the lesser of two evils strategy: if not now, then when should progressives or other left activists stop supporting a party antagonistic to their core values?

These activists seek to force party loyalists to explain why they supported the lesser-of-two-evils strategy in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000, when it was well known that the party was shedding progressivism for neoliberal corporatism. These same questions need to be asked of party loyalists in the subsequent elections:

Why did you support the Democratic Party: in 2004 when the party and news media stomped out the progressive message of candidate Howard Dean; in 2008 and 2012, when Obama, despite progressive rhetoric, governed like a milquetoast corporatist; in 2016, when the party tirelessly “rigged” the primary process to nominate Hillary Clinton, a candidate so unpopular that they had to rig the primary against progressives (which they later admitted and argued in court they had a right to do); and in 2020, where progressives were marginalized to make way for the nomination of a center-right, pro-corporate Joe Biden?

If the loyalists cannot defend this record, progressives hope that they can convince the loyalists to recognize the futility of the lesser-of-two-evils-strategy, and fight more courageously with the party to ensure concessions to progressives. They seek to agitate Biden to give into progressive protests so he can win in 2024. The news media seem to miss or ignore this strategy, but the activists are using the ballot box to remind them and the rest of electorate, that their votes should not be taken for granted.


Nolan Higdon is a founding member of the Critical Media Literacy Conference of the Americas, Project Censored National Judge, author, and lecturer at Merrill College and the Education Department at University of California, Santa Cruz. Higdon’s areas of concentration include podcasting, digital culture, news media history, propaganda, and critical media literacy. All of Higdon’s work is available at Substack (https://nolanhigdon.substack.com/). He is the author of The Anatomy of Fake News: A Critical News Literacy Education (2020); Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy (2022); The Media And Me: A Guide To Critical Media Literacy For Young People (2022); and the forthcoming Surveillance Education: Navigating the conspicuous absence of privacy in schools (Routledge). Higdon is a regular source of expertise for CBS, NBC, The New York Times, and The San Francisco Chronicle.