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Arab Americans in Electoral Politics
Most Arab American legislators are seldom identifiable as being of Arab descent unless they choose to self-identify. This raises several questions about whom these individuals are and how accurately do they represent the greater Arab American population. Using Hanna Pitkin’s model of political representation, this dissertation sets out to locate Arab American legislators along the formalistic to substantive continuum. Accordingly, this study focuses on two major aspects of Arab American politicians/legislators: identity management and positions on major issues of relevance to the Arab American population. As such, it examines their positions on issues of interest to the larger Arab American population like US foreign policy in the Middle East, civil liberties, and the economy. Data collection was based on interviews with legislators, as well as analysis of their media appearances, campaign materials, press releases, writings, Facebook pages and websites. Examining voting records of these legislators constituted a crucial part of the research. The period of study is 2000-2012, which allows for comparison between pre and post-9/11 political positioning of both more seasoned and more recent political representatives. The primary findings include Arab Americans occupying a contradictory position in American ethnic politics, whereby the ones with longevity and success are those who identify as white and distance themselves from controversial issues on the Middle East, if not vote against Arab American interests. Additionally, although Arab American politicians are self-identified as such, this has not translated into any shift in their relationship with Arab American constituents who need substantive representation in a post-9/11 America more than any previous era.