• Sona Chaturvedi

Why Indian-Americans Reject Trump

Photo credit: Screenshot. Nikki Haley may have spoken at the RNC, but she doesn't represent the Indian-American vote.

If one didnt know any better, you might think Indian-American voters heavily favor Republicans.  We used to have two Republican governors, both in the heavily conservative south, and Donald Trump has a great deal of support in India.

Theres just one problem for Trump and the GOP.

This is 2020, and Indian-Americans live here, not in India. We have assimilated into the culture. Trump may be popular in India, but Indians don’t vote in American elections. I do, my family does and every single Indian-American voter I have encountered is anti-Trump and his rhetoric.  Donald Trump miscalculated both our love of money over country and our in-fighting in another country over our Americanization. He constantly maligns and marginalizes people of color, be it brown skin or any other skin that isn’t white, and that doesn't fly with us. Like other voting blocs, we are complicated. A little history: The traditional Indian-American voter is a loyal Democrat. This is due to many factors dating back to Indian migration in the 60s and the GOP ties to Pakistan.

To make a clearer distinction, the Republican party, including Richard Nixon, supported Pakistan over India’s ongoing culture war between the two countries based on ownership of the disputed Kashmir region. In the early 60s, during the migration of the aspirational middle-class Hindus, the immigrants leaned toward the Democrats because of their support to India. The Kennedys, in particular, backed India, leading us further toward the Democratic vote. Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, like all minority voters, are nuanced and affected by different circumstances. Although Indians lean Democrat, it should not always be assumed they will vote that way. Case in point, some of the Indian vote went to former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who were both ushered into power with the Tea Party. However, their support didn’t last, as they both denounced their own birth rights and ethnic roots to gain acceptance. It was a move many Indian voters frowned upon. The majority of Indian voters do not care enough to be passionate about the two hot-button Christian issues, abortion and gay marriage. Jindal and Haley did because they are in conservative Southern states. Most Indian voters saw this for what it was, meaningless pandering to the white conservative base. As a result, many Indians shifted away from them both. Haley's display of fealty to Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention was seen as a sham, and her endless support for Trump has shifted the Indian vote even more toward Democrats. If you ask most Indian voters, they will tell you the same thing. She seems ashamed of her heritage but is more than happy to use it to help Trump appear as if he isn’t just appealing to his narrow base. Enter Kamala Harris. If Trump thinks he can woo the Indian vote by trotting out Haley to speak about her immigrant experience, he is sorely mistaken. Unlike Haley, Harris embraces her Indian and Jamaican backgrounds. Harris represents the future of the American voter, whereas Haley clings desperately to the past white-male power structure. This isn’t lost on Joe Biden. As the U.S. presidential election race approaches its final lap, the Republican and Democratic campaigns are working harder than in any previous election to secure the votes of Indian-Americans. Aside from having Haley speak at the RNC, and the facade of a naturalization ceremony in which one Indian immigrant took part, Trump had his advisor Kimberly Guilfoyle emphasize his support from Indian-Americans. They show ads of Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hugging and speaking in glowing terms about each other at events in Houston, Texas and India. Joe Biden is not taking the Democratic Indian voter for granted either. Democrats are highlighting the fact that Harris has an Indian mother and is the first Indian-American candidate on a presidential ticket. Biden addressed Indian-Americans on Indian Independence Day, and both Harris and Biden wished everyone celebrating well. There are complex issues at play for Indian-American voters who, at 1.6 million strong, are the second-largest immigrant group in the U.S. More than half that number are Hindus, and some analysts say the stirrings of Hindu nationalism under Modi could push voters towards his friend Trump. However, Trump’s stance on immigration, and the coveted highly skilled visa program, of which Indians are among the biggest beneficiaries, is going to work against him. If anything, Trump has brought together all communities of color, regardless of religion, to fight racism collectively. We shall see who gets the vote in the end, but my bet goes to Biden and Harris, who choose to unite and not divide us. We won’t be marginalized or reduced to just a couple issues. We see the big picture.  We see what is at stake. So, on behalf of all Indian voters, Namaste, and we look forward to a more inclusive America.