Indian Americans throw 2020 “challenge” at Trump
| Ashok Dixit, Editor - Foreign Affairs, IOP - 25 Jan 2019

Indian Americans throw 2020 “challenge” at Trump

By Ashok Dixit, Editor (Foreign Affairs)

New Delhi:  This has been a week high on celebratory optics for the Indian Diaspora, and particularly for Indian Americans, a majority of whom are desirous of their voices and views being heard globally.

Well! That appeal or demand has finally been answered, not singularly, but doubly, in the unique form of two pretty well known Indian American women politicians – Kamala Devi Harris and Tulsi Gabbard – separately announcing themselves as aspiring candidates for the Office of the President of the United States (POTUS) in election year 2020.

California Democrat Senator Kamala Devi Harris announced her presidential candidacy on Monday (January 21). Thirty-seven-year-old Gabbard, also a Democrat in the US House of Representatives from Hawaii, announced her White House bid on January 11, while a third Indian American, Nikki Haley, a former Republican governor and US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, is reportedly seriously weighing pros and cons of whether to or not to join the race for being elected to the most powerful political position in the world.

Harris is widely seen as a serious contender for presidential nomination by the Democratic Party, though she, as do many others, know that she is not the first Indian American to make such an announcement for entering the Oval Office.

These three Indian American women have seemingly or inadvertently thrown a very strong challenge at incumbent White House occupant Donald Trump, who has confidently bragged about bagging a consecutive second term as president in the not too recent past.

The Indian American population is desperate to shake off the tag of being called “model migrants”. It believes that it has over achieved and delivered in their “adopted country”, especially, as one newspaper editorial has put it, in terms of “education, prosperity and integration”.

This community is now aggressively breaking into new ground i.e. American politics. The recently held mid-term Congressional elections revealed that in ample measure, where apart from Harris and Gabbard, 35 other remarkable Indian Americans broke through the political glass ceiling with some outstanding electoral runs and performances. Harris was the first Indian American to become a Senator, a clear signal that America’s five million strong Indian American community, which arrived in North America in the past century, is determinedly gung-ho about making a positive and significant political impact, and with speed.

History beckons a formidable Harris as she would be the first African-American woman and the first person of Asian heritage to be a major party nominee should she prevail in Primary season 2019-2020. This Friday (January 25), she will be making her first campaign stop in South Carolina, where African-Americans make up a majority of the electorate in that state’s early primary. Thereafter, according to a New York Times report, she moves to Iowa and New Hampshire, Nevada (which has a large and favourable Latino population) and South Carolina. Next week is “Super Tuesday”, when California will be among the four southern states casting their votes.

The NYT states that if there is anyone that has the potential to snare a majority share of the Democratic African-Americans; Hispanic and Asian-American vote, it is Harris. Other Democratic contenders - Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Kirsten Gillibrand and Tulsi Gabbard can be expected to be given a run for their money by Harris.

Harris, 54, is an American attorney, a junior Senator for California since 2017, a former Attorney General of California for six years from 2011 to 2017, and a District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010.

A much younger Tulsi Gabbard is not far behind in terms of achievement. She is the U.S. Representative for Hawaii's 2nd Congressional District since 2013. A Democrat, she was Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee until February 28, 2016. Elected in 2012, she is the first Samoan-American member and the first Hindu member of the United States Congress. She is also a combat veteran, serving in Iraq and Kuwait. She has also been a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives for two years between 2002 and 2004. Gabbard is the youngest woman to be elected to a U.S. state legislature. On January 11, this year, she announced her 2020 White House bid.

Gabbard once held fairly strong opposing views on gay marriage and homosexuality, and copped a lot of criticism for her intolerance. She has since radically evolved on the issue, publicly apologising to the gay community in 2012 as she ran for Congress. Her record on the national stage has been more about being pro-LGBT as any other mainstream Democrat.

The third Indian American in the news is Nikki Randhawa Haley, 47, former US ambassador to the UN and 116th Governor of South Carolina. She left her ambassadorial role at the end of 2018 after two years of representing the Trump Administration at the United Nations. She is now in the news for softer reasons like reactivating her Twitter handle after its official dismantling at the end of 2018. She hasn’t disclosed her next career move, but many don’t think she is going away from American politics any time soon, having burnished her national and international reputation at the UN. Speculation is rife she will run for president someday. Some even think Haley could be Donald Trump’s vice-presidential nominee in place of Mike Pence in 2020.

For the moment though, political America is in the vice-like grip of its longest ever government shutdown (33 days so far) because of an inexplicable conflict between the executive (read Trump) and the legislature (read Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer) stemming from an impasse over the former’s demand for USD 5.7 billion in federal funds for a US–Mexico border wall.

The Indian-American community is nevertheless thrilled over the "groundbreaking" presidential announcements, reflecting proudly on the fact that they have finally arrived. Photo Courtesy - Sky News

(The writer Ashok Dixit is a senior journalist with 25 years of rich cross-editorial functional experience in covering and reporting on developments in South Asia. He had been associated with ANI as a Senior Editor for more than two decades. He can be contacted at ashok.dixit26@gmail.com)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Observer Post and Indian Observer Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.


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