Indian Americans, almost 1% of the country’s population, are increasingly stepping up their political involvement. After having already achieved considerable economic success and social mobility – the community has an average family income of over $100,000 (almost double that of white Americans) – the group is actively engaging in and influencing the politics of its new homeland.
Although nearly three fourths of Indian Americans Democratically leaning, with the victory of Donald Trump, several Indian Americans are expected to be appointed to key posts in the new Republican administration.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley met with President-elect Donald Trump November 17 at the Trump Towers in New York City, reportedly to discuss a Cabinet post in the new administration.
Haley, 44, the youngest governor in the country, gripped the nation’s attention after her meeting with Trump in Manhattan to discuss the possibility of a cabinet post. Often mentioned as a possible VP in future Republican administrations, the “rising star” of the GOP would bring fresh eyes and some ‘color’ to a Trump presidency facing flack nationwide from minority groups and others who supported Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. In a statement, Haley’s Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Godfrey has been reported to have said, “Governor Haley was pleased to meet with President-elect Trump. They had a good discussion, and she is very encouraged about the coming administration and the new direction it will bring to Washington.”
Haley was praised nationwide, with few detractors, when she took a stand to remove the Confederate Flag from Statehouse grounds. But on that front, her appointment may not sit well with the white supremacist groups which have latched themselves to Trump as his supporters.
Haley – a Republican – is being eyed for Secretary of State, according to various media reports. The first Indian American female governor in the nation was deeply critical of Trump during the election cycle, and never formally endorsed him, though she did pledge to support him towards the end of his campaign.
A Wall Street Journal report about President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and potential Cabinet includes one extremely familiar name: that of former Gov. (and presidential candidate) Bobby Jindal. The Indian American had headed the Louisiana Department of Health at age 24, a position to which he was appointed by then-Gov. Mike Foster. As governor, he emerged as a national voice against the Affordable Care Act, which Trump has vowed to repeal. During his abortive bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Jindal put forward several plans, including one on health care, which includes planks on cross-state health insurance care plans, cracking down on fraud, establishing health savings accounts and several anti-abortion measures, including “strengthening conscience protections for businesses and medical providers.”
He won two successive elections to the U.S. Congress becoming the 2nd Indian-American elected after California Democratic Rep. Dalip Singh Saund in 1957; then on to Governor of Louisiana from 2008-2016, spanning President Obama’s tenure at the White House. The Indian-American community saw the young policy wonk turn into a hard-right conservative, but now may hope to see glimmers of the old Jindal back in Washington – a brilliant, data-spouting, non-ideological analyst tackling the challenges of healthcare.
“Once considered the smartest man in every room, Bobby Jindal ruined his own reputation along with his state,” claims New York Magazine, but recognizes the Indian-American’s name is being “heard most often” in connection with HHS and that “makes a lot of sense” in terms of his resume. But not for his work in Congress or in Baton Rouge, it qualifies. Jindal’s ambition for the presidency, the magazine says, led to his ruin as he tried to become the champion of the Christian Right. Indian-Americans also criticized him for what they saw as his dismissive views on ethnic identities and for abandoning his heritage.
Another prominent leader with Indian roots, Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard met with President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team Monday, November 21st. Gabbard, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, is being considered for jobs at the Defense Department, State Department and the United Nations, a source told CNN.
Gabbard stepped down from her post as a vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee earlier in the year to support Sanders — and fight Hillary Clinton — in the primaries. She stood by Sanders through the Democratic convention, only announcing she would vote for Clinton days after the convention ended.
In a statement after the meeting, Gabbard, who has often challenged President Barack Obama on national security, said she held a “frank and positive” conversation with the President-elect, discussing Syria and other foreign policy issues.
Gabbard, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also said she and Trump discussed legislation that she is pushing that would end what she described as “our country’s illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government.”
Regardless of party affiliations however, Indian-Americans are rallying behind the potential appointments from the Indian community. With a large majority of Indian-Americans supporting the Democratic Party, the community has become used to numerous highly qualified candidates being appointed to all levels of the Obama administration.
Amar D. Amar, founder of Indian Americans For Trump, confirmed the morning meeting at Trump Towers. “There was tension between Haley and Trump during the election cycle. She was very late in coming out in support of Trump,” he said.
Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition, said, he would not speculate on Haley’s meeting with Trump. “We have a very deep bench. There are a lot of top people being vetted for the role,” said Kumar, who was influential in introducing Trump to the Indian American community during the election cycle. “The RHC is searching for good, Hindu American qualified candidates who have served Trump well during the campaign,” he said, adding that he could not name any, as the search had just begun.