Indian Americans More Active in 2020 Election Cycle

Indian Americans are a sliver of the nation’s population and a growing political force. Indian Americans represent just over 1% of the U.S. population. In recent years, they have grown increasingly politically active, donating more to candidates and running for office. Reflecting the community’s leftward tilt, two-thirds of the more than $3 million donated throughout the 2020 election cycle has gone to Democrats, according to a Times analysis of fundraising reports released July 15.

Indian Americans have also donated more than $1 million to committees supporting President Trump. The incumbent has the benefit of being able to accept six-figure checks into a joint fundraising committee with the national and state Republican parties. The Democratic candidates are limited to donations of up to $2,800 for the primary and $2,800 for the general election.

On the Democratic side, they are largely split among three candidates who have ties to their community: Sen. Kamala Harris of California, whose mother was born in India; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a practicing Hindu; and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who counts a large Indian American population among his constituents. They are only a few of the many candidates who seek and find support amon the wealthy Indian American groups supporting bothe the major parties in the 2020 election cycle.

An Indian-American political group has planned to spend $10 million for the 2020 elections aimed at helping more members of the community win political office from Congress down to school boards, a media report said.

“This is a pivotal moment for our community and our country,” The American Bazaar reported on Wednesday citing advocacy group Impact’s new executive director, Neil Makhija, a public interest lawyer son of Indian immigrants, as saying.

The group’s efforts would be focused on recruiting, training and supporting candidates, and though it is not explicitly aligned with Democrats the group’s “values certainly lean that way”, he told the media.

“After significant gains in previous election cycles, Indian-Americans are poised to assert our emerging power by electing more Indian-American candidates at every level of government, and by supporting excellent candidates of all backgrounds who share our ideals of inclusivity, equity, and civil rights,” Makhija added.

According to the research firm CRW Strategy, over three-quarters of Indian-American voters supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016, and Makhija said they were also likely to support presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this November. In a nod to the community’s growing political clout, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is running an ad in Hindi, the main Indian language.

The lone Indian American Senator Kamala Harris, who has emerged as a leading contender to be Biden’s running mate welcomed the Impact announcement. “I’m excited about the Indian-American community’s growing engagement in the political process — not just as an Indian-American, but as someone who believes the more Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel ownership in our democracy, the stronger our democracy will be,” Harris was quoted as saying in the American Bazaar report.

“As Impact moves to its next phase of leadership, I look forward to being joined in the Capitol by even more Indian Americans to move our country forward for everyone,” she said

A leading Indian-American political organization has hired a new executive director as it heads into the Nov. 3, 2020 elections with the goal of further boosting the community’s presence in public offices up and down the ballot. IMPACT announced the hiring of Neil Makhija, a public interest lawyer, law school professor and former candidate for Pennsylvania state legislature in 2016, as its head July 28, 2020. The organization also announced a $10 million commitment to support Indian American candidates nationwide, as well as plans to create a new program to identify, elevate, and support Indian American elected officials running for higher office.

Indian-Americans traditionally tend to vote Democratic, as do most other minority, newly immigrant communities, including the Jewish community. They feel more comfortable in the politics of inclusion and diversity advocated by the Democrats, in contrast with the majoritarian Republican approach. However, many Indian-Americans, once they have flourished economically, become Republican supporters, attracted by its espousal of lower taxes. Eventually, according to post poll data, around 80% of Indian-American votes went to the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

If Sen. Kamala Harris is presidential candidate Joe Biden’s choice for vice president, or even just for Biden’s candidacy, Makhija said he was looking to hold a national event “to galvanize the community and show we are there.” The Indian-American community has seen what can happen when they have representation.

“We’ve seen what our leaders can do and the huge inspiration they are. People like (Congressmen) Raja Krishnamoorthi in the Intelligence and Oversight committees; Ro Khanna as Senator Sander’s campaign manager… People have more role models to look up to,” he said.

In 2020, more opportunities are before Indian-Americans, such as those running for statewide offices, Srinivas Preston Kulkarni running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas District 22; Sara Gideon, speaker of the Maine lower house, who is challenging long time Republican incumbent Susan Collins; Nina Ahmad vying for Auditor General of Pennsylvania; and Ronnie Chatterjee in the running for Treasurer of North Carolina. “These are tough races and we want to get behind these candidates and get the people behind them,” Makhija said.

All of these developments have come less than 75 years since South Asians began emigrating to the U.S., and 55 years after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended discriminatory quotas and opened the doors to Asian immigrants, IMPACT noted.

“I’m excited about the Indian-American community’s growing engagement in the political process — not just as an Indian American, but as someone who believes the more Americans of all ethnicities and backgrounds feel ownership in our democracy, the stronger our democracy will be,” Sen. Harris is quoted saying in the IMPACT press release.  “As IMPACT moves to its next phase of leadership, I look forward to being joined in the Capitol by even more Indian Americans to move our country forward for everyone,” Harris added.

“This is a pivotal moment for our community and our country,” said Makhija. “After significant gains in previous election cycles, Indian Americans are poised to assert our emerging power by electing more Indian American candidates at every level of government, and by supporting excellent candidates of all backgrounds who share our ideals of inclusivity, equity, and civil rights.”

 “We’ve seen Indian American engagement grow from a community on the margins of American politics to a burgeoning force,” said investor Deepak Raj and Raj Goyle, co-founders of IMPACT. “We’re thrilled to have Neil lead IMPACT into the next chapter of growth and scaling Indian American political power.”

A veteran community leader, Dr. Sampat Shivangi has been recently appointed to Donald J Trump for President Inc Coalition Advisory Board. “I am honored that President Donald Trump

appointed  me as a member to his top board “ Donald J Trump for President,Inc Coalition Advisory Board,” said Dr. Shivangi. “It has been added honor as I am already elected as a National delegate for the upcoming Republican Party Convention which will be virtual this time due to pandemic. I am proud to serve as a National delegate for the fifth time consecutively a unique distinction for an INDIAN American to be delegate at President George W Bush convention in New York in 2004, Senator John McCain in Minneapolis in 2008, Governor Romney in 2012 in Tampa Fl, and 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio to nominate President Donald J Trump. President Trump has been great friend of India a first President to attend Prime Minister Modiji HowdyModi rally in Houston, Tx and his visit to India to show his solidarity with INDIA and people of India.”
“By organizing to win elected office, Indian-Americans are infusing politics with new experiences, ideas, and global connections,” said Nikil Saval, State Senator-elect in Philadelphia and the first Indian American elected to the Pennsylvania legislature. “Though our history in the United States dates to the early 20th century, and the first Indian-American elected to Congress (Dalip Singh Saund) served in the 1950s, the last decade has seen our ranks grow up and down the ballot,” Saval noted, adding, “I’m thrilled to see IMPACT expand its efforts to improve Indian-American representation, as part of a broader fight to bring more people of color to bear on the American politics.”

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