Here is another letter from J. This is a follow up of his earlier letter on Choice of Bias.
After my last email, I did some investigative reporting – otherwise known as pocking around on Google while at work. The current conventional wisdom is that Indian Americans are spilt between Hillary and Obama. There is a single report by Parveen Chopra based on interviews in NY. But it was reproduced over and over again. From regional media such as South Asian Post and national media such as Deccan Herald to local media such as newKerala and Mangalorean. Of course, the online sources such as Indian eNews and BigNews Network were there too. I even saw the same posting on Indian Muslims. You get the idea. I cannot help but wonder weather the report was widely used because it had important revelation or because it was the only one available? I have not come across another recent article about the topic yet.
The article gives you an anecdotal survey of how Indians view the two Democratic candidates. How gender, race, economy, outsourcing, inspiration, and relations with India play in their minds among other things. That got me thinking about the issues that are important for us when it comes to selecting one of the candidates. There are issues that transcend the interest of Indians in particular. For example, gender. This is the first time in US history there is a woman running for the presidency. Makes you wonder why it took the most prominent and mature democracy of the world such a long time even to have that option. It was not that long ago woman could not even vote here. Nor did the people who looked like Obama. That is strange in contrast to the fledgling democracies of the poor nations including India, Pakistan, and Philippines. None of them are known for their gender equality and yet.
Beyond those universal issues, what are the ones we care most about? Out sourcing seems to be a sensitive subject. Last June a memo from Obama camp caused a big uproar in India community. It was reported in mainstream media and blogs (see here) as well as Indian media and blogs (see here). It seemed he opposed outsourcing while Hillary was for it. He even called Hillary the Democrat from Punjab. I think he had something against Hilary not Punjab. I say this because there is a recent report that clearly shows how much Obama loves bhangra. How can you love bhangra and be not for Punjab? Of course, last June it was not known, and some of us felt insulted and wanted retribution. I am not kidding. Read the post. And even New York Post got into the game. It cannot get any more main stream than that.
Of course, that was last year. Since then winds of politics have shifted. With that we Indians shifted the Obama gear. It is not fair to say everyone was on the Hillary camp. Here is a post from last September explaining why Indians should not vote for Hillary. But of course the author was not talking about Obama. There is an interesting blog that dedicated to lesser known candidate Ron Paul. The blog is explicitly titled Indians and Pakistanis for Ron Paul or Barack Obama. The juxtaposition of those words alone is intriguing to me. The “or Barack Omaba” part is just an after thought; a sign of pragmatism. Ron Paul is a Republican candidate. He has some interesting, and hence, unpopular ideas. The only link I can see between him and Obama is their faith in vision or fresh outlook, wrong or right. People who follow them seemed to be passionate about their cause.
So where does it leave us about trying to find what is important to us when it comes to election. Here are some potential issues that are specific to Indian Americans interests:
- Outsourcing: Support for outsourcing is simple and short sighted since the corporate greed and global trends are most likely to determine the course irrespective of who is in the Oval Office.
- Immigration: There are simple and clear issues such as number of visas and making it easy for more people to come to US. Then there are policy decisions that would help the immigrant communities in the long run. This is not an easy choice. Hillary has close friends in Indian community; Obama knows what a third would country feels like first hand.
- Economy: Then there is the simple economy. And it is not dong so well right now. The next president is going to inherit budget deficit of historic proportion. I hear the pundits talking about a possible recession. Immigrants do not fair well in economic down turn.
You may have noticed that I did not include issues that effect the relation between US and India. There are significant risks there: nuclear technology transfer, relation with Pakistan. However, I am not sure how much that would weigh on the minds of Indians here. May be at the end, it is the money that trumps all other issues. Or may be who can dance better bhangra will be the final decider.
I shall keep you posted. But for now, we can only wait and see.