‘Adversities make strange bedfellows’ goes an English saying. India and Pakistan have persisted with an antagonistic demeanour for each other since their inception. However, this ceases to be the case for Indians and Pakistanis living abroad. Asian communities living as minorities seem to have a predictable pattern when it comes to voting.
Conservatives vying for South-Asian allegiances
Historically even within the United Kingdom, the South-Asian community has predominantly been a supporter of the labour party. Since 2005 however the conservative party has accumulated within its ranks an increasing number of South-Asian representatives. This change is an indication of the fact that overtime Conservative parties in both the United States and Britain have begun to realize the importance of the South-Asian mandate. South-Asians such as Priti Patel, the U.K. home secretary or Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in top-level positions in the Tories is becoming a common sight.
It’s a bright afternoon here in Houston.
Looking forward to a wide range of programmes in this dynamic and energetic city today and tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/JxzWtuaK5x
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 21, 2019
Earlier this year, President Trump visited India in what was deemed to be a grand and palatial event, considered to be a great success for both Trump and the Indian Prime Minister Mr Modi. What was not as grand or palatial was relative to previous American Presidential trips to the country, the technological, economic, or diplomatic advances that India garnered due to this particular visit. It could be argued then that this visit was aimed to win the diaspora vote.
Last September, President Trump appeared at a Howdy Modi event in Houston, and he was joined there by Prime Minister Modi himself. With the enthusiasm and zeal of the 50,000 Indian-American crowds present at that address, it was clear that this community’s priorities might be shifting.
One definite explanation for this phenomenon is that besides some key issues such as immigration the South-Asian community has values from which the Democratic Party seems to be moving away. As more liberal, socialistic ideas creep into the party, and they are bound to earn the ire of the South-Asian community that has been a deep and profound believer in the American Dream and capitalism, especially first-generation immigrants. Even though South-Asians as a whole voted predominantly for the Democratic Party especially young South-Asian Americans, it is still wrong to clump these microcosms of different cultures together under one ideology and one side of the political spectrum.
A divide in South-Asian communities’ voting patterns
There is a rift riving the voting patterns of the South-Asian community in the USA. In 2016, the South-Asian community was highly in favour of the Democratic party. Pakistani vote percentage was higher, however (88%), when compared to Indian voters (76%).
Sajid Javid’s role as chancellor going into the 2019 General Election was so important to Pakistani/Muslim voters in the UK. The chancellor, 2nd in charge, a South Asian! It would have brought in so many British-Pakistani votes….I’m sure there’ll be huge disappointment today.
— Inzamam Rashid (@inzyrashid) February 13, 2020
Even though ties between the U.S. and Pakistan have begun to warm after much awaiting, primarily due to the U.S.’s departure from Afghanistan being eminent. There is a more considerable change in the region that has started actualizing; the diplomatic isolation of America’s only real ally in the South-Asian region, India. China has begun flexing its diplomatic and military muscles, rustling age-old alliances, and changing the microcontinent’s diplomatic shape. This change is evident through the recent warmth in diplomatic ties that Bangladesh and Pakistan have shown or the recent disinclination that Nepal has shown towards India. The region is changing, and the microcosm of South-Asia within the USA is now emanating this change to a certain degree.
Nationalistic Crowds at Trump rallies pushing South-Asians away
The great paradox for the Republican Party and especially President Trump remains that his populist politics style attracts nationalist and jingoist crowds that seem to raise eyebrows within most minorities, and the Indian community is no exception. President Trump is also faced with the fact that his rival in the upcoming elections is not exceptionally skewed to the left. Joe Bidden does not create any dilemmas for South-Asian Americans that may not agree with the more far-left ideas and connotations but also wish to seek betterment in immigration policies.
All this still does not cater to how President Trump has taken a beating when it comes to his attempts to curb COVID-19 in the USA. Trump’s primary argument for re-election, the economy, is in shambles. Events such as the murder of George Floyd have played heavily into the identity politics and may also adversely affect the Republican Party’s chances. His tone now has shifted to be further nationalistic, and his main talking-point has been his disinclination towards China.
In this context, then the future of the South-Asian community’s decision in the upcoming elections seems to be a question of identity, and association. Trump has begun leaning further to the right as the U.S. economy takes a hit, and this may ultimately push the South-Asian communities away in the upcoming election.