By 2050 the United States is projected to become a majority-minority country. It will be the first time in history that a nation will experience such diversity. This rise in diversity brings with it many cultural and social connotations. The changing landscape of what it means to be American strongly suggests that winning elections in the United States may no longer be determined by holding onto a strong base and catering to that base only.
It would mean that these often disparate minorities can swing the elections in favour of or against any candidate, creating a sense of novelty in the American political system. At the forefront of these new political exertions, both Democrats and Republicans are trying to win the South-Asian community’s allegiance.
‘Adversities make strange bedfellows’ goes an English saying. Historically, the Asian diaspora has primarily shown an inclination towards the Democratic Party. Whether Indian or Pakistani the adversities faced by the minorities have been a potent cause of cogeneration for these communities. Like many other Asian communities, South-Asians have always been sensitive towards issues such as immigration and discrimination: racial and economic.
Post-1965: Inflow of South Asian immigrants amid growing intolerance
In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed, and it abolished the quotas, based on national origin, on immigration that was prevalent before. This act led an inflow of a high number of South-Asian immigrants within the USA. These first generations of immigrants faced numerous challenges adjusting to the American Dream.
Their problems were based on discrimination and intolerance. However, adjust the community did, entirely within the American Dream, thriving and creating new expressions of self-assurance that the first wave of immigrants could never have imagined. The increased visibility of South Asian Americans in popular culture mirrors is evident in this rise. The rise of this relatively new immigrant group in almost all walks of life is no secret.
In fact, it can be explained by U.S policy, which in the 1960s radically encouraged the immigration of educated and high performing workers from their respective nations. All through this time, this community has earned the stereotype of the ‘model immigrants.’ The expectation has been that the South-Asian community’s inclination as an extension of the greater Asian community will always be towards the Democratic Party.
This is a misnomer as it fails to acknowledge that the multiplicity of the Asian Community as well as the change in issues that these communities may find important over time. As the confidence of self-expression rises backed by the South-Asian people’s capital success, these multiplicities, even within the South-Asian communities, become more evident.
President Trump’s visit to India: Not as fruitful for India as anticipated?
Earlier this year, President Trump visited India in what was made to be a grand and palatial event, deemed 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. The warmth that the U.S president seemed to extend to Indians is subjected not only in this isolated incident. It is no coincidence that the audience’s white hats at Motera Stadium remind one of a MAGA rally.
South Asian community split between Republicans & Democrats?
Last September, President Trump appeared at a Howdy Modi event in Houston. He was joined there by Prime Minister Modi himself. With the enthusiasm and fervour of the 50,000 Indian-American crowd present at that address, it was clear that this community’s priorities might be shifting.
One strong explanation for this phenomenon is that besides some key issues such as immigration, the South-Asian community has values that the Democratic Party seems to be moving away from. As more left-wing, socialistic ideas creep into the party, 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.
There is a rift that has appeared within the South-Asian community in the USA. In 2016, while both Indian and Pakistani Americans voted predominantly for the Democratic Party, this predominance was not the same within these two communities. Even though ties with the U.S and Pakistan have begun to warm after much awaiting, primarily due the U.S departure from Afghanistan that is eminent.
Growing Indian isolation in the region
There is a greater change in the region that has begun shimmering in the horizon and this is the diplomatic isolation of America’s only true ally in the South-Asian region, India. China has begun flexing its diplomatic and military muscles, rustling age-old alliances, and changing the micro-continent’s diplomatic shape. This 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 USA is now emanating this change to a certain degree. While 69% to 74% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities voted for Hilary Clinton in the previous election, the percentage of Indian voters for Clinton was lower. If this great suasion continues, this rift may further widen.
Trump’s nationalistic politics suffer as Covid-19 wreaks havoc
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 Biden 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 of 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. His aplomb and pride and his primary argument for re-election, the economy, are 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 of association.
It is hard to say whether the South Asian Americans will vote for the reclamation of the political system from a nationalistic, anti-immigrant President. Or will there be a further divide within the South-Asian community as they fall back onto the politics of their respective native nations?