The Indian-American Voter – A Linchpin in The 2020 US Election?

Trump and Biden are both working to appease the Indian-American voter-base of 1.3 million for the 2020 US Elections.

Updated
The Indian American
5 min read
Trump and Biden are both working to appease the Indian-American voter-base of 1.3 million as the run for the next US President heats up.
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US President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic candidate Joe Biden are both wooing a 1.3 million strong Indian-American electorate in the run-up to the US presidential election on 3 November.

Although only about 2 percent of the entire population of the United States, the Indian-American voter base is an electorate coming of age in American politics.

In the past, Indian-American voters have supported the Democratic party, but it has been reported that this trend may be evolving with more and more Indians making a Republican pivot.

With a little over a 100 days left before the US Presidential elections 2020, both leaders are trying to reach out to and tap the power of the small but influential community in the key states. Here’s a look at the electorate’s significance and how the two leaders are trying to win them over.

The Indian-American Voter – A Linchpin in The 2020 US Election?

  1. 1. A Catalyst in Swing States 

    Overall, there is an estimated four million Indian-American population of which about 2.5 million are potential voters in the November 2020 presidential election.

    In the eight battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, there are 1.3 million Indian-American voters, PTI reports.

    The Indian-American vote can make significant changes and be an “absolute difference-maker”, particularly in swing states, argued Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, speaking at a recent virtual event, 'An Electorate Coming of Age: Indian Americans for Biden Community Town Hall' hosted by the South Asians for Biden.

    This change, in particular, can be a major catalyst in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In 2016, Trump’s narrow win in these states had propelled his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

    Going off an analysis by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Victory Fund, Perez stated that there are 125,000 Indian American voters in Michigan, 156,000 in Pennsylvania and 37,000 in Wisconsin – numbers significant enough to create a change in leadership.

    Perez believes the Indian-American vote could also make a difference in other battleground states as well such as Florida (eligible voter base of 193,000), Georgia (150,000), North Carolina (111,000), Texas (475,000), and Arizona (66,000).

    Expand
  2. 2. What A Second Term Could Mean for Indian-Americans

    Trump “knows how important you guys are. He knows how important India is and how important the Indian-American relations are,” Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory India American Finance Committee, told a pro-Trump virtual rally of Indian-Americans hosted by Americans4Hindus.Org in July 2020.

    The Modi-Trump allied partnership as demonstrated through the ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Texas and the ‘Namaste Trump’ rally in India has caused a lot of Hindus to mobilise in support of Trump. After the rally, as Trump flew back home, his campaign launched a five-figure digital ad buy focussing on education, economy and the relationship between the Indian Prime Minister and Trump, targeted at Indian-Americans in an effort to make inroads into the community.

    In 2016, less than 20 percent of Indian-Americans voted for Trump. But this statistic is predicted to rise in 2020, after Modi nudged the community in support of Trump, proclaiming ‘Abki baar, Trump sarkar’ at the Texas rally.

    This support does have a caveat, however. The Christian Right and White Nationalism are rising under the Trump government. In the 2020 elections, Trump is pandering to his religious base because he is dependent on the Christian Right for his re-election, while White Nationalists form the base of Trump’s public sphere.

    This begs the question – Are Trump’s Hindu supporters ready for a more Christianised America under his likely second term in office?

    Further, Trump’s visa policies haven’t exactly been pleasing to the Indian migrant population. The H1B ban, the green card suspension, and the most recent proposal to send foreign students back have all disproportionately affected Indian workers and students in the United States.

    Trump's reliance on White Nationalism and the Christian Right for his re-election reinforces his anti-immigration rhetoric, directly impacting his Indian-American voter base.

    Expand
  3. 3. Biden's Appeal And the Indian-American Sentiment

    Presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has pegged India to be a “natural partner” of the US, deeming the allyship necessary and important for the security of both nations.

    "(Biden) would work together with India to keep our citizens collectively safe. That means standing up against cross-border terrorism and standing with India when its neighbours attempt to change the status quo,” says Richard Verma, former US Ambassador to India.

    Verma addressed a virtual rally organised by South Asians for Biden, where he further stated that president Biden would take the US-India relations to new heights, adding that if elected, Biden would advocate for India to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

    Moreover, Biden’s supporters on 30 July announced they were launching an outreach to the Indian-American community in 14 languages, with campaign slogans like “America ka neta kaisa jo, Joe Biden jaisa ho” (America’s leader needs to be like Biden). The aim is to reach out to the community and motivate them to engage in politics, register to vote, and cast their ballots for Biden.

    However, Biden’s stance on India’s CAA and NRC rulings have received criticism from the Hindu American community. Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim American community states that, “These measures are inconsistent with the (India’s) long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.”

    “In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights of all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weakens democracy,”
    Biden’s policy paper on Muslim Americans

    In an attempt to urge him to reconsider his stance, a group of Hindu-Americans have reached out to the Biden campaign expressing their resentment to the language used against India. The group has also sought a similar policy paper on Hindu Americans, to which the Biden campaign has not responded.

    Expand
  4. 4. Which Way Will the Community Swing?

    In the 2016 elections, more than three-quarters of Indian-American voters supported Hillary Clinton, research has shown. Similarly, Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of AAPI Victory Fund, said that 77 percent of the Indian-American voters polled in favour of Hillary in 2016, a report said.

    Narasimhan said that all surveys and polls had shown that the community’s favourability for Biden over Trump was similar to what it was in 2016, adding that the party could aspire to win 75-80 percent of the Indian-American vote, “if they do the work”.

    “The election in November for the president is going to be historic, and we really need the help and support from the Indian-American community to really make a difference.”
    Amit Jani, national AAPI director for the Biden campaign

    Meanwhile, Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, told America’s Voice News in an interview that 77 percent of Indian-Americans voted for Hillary in 2016 will not repeat in 2020, claiming that 50 percent of the Democrat voters are now going to choose Trump.

    Mason said that his findings had shown that there was a visible swing of a large part of the community away from the Democratic Party.

    At least 50 percent of Indian American Democrats who have been voting for Democrats since the time of Bill Clinton are going to move to the column of President Trump,” he had told America’s Voice. His reason for this claim? That Indian-Americans “feel respected and acknowledged for the first time by a US president – President Trump.”

    Clearly, both parties are aiming to win the favour of the influential community and placing bets on who they will be voting for. Will Trump’s visa policies keep him from witnessing a swing from the community? Or will Biden’s stance on CAA and NRC snatch the traditionally Democrat vote from him?

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    Expand

A Catalyst in Swing States 

Overall, there is an estimated four million Indian-American population of which about 2.5 million are potential voters in the November 2020 presidential election.

In the eight battleground states of Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin, there are 1.3 million Indian-American voters, PTI reports.

The Indian-American vote can make significant changes and be an “absolute difference-maker”, particularly in swing states, argued Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, speaking at a recent virtual event, 'An Electorate Coming of Age: Indian Americans for Biden Community Town Hall' hosted by the South Asians for Biden.

This change, in particular, can be a major catalyst in states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In 2016, Trump’s narrow win in these states had propelled his victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Going off an analysis by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Victory Fund, Perez stated that there are 125,000 Indian American voters in Michigan, 156,000 in Pennsylvania and 37,000 in Wisconsin – numbers significant enough to create a change in leadership.

Perez believes the Indian-American vote could also make a difference in other battleground states as well such as Florida (eligible voter base of 193,000), Georgia (150,000), North Carolina (111,000), Texas (475,000), and Arizona (66,000).

What A Second Term Could Mean for Indian-Americans

Trump “knows how important you guys are. He knows how important India is and how important the Indian-American relations are,” Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory India American Finance Committee, told a pro-Trump virtual rally of Indian-Americans hosted by Americans4Hindus.Org in July 2020.

The Modi-Trump allied partnership as demonstrated through the ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Texas and the ‘Namaste Trump’ rally in India has caused a lot of Hindus to mobilise in support of Trump. After the rally, as Trump flew back home, his campaign launched a five-figure digital ad buy focussing on education, economy and the relationship between the Indian Prime Minister and Trump, targeted at Indian-Americans in an effort to make inroads into the community.

In 2016, less than 20 percent of Indian-Americans voted for Trump. But this statistic is predicted to rise in 2020, after Modi nudged the community in support of Trump, proclaiming ‘Abki baar, Trump sarkar’ at the Texas rally.

This support does have a caveat, however. The Christian Right and White Nationalism are rising under the Trump government. In the 2020 elections, Trump is pandering to his religious base because he is dependent on the Christian Right for his re-election, while White Nationalists form the base of Trump’s public sphere.

This begs the question – Are Trump’s Hindu supporters ready for a more Christianised America under his likely second term in office?

Further, Trump’s visa policies haven’t exactly been pleasing to the Indian migrant population. The H1B ban, the green card suspension, and the most recent proposal to send foreign students back have all disproportionately affected Indian workers and students in the United States.

Trump's reliance on White Nationalism and the Christian Right for his re-election reinforces his anti-immigration rhetoric, directly impacting his Indian-American voter base.

Biden's Appeal And the Indian-American Sentiment

Presumptive Democratic candidate, Joe Biden, has pegged India to be a “natural partner” of the US, deeming the allyship necessary and important for the security of both nations.

"(Biden) would work together with India to keep our citizens collectively safe. That means standing up against cross-border terrorism and standing with India when its neighbours attempt to change the status quo,” says Richard Verma, former US Ambassador to India.

Verma addressed a virtual rally organised by South Asians for Biden, where he further stated that president Biden would take the US-India relations to new heights, adding that if elected, Biden would advocate for India to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Moreover, Biden’s supporters on 30 July announced they were launching an outreach to the Indian-American community in 14 languages, with campaign slogans like “America ka neta kaisa jo, Joe Biden jaisa ho” (America’s leader needs to be like Biden). The aim is to reach out to the community and motivate them to engage in politics, register to vote, and cast their ballots for Biden.

However, Biden’s stance on India’s CAA and NRC rulings have received criticism from the Hindu American community. Joe Biden’s agenda for Muslim American community states that, “These measures are inconsistent with the (India’s) long tradition of secularism and with sustaining a multi-ethnic and multi-religious democracy.”

“In Kashmir, the Indian government should take all necessary steps to restore rights of all the people of Kashmir. Restrictions on dissent, such as preventing peaceful protests or shutting or slowing down the Internet, weakens democracy,”
Biden’s policy paper on Muslim Americans

In an attempt to urge him to reconsider his stance, a group of Hindu-Americans have reached out to the Biden campaign expressing their resentment to the language used against India. The group has also sought a similar policy paper on Hindu Americans, to which the Biden campaign has not responded.

Which Way Will the Community Swing?

In the 2016 elections, more than three-quarters of Indian-American voters supported Hillary Clinton, research has shown. Similarly, Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of AAPI Victory Fund, said that 77 percent of the Indian-American voters polled in favour of Hillary in 2016, a report said.

Narasimhan said that all surveys and polls had shown that the community’s favourability for Biden over Trump was similar to what it was in 2016, adding that the party could aspire to win 75-80 percent of the Indian-American vote, “if they do the work”.

“The election in November for the president is going to be historic, and we really need the help and support from the Indian-American community to really make a difference.”
Amit Jani, national AAPI director for the Biden campaign

Meanwhile, Al Mason, co-chair of the Trump Victory Indian American Finance Committee, told America’s Voice News in an interview that 77 percent of Indian-Americans voted for Hillary in 2016 will not repeat in 2020, claiming that 50 percent of the Democrat voters are now going to choose Trump.

Mason said that his findings had shown that there was a visible swing of a large part of the community away from the Democratic Party.

At least 50 percent of Indian American Democrats who have been voting for Democrats since the time of Bill Clinton are going to move to the column of President Trump,” he had told America’s Voice. His reason for this claim? That Indian-Americans “feel respected and acknowledged for the first time by a US president – President Trump.”

Clearly, both parties are aiming to win the favour of the influential community and placing bets on who they will be voting for. Will Trump’s visa policies keep him from witnessing a swing from the community? Or will Biden’s stance on CAA and NRC snatch the traditionally Democrat vote from him?

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