What A Road Trip Across 25 States Taught Me About US Elections 

The US election is embroiled in polarisation and hyper-nationalism – which makes it not very different from India. 

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The United States of America will soon vote for the most coveted position – the President of USA. For many across the globe, America is the land of opportunities, an ideal country to live in. However, I would deem it the ‘Divided States of America’, for its increasing intolerance, aggression, radicalism and polarisation, which is eerily similar to India.

The ‘American dream’ has now faded into a distant past thanks to ‘America first’ – which is all about politics and propaganda.

There is rising clamour over change in policies and laws to put Americans before anyone else and the noise is getting louder with each passing day.

Who is a Patriot?

As I cross the highways of United States to study the 2020 presidential elections, I realise that the politics in the US is no different from India.

The race to the most powerful office is being fought on issues that hinge on an average American’s patriotism. The distorted definition of a patriot makes the land of opportunities look nothing but a deeply polarised state.

America is deeply divided over its stance on race. We’ve all seen the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death that saw the ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) movement take centerstage yet again. But while people in some states are all for the movement, there are many others who come from the ‘All Lives Matter’ school of thought. This has resulted in numerous face-offs and violence all over the country, and now there’s a clear divide of votes on the basis of race and colour, which is akin to the religious divide in India.

Race is now associated with the spirit of nationalism, which some Americans say ‘limits the definition of being an American’ in itself.

Furthermore, China is being used as a political weapon by both Democrats and Republicans. The more you move away from China, the closer you are to the voters of respective parties. China has replaced Russia in terms of threat to the country. On one hand Democrat Joe Biden considers China as its competitor, on the other hand, Republican Donald Trump views China as its enemy. Both the parties have spoken of the Opposition’s connections with China, trying to use China for their gain.

It would not be wrong to say that China is to US elections 2020 what Pakistan was to India in 2019 general elections.

The Polarised Politics of India and USA

If this wasn’t enough, the politics over statues ensures I don’t miss Indian politics from across the Atlantic.

For a long time now, the African-Americans have been demanding the removal of statues that honour slave owners. This time they took to the streets and tried pulling down statues themselves. Americans consider this act an attempt to meddle with their rich history. Some even tag the activists ‘rioters’ and ‘anti-nationals’. President Trump in his speeches mention why Americans ought to be taught the ‘right’ history – all of which sound very familiar to what’s happening in India in regard to the vandalism of Ambedkar statues, and our obsession with caste.

This has left no middle ground for civil conversations in the land of free speech. In the words of a retired civil servant in her early seventies I met in  Minneapolis, “This country (USA) never saw such a divide in my lifetime.”

There’s also a deep divide over immigrants. One section of society wants immigrants out of their country, while others believe immigrants ought to have basic rights. This is the reason that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has remained a point of discussion for long and is now one of the issues which could influence voting. It is another alleged element of proving one’s nationalism – just like it was in India during CAA-NRC protests.

The country at present is divided into red and blue. Whoever I meet is convinced that this election will be a crucial for the country.

As an Indian travelling for 30 days across 25 states, I’ve witnessed Indian-Americans caught between the excitement over Kamala Harris running with Biden, and the Modi-Trump equation.

The younger generation is more liberal and lean towards the Democratic Party. Interestingly, those without formal education expressed unconditional support for Trump.

So far it appears to be a close race. Biden has the upper hand in polls, whereas Trump holds the ground in rural America. Whichever way the vote swings on 3 November 2020, America will no longer be the same.

(Dron Yadav is a Lawyer and Political Activist based in India. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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