Why Indian Americans, Republicans or Democrats, Are Feeling Scared

Desis are feeling vulnerable especially after how easily the law enforcement teams were compromised in Washington DC

Published
Opinion
5 min read
An Indian American supporter of Trump at Capitol Hill protests.  
i

An Indian American Trump supporter from Virginia travelled to be a part of the White House ‘Save America March’ called by Donald Trump. Seen holding the Indian tricolor outside the US Capitol on 6 January, Vincent Xavier Palathingal who represents the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee intended to display his ethnic diversity and love for America,

“Scene at the Capitol was historic. I stood there with millions of patriots proudly waving flags and demanding justice, demanding a detailed audit of votes.”
Vincent Xavier Palathingal

Vincent condemned the crowds that infiltrated the Capitol building and mentioned that he remained on the lawns and did not attempt to go onto the steps or inside the Capitol building.

A handful of Indian American supporters of Trump from states including Minnesota, Michigan, Virginia, and New Jersey were outside the White House and US Capitol on 6 January.

Indian American Republican Voters Still Support Trump

Hemant Bhatt, Chairman of ‘South Asian Republican Coalition’ heeded to Trump’s calls to attend the White House ‘Save America March’, where Trump spoke to the crowd about their ‘election victory being stolen from us by the bold and radical left Democrats’, and called on his supporters to march on to Congress.

Bhatt was with a group of American Republican supporters from Flemington in South Jersey, “I was the only Indian person in my group. I went as a representative of the SARC (South Asian Republican Coalition). We were not able to listen to President Trump as we were not on that side of the White House. We were very far from the Capitol.”

Bhatt condemned the violence at the US Capitol.

“It is not correct. We condemn it. Aisa mujhe nahi laga ki kuch hone wala hai. We were simple patriotic people attending a rally.”
Hemant Bhatt

Also known as the Gujarati friend of Donald Trump, he was part of Trump’s India visit ‘Chalo Gujarat’ program.

He alluded to Trump’s rallies being by and large peaceful, and the violence having been caused by others, “We were surprised with thousands and thousands of supporters there. Lot of other people are involved in it. I don’t think that Trump supporters would do that”.

There are no signs that Trump’s base which includes his desi supporters, are leaving him behind.

What Indian American Supporters Think of Capitol Hill Violence

Florida based real estate developer and hotelier, and an advisory board member of the ‘Indian Voices for Trump’, Danny Gaekwad also got invited to Trump’s White House rally, “At least 10 times, different organisations messaged me as I am on national teams. Emails, texts, phone calls calling out for support, for the rally in DC. I did not attend as I recovered from Covid-19 recently”.

A Republican for 27 years, Gaekwad recognises that Trump’s desi supporters stick with him, “If it was not for Covid, five times more people would have attended. I would have gone there with at least 500 Indians from Florida. We are hundreds and hundreds. I condemn the violence and looting.

He adds,

“Riots are a new trend. Democrats called theirs the ‘summer of love’, now this is ‘winter of love’. They taught since the last two years that it is ok to destroy property to get attention. Schumer and Pelosi sanctioned it. I condemn it.”
Danny Gaekwad

Referring to the frustration among Trump supporters, Gaekwad is concerned about possibility of more violence, “This is not the end of it. It is not going away. People are really angry. 100% at the inauguration (Biden’s inauguration is on 20 January) we might see a lot of problems. It is just the beginning. It will go regional, state by state, just like Democrats did. The trend is set unfortunately and not ending soon. They waited for the results peacefully for a long time and now everybody is disgruntled. 39% people believe it was a fraud election”.

Dejection of Desi Trump Supporters

According to a Politico/Morning Consult survey, 70% of Republicans say they don’t believe the 2020 election was free and fair, compared to 90% percent of Democrats who say that it was free and fair. The Republican base trusts Trump like no other. Desi Trump supporters’ political emotions are running high.

One of them shared with me her strong belief that they had won the presidential election but it was ‘snatched away from them by the Democratic establishment and media’. The prominent Indian American Trump supporter added, “I believe in democracy that is why I chose this country, but hamari voice ko band kiya jaa raha hai. Trump supporters ko track kiya jaa raha hai. Hum log pure ek sal ruke rahe. Now I don’t want to come out and make any statements. It is meaningless.”

Indian American Trump supporters are feeling dejected with the lack of support from the Republican party. Along with many conspiracy theories proving the election ‘fraudulent’, random calls are circulating in desi whatsapp groups to form a new political party of ‘80 million Trump supporters’.

Desis in America Are a Deeply Divided Community

Donald Trumps’s victory margin in 2016 and the campaign rhetoric for the 2020 election was a clear indication of a nation divided deeply. An NBC poll of early and election day voters indicated that 63 percent of Asian American voters across the country voted for Biden. A minority of the group voted for Trump, at 31 percent.

AAPI data predictions from September were that Indian Americans at 66% are the most inclined to vote for Biden among all Asian American groups. AAPI voters have leaned more toward Democrats over time. Democrats have a longer history of investing in the AAPI community, while Republicans have raised it in the last 10 years.

In 2016, Republicans saw modest gains among Indian Americans, who are the most Democratic-leaning group of Asian Americans, due to the mobilation efforts by Republican Hindu groups, who capitalised on ideological overlaps between Trump and Modi.

The crisp divisions are reflected in a survey released by YouGov which found that 45% of Republican voters supported the attack on the Capitol Building. 96% of Democratic voters said they strongly or somewhat opposed the actions of pro-Trump protestors.

Desi Democrats Are Afraid Like Never Before

Watching the siege of US Capitol by Trump supporters reminded me of numerous Indian Americans I have spoken with in the last many months for the US presidential election coverage, who feared exactly this kind of a violent day.

A community divided, the desi Republican supporters worried about higher taxes and India’s security vis-à-vis China if Biden became president. South Asian Democratic supporters feared more polarisation, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments, since Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

The larger chunk of the Indian American community, desi Democrats’ apprehension grew throughout Trump’s term with his anti-minority stance and harsh immigration policies. They solidly supported Biden-Harris because they perceived Trump’s party to be unwelcoming of migrants, scared of his frequent attacks on people of colour.

Desi participation in American politics as candidates, organisers, canvassers, funders and voters rose during the Trump years, with a vision to have their voices heard in corridors of power. The horror of Trump playing divisive politics was on display at the US capitol.

Democratic Indian Americans have feared undermining of democratic institutions and increased violence, with conversations increasingly alluding to sentiments such as,” Itni aasani se jaane wala nahi hai Trump. Kuch to violence karwaega.”

Desi Biden-Harris supporters are strongly condemning the violence at the US Capitol. Not the ones to own guns, desis as far away as California are feeling vulnerable, especially after how easily the law enforcement teams were compromised in Washington DC. They care about the country they now call home.

(Savita Patel is a senior journalist and producer. She’s currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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