Kamala Harris Needs to do More to Win Over Indian Americans

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Kamala Harris

WASHINGTON, DC–Indian Americans are being taken a lot more seriously by Democratic presidential candidates, reported Washington Examiner. One of the leading contenders is California Sen. Kamala Harris, whose mother was a Tamil Indian, though she has dwelled more on her black heritage from her Jamaican father, the newspaper said.

“The four-million strong, left-leaning Indian American community, representing just more than 1% of the population, has increasing political clout,” said Washington Examiner.

Citing U.S. Census Bureau, the newspaper said that almost 50% of voting-age Asian Americans cast a ballot in the 2016 elections and some 1.5 million were Indian.

Four Indian Americans are Democratic members of the House of Representatives: Ami Bera, California; Pramila Jayapal, Washington; Ro Khanna, California; and Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois. On the Republican side, President Trump’s former United Nations Ambassador and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley is likely to be a leading candidate for the White House in 2024, according to Washington Examiner.

Some have already started campaigning for Rep. Khanna for 2024.

“Indian Americans have donated $3 million to presidential campaigns so far this 2020 cycle, eclipsing highly sought-after Hollywood contributors. Two-thirds of that figure went toward Democratic hopefuls, their donations mostly funneled into Harris, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who is not Indian American but is a Hindu, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, home to the highest percentage of Indian Americans of all U.S. states,” Washington Examiner said.

Harris raised more than $387,000 from Indian Americans through June. Despite Harris dominating Gabbard in a slew of early primary polls, the first Hindu elected to Congress, boosted by her pro-Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stance, was only a touch behind with $374,000. Booker’s active role in his local Indian American community helped him attract $248,000. Biden, in comparison, earned $173,000 since he entered the race in April from the community who’s seen him take part in annual White House Diwali celebrations, according to Washington Examiner.

In 1990, Democratic Maryland House delegate Kumar Barve became the first Indian American elected to a state legislature. He told the Washington Examiner: “It’s definitely a generational shift.”

“Indian Americans came here, they were professionals, they were upper-middle class, and a lot of them really didn’t need government services in those days, and so they had less of an incentive. Their children began to be interested in politics because public service and what they learned in school,” Barve told Washington Examiner.

But he warned that Harris wasn’t guaranteed the community’s support, a sentiment reflected in the fundraising numbers: “It’s a plus-point certainly, but I think that most Indian American voters are going to vote for whoever they think has the best chance of beating Donald Trump.”

Harris, whose first name means “lotus” in Sanskrit, hasn’t made her Indian ancestry a central part of her campaign, Washington Examiner said.

Sumit Ganguly, a political science professor at Indiana University, Bloomington, called it a smart choice given the breakdown of African American and Indian American voters in the country, but said it was “a source of a little bit of unhappiness in the Indian American community,” the newspaper said.

“While she has not denied her Indian American heritage and has spoken quite warmly about her mother, she identifies on the campaign trail as African American because this is a matter of political savvy. She recognizes this is where she’s going to pick up votes,” Ganguly told the Washington Examiner.

Ganguly suspects the senator is “losing out on some of the funding from Indian Americans” but is optimistic she could make up ground by “being present.”

“For example, in Silicon Valley for crying out loud,” Ganguly told Washington Examiner. “All she would have to do is show up at one of their gatherings and maybe make some nod toward her mother, and immediately she would win considerable support from significant segments of the community.”

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