However, while the community is upbeat about the likely candidacy of the California Democrat, some are realistic about her chances.
Kamala Harris, the junior Senator from California, who is currently busy promoting her new book, The Truths We Hold, is being seen as an increasingly formidable candidate should she decide to enter the 2020 presidential race.
Though Harris, who has been making many appearances to talk about her book, has dodged questions about her possible run, it’s likely that she would soon announce her candidacy.
The senator’s potential candidacy is a subject of great interest, not just for political pundits, but also to millions of immigrants in America because of her diverse background.
Born in Oakland, California, Harris is of Jamaican-Indian descent.
The former attorney general of California is considered by the Indian American community as one of its own. On her part too, Kamala Devi Harris has never failed to mention her Indian roots. Daughter of Indian-born Shyamala Gopalan Harris and Jamaican-born Donald Harris, she is also the first South Asian American senator in the country.
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Given the current climate of anti-immigrant rhetoric, the question must be asked: What does the Indian American community think of Harris’ candidacy? Virginia-based author and speaker Braham Singh, who has been actively following Harris’ political career, describes the senator’s likely run as, “Significant.”
“Born of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, Kamala Harris talks of the racism her mother faced as a brown skinned Indian,” Singh told The American Bazaar. “The fact that Harris is contemplating a presidential run, as is Nikki Haley, another Indian origin woman, means that whether Trump and Co. like it or not, America has turned a corner.”
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Sugarland, Texas-based author Dan Mayur, who has written many books including, Mumbai to Stockholm via New York, where he views the socio-economic situation in India and America, says, “As an immigrant, liberal and somebody who genuinely loves America, I would be delighted to see her or somebody like her become the next president. It will change the anti-immigrant bias and bring a more balanced approach to governance.”
While her increasing likeability in mainstream America may signal a sort of change, others still feel that her diverse background may be of little significance. Saif Shahin, an assistant professor in communication studies at American University in Washington D.C., says, “I am not particularly enthusiastic about Kamala Harris entering the 2020 Presidential race. She has an interesting ethnic background, but that means nothing when it comes to making policies.”
Shahin adds, “Obama, himself an immigrant, deported more people than any president in US history. In fact, national leaders who come from minority backgrounds are less likely to make significant policy changes to help minorities as they feel even more pressure to present themselves as part of US political mainstream. Nothing that Harris has done so far suggests that she is anything more than an establishment Democrat.”
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But Harris does seem to have an impact on young women from the community who are keen on seeing a woman president. Sagarika Dutta, a communication consultant based in Exton, Pennsylvania, recently came to this country on H4 visa.
Dutta believes that these are eventful times to be an immigrant in America and is upbeat about the changes Harris may bring along. She says, “As an Indian in the United States, I would love to see how the country holds a woman with Indian roots to be the next president. Also, with the hoo-hah about gender parity, this will particularly see the greatest aggregate change in the world if it happens!”
However, on whether Harris has a chance for a successful run, there is skepticism within the community, too.
ALSO READ: Will Kamala Harris run for president in 2020? (July 2, 2017)
“As a realist who has studied American politics for decades, I consider the probability of her (Harris) winning close to zilch,” Mayur says. “America is still not ready for a female president and certainly not a non-white. Forget the colleges on the East and West coast, mainstream America is still very conservative. The election of Obama, however, qualified was in hindsight a freak event. The election of Trump was nothing but a reaction to it. Despite the absolute incompetence of Trump, his base remains solid. It may not be enough to get him re-elected but Kamala Harris as good as she may be will be considered yet another risky experiment.”
Prof. Shahin thinks that the Indian American community should not view candidates only based on racial similarities. “Indian Americans and other minorities should support leaders who are most likely to bring about meaningful political change,” he says. “For me, a Bernie Sanders-Nancy Pelosi ticket seems the most promising and more people may see that.”
But despite many possible outcomes, the majority is looking ahead to Harris’ announcement. “It’s early to say,” Mona Das, Senator-elect from Washington’s 47th district told American Bazaar. “Lots of good candidates. But she should run. I’d love to see a woman president, it’s beyond time. Kamala has been making waves and been in front of a lot of important issues. I wish her the best and hope she runs. It’s going to be a tough race for all that are putting their name in the ring. Our democracy needs diverse leadership.”
(This post was updated on January 16, 2019)