Who can take on Trump? Biden or Bernie, Democratic supporters wonder.
It’s that time again for American voters when the political conundrum begins to loom large as the 2020 race for the White House begins in right earnest.
With Republican President Donald Trump all set to seek reelection, Democratic leaning Indian American voters are closely watching the party primaries.
Who would Indian Americans prefer among the Democrats: a moderate liberal like Joe Biden or progressives like Bernie Sanders with his promise of Medicare for All and Elizabeth Warren favoring citizenship for Dreamers? Or would it be some dark horse?
Before California Senator Kamala Harris’ early exit from the presidential race, Indian Americans were excited to see for the first time an Indian origin candidate, emerging as a Democratic frontrunner.
Pacific Islander Tulsi Gabbard, the first ever Hindu candidate to run for presidency, is also reported to have connected with a set of voters or at least Indian American funders largely due to a shared religious identity.
But as of now it remains rather unclear which way the Indian American voter may be leaning, come elections.
“Talking about the Democratic primaries, right now the trouble is that we do not have any survey data or anything about the Asian voters so that we can make an informed guess,” says Sangay Mishra, a professor at Drew University and author of Desis Divided.
“With that in mind, I do feel still that there won’t be a major shift in the pattern Indian American have always voted in the US,” he said.
In 2016 Democratic “primaries, according to some surveys, Indian Americans tilted more towards Hillary (Clinton) than (Bernie) Sanders,” Mishra said. “If one takes that into account, someone like (Joe) Biden will have the appeal.”
Former Vice President Biden has also been endorsed by AAPI, a super PAC that mobilizes Asian American and Pacific Islander voters.
The group has announced that it will spend $2 million on Asian American and Pacific Islander outreach this election season.
“We believe that Joe Biden is the best candidate to defeat Trump and lead our country,” Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund, said in a statement.
Among a younger group of Indian American voters though, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders holds an appeal too.
“I support Bernie for President, not only for the economic policies that make the most moral and scientific sense, but also because of his character,” said Peter Jacob, a former congressional candidate from New Jersey.
“Despite what Hillary, Warren, or the media have said, he displays an exemplary character that people of the US and world deserve. He just continues to be himself.”
Saif Shahin, assistant professor in communication studies at the American University, also feels that Indian Americans should be rooting for Sanders.
“Indian Americans and other minorities should support leaders who are most likely to bring about a meaningful political change, irrespective of their ethnic/religious backgrounds,” he says.
“For me a Bernie Sanders candidature looks more promising and I hope more people see that.”
Sangay Mishra agrees that ethnicity or religious identity may have very limited scope. “We all know that Kamala Harris foregrounded her black identity, which definitely made more sense for her,” he said.
“And Tulsi Gabbard’s appeal has just one basis that of being a Hindu and she did have a segment contributing to her campaign,” said Mishra. “But my sense is that in 2020, we may not be expecting a major shift in Indian American voting pattern,”
“Despite what events like Howdy Modi, would have us believe the truth is that a Hindu American too is more aligned towards the Democratic side of the equation,” according to Mishra.
In his view. while Joe Biden shares a wide platform among Indian Americans, Bernie Sanders definitely would get support from the younger population.