Over at New America Media, Sandip Roy explores the rising tide of Indian-America candidates in this year’s elections:
As Indian Americans grew more affluent, they became involved in politics. But they were dismissed as “photo-op uncles”: come to an event, take a photo, write a check. Sanjay Puri, chairman of the U.S. India Political Action Committee, remembers his frustration at an Indian-American fundraiser for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002. “The whole exercise in that two-and-a-half hour event was to get her to wear a sari.”
There are now Indian-American lobbyists, fundraisers, campaign consultants. In the days when South Asian candidates for office were few and far between, the Indian American Leadership Initiative (IALI) used to be bipartisan. Now it supports Democratic candidates, and there is an Indian American Republican Council as well.
Shekar Narasimhan says even those Indian-American candidates with perfect American accents are deluding themselves if they think ethnicity does not matter. “For heaven’s sake, let’s grow up and understand being brown in a predominantly white culture means we are different,” he says.
And then there are the candidates. Conservatives Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley are perhaps the most profiled, but certainly not alone. There’s Hansen Clarke in Michigan, who Roy describes as the only shoo-in for Congress, and Raj Goyle, who’s in an uphill battle in Kansas.