-Dilip Chaware, New Jersey-
The US Presidential Election 2016 will prove to be of immense importance for Bharat on many counts. Primarily, it is bound to mark a watershed development in Bharat’s relations with the US. Perhaps for the first time, the most prominent migrant ethnic group, known as Bharatiya-Americans, is likely to change its political preference. Traditionally supporting the Democrats, the influential vote of the community appears to be inclined to support maverick Republican Party nominee Donald Trump, though not his Party. This will certainly have a bearing on systematic efforts by Bharat to cultivate stronger ties with the US.
I arrived in the US East Coast state of New Jersey a week ago. I have been conversing with Bharatiyas wherever and whenever I can meet them. A majority of them have indicated that they would prefer Donald Trump for his unequivocal stand on many sensitive issues like Islamic terrorism. Although they are not too confident about the future policies of this leader, known for his mercurial nature, for the present, they appear to be behind this front runner for the White House.
On his part, Trump has avoided criticising Bharatiya-origin migrants after his initial salvos against them. This may be due to the advice given to him by his media consultants or poll strategists. Similarly, he has diluted his harangue against Latin American migrants, in particular the Mexicans, since they form a sizeable voter group.
What could be the reason for Trump’s change of heart? It is surmised that the fight for the White House will be a photo-finish race in 2016 and every vote is going to be vital. Therefore, Trump has become very cautious, especially after his nomination by the Republican Party started appearing inevitable. Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, of course, have been regarding Bharatiya-origin voters as their guaranteed supporters. But they will not be able to remain smug this time, it is felt.
Social media trends have been suggesting that the third largest ethnic group in the US, of Bharatiyas, is generally in favour of Trump. Till the last election in 2012, almost 65 percent of the Bharatiyas in the US were voters for the Democrats, according to a study. In contrast, a shift this time is quite discernible. Such political support by the Bharatiyas for the Grand Old Party (GOP) is being seen for the first time in the US electoral history.
Significantly, Trump supporters are mostly Hindus and many of them have been quite vocal on the social media. One such page on Facebook is “Hindus for Trump”. Its description says: “American Hindus are model citizens, educated and industrious. They want a responsible nation where Americans are both safe and free.” Trump is shown as Lord Vishnu, sitting on what looks like a lotus with “Om” inscribed at its centre.
Another major development is the formation of a Political Action Committee (PAC), formed by some leading Bharatiya-Americans to raise financial and electoral support for Trump, called ‘Indian-Americans For Trump 2016,’ the first of its kind. It was registered as a PAC on January 21, 2016 with the Federal Election Commission. It said in a statement, “The officers of the Indian-Americans for Trump 2016 urge all Americans to join in the effort and support Donald Trump in his endeavour to make America great again by electing him the next President of the USA.”
By and large, the Bharatiyas have welcomed Trump’s policies on illegal immigration and economy besides his firm stand against Islamic terrorism.
In almost every Presidential election, ethnic groups and immigrants play a vital role, which occasionally can turn the scales. This election will highlight their role more vividly. Realising this, Democratic contender Hillary Clinton had been confident of exploiting what is popularly known as the ‘Obama Coalition’: this means ensuring the support of African-American and Hispanic population. She is looking at the Bharatiya-Americans, traditionally Democrat supporters, for their firm backing. However, it may not be so forthcoming this time if initial surveys are any indication.Whoever wins the White House in November this year will have to grapple with the nation’s complex immigration system. The winner will either initiate the reforms that benefit the ‘illegal’ immigrants settled in the US or throw them out, though the latter appears impossible. The Democrats have promised the reforms. Trump had earlier declared that they will be deported but has changed his language subsequently.
Whatever political pundits may say, the election of a hard-liner has started appearing a distinct possibility this time, may be because of a fractured Democratic party. Opponents of Trump predict that the ire he invited of the Latino voters will be expressed through the ballot box on November, 8. The election will impact the complexion of the Senate, perhaps handing over its control back to the Democrats.
If Trump wins, the Republican Party will have to make immigration enforcement an urgent priority. But some ardent pro-immigration activists confidently predict that Trump will be defeated by even a greater margin than in 2012 in the Obama-Mitt Romney contest. Republican candidate Romney could win just about 27 percent of the Latino vote in 2012. Romney and other Republican stalwarts later admitted that their aggressive stand on the immigration issue cost them the election.
An Influential Minority
Bharatiya-Americans are the richest ethnic group in the United States. They were earning a median income of $100,547 in 2013, according to the statistics released by the US Census Bureau. This was much higher than $51939, which was the median income for all Americans during the same period.
Americans of Bharatiya descent do follow that pattern. They were among the most highly educated ethnic groups in the US In 2010, 70 percent of those aged 25 and older had college degrees. Almost one-third (28 percent) of Bharatiya Americans worked in science and engineering fields, according to the 2013 American Community Survey and the Pew Research Centre.
Overall, Asian Americans were at the top in earning money. There are 19.4 million Americans of Asian descent and their combined median income for 2013 was $72,472.
Bharatiya-Americans are among the most highly educated racial or ethnic groups in the US, according to the Pew Research Centre study. The Study said Hindus made for 51 percent of 3.2 million Bharatiya-Americans, followed by Christians and Muslims, comprising 18 and 10 percent, respectively.