The latest polls show that a gripping battle is on the cards. As a top US publication reported quoting the latest polls, ‘Biden is the bring-us-together candidate, while Trump is Mr. fix-the-economy. Trump improved in his job performance in almost all areas but lags significantly on the virus.’
The battle for the ballot in America is getting intense and gripping for the strong Indian-American vote bank as the grand-finale round has started between President Donald Trump and his opponent Joe Biden for the “ownership” of the White House from January 2021.
Both contestants have opened all resources at their disposal to win this “political fight of the career” amidst the buzz that President Trump is narrowing the lead Biden has against him, and in fact, gaining on economy against the latter.
Still, it’s a long way to go from here and it can go anywhere amidst the media and Democrats hammering Trump on “poor corona handling” “race violence and fracturing American diversity”, and the Republicans snubbing all charges while pampering an assured vote bank, who sees everyone an outsider except the native White Americans, and a strong nationalist fervour building against China under President Trump.
America’s diversity and democracy face the biggest test on 3 November. For Indian Americans, this is the test of their nerves and the choice they are going to make. The predominantly Democrat-supporting Indian diaspora has just a single “personal barrier” to cross before casting it in Biden’s favour—Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal chemistry with President Trump. Perhaps, “Trump the trader” has won in “personal human capital earning” with India, with whom the US is still resolving many trade rifts.
Will California Senator Kamala Harris’ Indian origin and her partnership with Biden appeal more to the Indian Americans? Or the “personal friend of India” rant Trump makes often these days, will strike a greater chord with the diaspora voters despite a few race hate crimes on American streets against the Indian Americans.
The latest polls show that a gripping battle is on the cards. As a top US publication reported quoting the latest polls, “Biden is the bring-us-together candidate, while Trump is Mr. fix-the-economy. Trump improved in his job performance in almost all areas but lags significantly on the virus.”
The Sunday Guardian reached out to top names linked to the Indian-American community and India-lovers to get the feeling on the ground. Frank Islam, an investor and entrepreneur and Democratic Party’s strong supporter feels, “It’s heading to a tight finish.” Talking to this newspaper, Islam said: “With both the Democratic and Republican Conventions concluded, we are about to enter the homestretch. Traditionally, campaigns get into top gear after Labor Day, which is this weekend. Opinion polls conducted after the Republican convention reveal that Vice President Joe Biden is still holding the pole position, with a lead of about 8 points. However, the polls are likely to tighten in the coming weeks.”
Islam, who is also a top fund-raiser for the Democrats and is known to be close to the Clintons, added that Biden may prevail if democracy and diversity have to win this election. “It is likely to be an extremely hard fought election. The Trump campaign has already turned to negative campaign, much like 2016. With the economy in tatters and Covid-19 claiming more than 180,000 American lives, the President has no themes or issue to run on. So one should expect Trump to resort to more lies and attacks on Vice President Biden. However, the American people have seen enough of Trump’s incompetence and divisiveness. They are also familiar with the leadership of Biden, which has been one of inclusiveness,” Islam said.
However, a keen India watcher and an expert on India-US relations, Professor Walter Andersen of Johns Hopkins University, has a subtle take on why Trump may upset Biden’s dreams. Andersen told this newspaper: “On the Trump-Biden competition, everyone predicted that this would be a spirited campaign, with a lot of charges—many with little or no factual backing—flung by each side against the other. I have never seen a campaign as divisive as this one (though there were divided campaigns in the 19th century).”
Andersen explains further saying, “But despite all the heat, both sides are by and large conforming to the rules. On the accuracy of polls, they may be accurate, but they don’t tell you much about how (or how many) people will actually vote. Here the Democrats have a disadvantage as Republicans seem to be enthused to vote and some of the major Democrat constituencies (e.g. youth, Latinos) have a rather low percentage that actually get out and vote. Then the Democrat advantage shows up in two large states (New York and California) but the electoral college vote that actually votes for the US President (and where small states have a somewhat proportionally greater vote) tends to favor the Republicans.”
Agrees Dr Sampath Shivangi, an influential Indian-American community leader from Mississippi and a strong Republican supporter, who says the battle between Biden and Trump has almost reached its crescendo. Allegations against each other have been intense. The Kenosha Wisconsin tragedy and shooting of African American have caused a new wave of racial allegations on Republican and Democratic parties. Elaborating his point, Dr Shivangi, also an adviser in National Mental Health of the Trump administration, said: “President Trump is paying more attention to battle states and closing gap to just 2% or less between two candidates and it is very well possible that Trump may have the upper hand in the coming few weeks. One may remember that very few political pundits had given little chance for President Trump in these states and to everyone’s surprise Trump made history by winning these states. He may do this again in this election.”
Dr Shivangi, a physician himself, feels that a vaccine can “inject new booster to Trump’s poll prospects”. “There is big hope on corona vaccination which may arrive soon as FDA may allow this vaccination before the third step of the trial may not be required at this stage. President Trump is pouring billions of dollars to get this vaccination as early as possible much before the elections. If that happens, in reality, nobody can stop Trump from his second term of the US Presidency.”
However, Islam says the contestants are battling hard and putting resources at hand in key states like Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin. “That can be crucial and will make Trump’s re-election bid difficult and impossible”, says Islam adding,
“Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin are important battleground states. Trump won all these three states in 2016. His victory margins in Michigan and Wisconsin were very narrow. So both campaigns are spending heavily on these two Midwestern states. Michigan had been a Democratic Party stronghold for decades until Trump flipped that in the last election. Currently, Vice President Biden is leading in the state. Florida has been a perennial battleground state. If you recall, it was the controversial recounting that delivered the presidency to George W. Bush in the 2000 election. I firmly believe if the Biden campaign turns Florida’s 29 electoral votes into the Democrats’ column, it will be extremely difficult for Trump to win a re-election.”
Indian Americans have been key fund-raisers for Democrat Presidential candidates in the past. But for the first time in American presidential elections, the diaspora is participating strongly and holding their cards to their chest till ballot day as voters in India do. Both Trump and Biden know that the near 2 million Indian American vote bank will be crucial in the end. The pampering is natural to many poll pundits and community leaders.
Islam says, “Of the approximately 2 million diaspora voters, a majority of Indian American voters live in states like California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Texas. Except Texas, the rest are Democratic strongholds. Texas has been a GOP bastion historically. Indian American votes don’t swing elections in these states. However, Indian Americans have significant presence in Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio. If the elections are close in these states, Indian American voters will matter. That’s why both campaigns are targeting the community in a big way. Traditionally, Indian Americans have been reliably Democratic, the more inclusive of the two parties. I am confident that the trend will continue this November as well.”
Professor Andersen agrees, with a caveat. “On the Indian American vote, it has historically been Democrat and my guess is that Indian Americans will give a substantial majority to Biden this time around. But there is, from what I can tell, substantial concern for urban violence —and most Indian-Americans live in urban areas.”
Shivangi says, “As I see the reaction of Indian American voters, there is a big upswing towards Trump for his support on Article 370 and CAA. His visit to Ahmedabad and India has strengthened his sway over the Indian-American voters. Now with the China conflict and Secretary Mike Pompeo’s unequivocal support to India against the Chinese aggression has made a great impression on many Indian Americans.”
There are more factors favouring Trump from the community—anti China feelings in the US and support of Trump in sending the US naval fleet in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea and forming the Indo-Pacific pact are big factors making the battle of political choice extremely difficult for the diaspora. Interestingly, for the first time, any Indian leadership has become so crucial in the final outcome of the US Presidential election results. The “personal chemistry of the two leaders” is sure to affect the ballot of the Indian diaspora as the vote has been split, undoubtedly.
But will the new “owner” of White House affect the ongoing “honeymoon” between India and the US? “Not really”, feels Professor Andersen saying, “the outcome may not make much of a difference as what seems to be driving it strategically is a major concern for Chinese assertiveness—and on that there is limited differences between the two political parties.”