By Kalyani Shankar
Could the United States also favour an Indian American for the top job in the 2024 polls? It is a million-dollar question. But it does not stop the American Indians from dreaming about it. The United Kingdom has chosen an Indian-origin Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, last year. As for the Indian Americans, it is a long road to becoming the tenant of the White House. Over the years, they have become affluent and also ambitious. Their success is a unique coming-of-age story.
Today Indian American diaspora is 4 million plus, of which at least 2 million are voters. It is the second-largest immigrant group in the United States. Affluent Indian Americans also donate money to the two major parties. The number of People of Indian Origin (PIOs) appointed to high-profile positions has multiplied in recent years. The most significant example was Kamala Harris, the U.S. vice President.
No one would have imagined that Indian Americans would bid for the Oval Office a few years ago. Then Louisiana Governor Piyush Bobby Jindal in 2016 and Kamala Harris in 2020 joined the presidential race only to be disappointed. Their number is gradually growing in the U.S. Congress and the state Assembly.
The 2024 Presidential polls will be interesting for Indian Americans. Vice President Kamala Harris has been announced as the running mate of President Biden, who is seeking reelection. At least two Indian-origin Americans intend to run for president in 2024. They are former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Hailey and millionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. His parents are the first generation immigrant from Kerala immigrated to the U.S.
Ramaswamy focuses on “getting rid of ‘affirmative action” and allowing more highly skilled immigrants into the U.S. While they all represent “America first,” they knew that road to the White House was long.
The primary contenders would be President Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump. The latter is 76 now. Biden was 78 when he became the president in 2020. As the trends show it will be a battle against between Biden and Trump.
Harris, the first woman Vice President was at a knocking distance from the Oval Office. She had sought the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 election before dropping out in the campaign’s initial stages. Kamala accepted to run as Biden’s running mate in 2020 when everyone thought Biden wouldn’t seek a second term. She also became the U.S.’s first ‘woman acting president’ for 55 minutes on November 19, 2021, when Biden underwent a colonoscopy. A sitting President generally wins in his second term, but Trump could not in the 2020 presidential elections, thereby bucking the tradition. Kamala Harris, who is only 58, is Biden’s running mate again.
The two-time former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, daughter of Indian-origin immigrants, made history as South Carolina’s first female governor. At 39, Nikki was the youngest governor in the U.S. in January 2011. Nikki was also the state’s first Indian-American governor. She is projecting herself as a changemaker who can reinvigorate a party. Her biggest challenge comes from her former boss, Trump. He advised her to follow her heart when she informed Donald Trump about her intention to contest.
Nikki and Kamala have the advantage of name recognition, but Vivek is less well-known. The 37-year-old studied at Harvard and Yale earned millions as a biotechnology entrepreneur and founded an asset management firm. It would be difficult for Vivek, with no political experience, to join the race for the White House. But former President Trump said some encouraging words: “I am pleased to see that Vivek Ramaswamy is doing so well in the most recent Republican Primary Poll, CBS YouGov.”
The Indian-origin candidates face many hurdles to cross, even to get their respective party’s nomination in the primary in which the Whites dominate. The first is to get the support of their respective parties.
In the Republican Party, after Trump (52 percent) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (24 percent), Nikki has only 18 percent support. It indicates she has a long way to go before being considered a serious contender.. The second would be to catch the imagination of the all Americans. They know that their ethnic background alone cannot win them an election. Thirdly, it is a question mark whether they would vote for a woman and that too of ethnic origin. Even Hillary Clinton, a white American, was rejected earlier as she could not mobilize the women voters in her favor.
Apart from these, others like Asa Hutchinson, Robert Kennedy Jr, Marianne Williamson, Tim Scott, Larry Elder, , and Mike Pence are likely presidential candidates. DeSantis is yet to announce his candidacy. He is considered Trump’s top challenger for the 2024 nomination from Republican Party.
Biden is the bookies’ current favourite. He is surging and leads both Trump and DeSantis in the polls. He has the momentum and financial muscle to embark on another successful presidential campaign. But it is too early to predict. (IPA Service)