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Home > News > Interview

The Rediff Interview/Dr Howard Dean, Democratic Party Chairman

'Democrats are not against outsourcing'



September 08, 2005

The new chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Dr Howard Dean, believes the Indian-American community should find the Democratic Party more attractive as it is not only more favourable toward immigration, but also is a more diverse and welcoming than the Republican Party.

In an exclusive interview with rediff India Abroad Managing Editor Aziz Haniffa in Houston, Texas, recently, Dean, the former governor of Vermont, said he intends to bring Indian Americans to the upper and senior echelons of the party. He also said he would continue to reach out to the idealism and activism of the younger generation of the community at the grass-roots level that constituted the core of his presidential campaign.

Dean is travelling across the country trying to rally the faithful and undecided for the Congressional election in 2006 and the Presidential election in 2008.

On foreign policy, Dean said newly transformed US-India relations in recent years had a lot to do with policies adopted by New Delhi as much or more, than actions undertaken by Washington to push the relationship forward.

On outsourcing -- where the perception persists that Democrats are vehemently against it -- Dean said the party stood for free and fair trade and found India much more palatable than China.

Why should the Indian-American community vote for the Democratic Party?

We are friendlier on immigration issues than the Republican Party. We are a truly multicultural, diverse party. We welcome everybody. We have been very, very pleased first of all, by the support we got from the Indian-American community, and secondly, we are the party that has a history of reaching out to people, instead of pushing them away.

Indian Americans will feel more comfortable in our party.

India needs energy, and the US

In terms of reaching out to the Indian-American community. What new proposals or what new initiatives or ideas have you got?

Interestingly enough, I know how your question is angled. Oddly enough, the things we can do the best for not just the Indian-American community, but for every community -- I mean, every community wants the same thing oddly enough, so the things we can do best are to make sure is one, it is easier to do well in a small business.

People from India, but immigrants in general, have a higher percentage of small business owners. We need to be the party that makes it easier to do small business and less regulation.

In this group, Indian-American doctors, we understand much better than the Republicans that one, we ought to have a form of health insurance for all Americans. It does not have to be run by the government, but it has to cover everybody and we need to make it much more simple in terms of bureaucracy which is choking doctors.

Traditionally, the majority of older Indian Americans have tended to vote Republican, including the doctors because of this perception that the Democrats have been too intrusive, too government, if you will. But the younger generation has been strongly Democratic and during your campaign you sort of generated the kind of activism and idealism that had a lot of young Indian Americans working with you. But now they are a little perplexed, they are a little confused. How will you bring them back into the fold?

Why would they be perplexed or confused?

In a sense, I guess they feel the Democratic Party has lost direction and the Karl Roves of the world have taken it away with some real Machiavellian type of political acumen.

Well, there is some of that. But in the end, honesty will trump Machiavellian politics. We still have an enormous number of young Indian Americans working at the DNC and in the Democratic Party. We want it to continue.

These are bright, extraordinary young people. You are right, many of them are American born and they will revitalise the party. The way you revitalize the party is you bring new people and the way you bring new people is to stand up for what you believe in. That is what the party needs to learn how to do.

Will you bring in people like Swadesh Chatterjee and a few other Indian American Democratic Party activists -- like Ramesh Kapur, a long-term activist -- into the fold of the Democratic Party so that people have the perception that Indian Americans are involved with the DNC at a high level, not at the sort of a gofer level?

Yes. We have. We have started to do it. We have met with key Indian Americans on the DNC and around the DNC. I will make a trip to India with high profile Indian Americans probably in the early part of next year.

These are things that are symbolic in some ways, but there will be a closer integration between us and the Indian-American community because the community has done so much for us. We will be foolish not to make sure they understand that they are welcome at the top levels of the Democratic Party.

On foreign policy, when President Bill Clinton went in March 2000 to India, there was a sort of transformation of US-India relations -- to President George W Bush's credit he has run with the ball has not dropped the ball. How do you propose to really further solidify this relationship?

What is happening now in India is more important than what the US is doing. India is transforming itself economically and transforming itself bureaucratically. The Congress party we see now in charge of India is very different than the party beaten by Hindu nationalists.

While I do certainly think that President Clinton deserves some credit for improving relations, the Indian government deserves a lot of credit for improving relations.

On outsourcing, there was a perception that the Democrats were against outsourcing and it was perceived as India-bashing in a sense. How do you feel about outsourcing?

We are not against outsourcing. But we are in favour of fair trade. Now India is not the problem.

The problem frankly is China. In India, you can join an independent trade union. You cannot do that in China.

In India there are environmental laws. Now, we prefer the environmental laws be more similar to the United States.

Trade is not the problem. The problem is fair trade. We need to have the same kinds of rules apply to protecting workers and protecting the environment in every country and not just in some and others. India is closer to the model than China is.

India is not the problem. The problem frankly is China


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