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'The biggest winners are Indian Americans'

By P RAJENDRAN
Last updated on: November 11, 2020 20:20 IST
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'This year felt different -- and was different.'
'For the first time, the Indian American voter seemed to matter.'

IMAGE: United States Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks at a victory rally in Wilmington, Delaware, November 7, 2020. Photograph: Jim Bourg
 

Ronak Desai is an expert on law and foreign policy, with a particular focus on security. His work has covered covers India-US relations, enforcement of global law, corruption, and Indian American politics.

Desai is an associate at the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute at Harvard University and is a private practice attorney at a prominent international law firm.

He is Law & Security Fellow at New America, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, and an Asia 21 Leader at the Asia Society.

He serves as general counsel and board director to the Partnership for a Secure America, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank.

From 2014-2016, he served as the Democratic counsel to the Select Committee on Benghazi in Congress.

Desai has frequently written in leading publications in the US and Asia, including Forbes and The Washington Post.

He also routinely advises members of the US Congress on legal and foreign policy issues, including those relating to South Asia.

In an interview with Rediff.com Senior Contributor P Rajendran, Desai discusses Verdict 2020 and what it means for Indian Americans. The first of a two-part interview:.

What do you think of the election results? What are the general gains and losses -- for the country overall, and for the Indian American community in particular?

The elections were a significant victory for Democrats led by President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris as well as for the entire Indian American community irrespective of party.

At the presidential level, the country elected America's first female vice president who also happens to be a female person of colour.

The message this sends to citizens not just of this country, but around the world, is potent and undeniable.

The Biden-Harris ticket won both the popular and electoral votes, while also garnering the highest number of votes ever received in a presidential election in US history, a feat that is even more impressive given the formidable challenges the COVID-19 pandemic posed to in-person voting this year.

Democrats flipped several states that voted in favor of President Trump in 2016 and are poised to expand the map even further in this regard.

Any narrative that asserts Democrats underperformed is simply unsupported by the facts and reflects the unrealistically high expectations generated prior to the election that were fueled largely (and once again) by profoundly inaccurate polls.

While the Democrats did not take back the US Senate, it still remains a possibility.

The fact that both Arizona Senate seats are now held by Democrats is something that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

House Democrats saw their majority reduced not insignificantly, and there will need to be some serious examination among relevant House and party leadership on what happened there.

Any assertion that Democrats underperformed is inaccurate and naively based upon expectations that were unrealistically high.

These expectations were largely fueled by widespread and extensive polling that was, once again, profoundly incorrect.

Although President Trump did lose the White House, Trumpism as a political ideology defied expectations.

With 70 million or so Americans voting for the president, there is no doubt of Trumpism's appeal and longevity within the American political discourse for years to come.

Overall, the election result means less turbulence and uncertainty emanating from the White House for at least four years, beginning in January 2021.

President Trump's presidency was truly unprecedented in terms of the changes it unleashed both at home and abroad.

The number of world leaders eager to congratulate President-elect Biden in the absence of President Trump's concession, for example, illustrates the extent to which the rest of the world is eager for change in Washington and for the US to reclaim the mantle of global leadership.

While half the country must be relieved to see President Trump go and are waiting for the Biden era to begin, the reality is that a multitude of serious systemic and structural challenges await Biden on the first day of his presidency, including COVID-19, the state of the economy, deep social and racial unrest, and nation even more divided than it was four years ago.

Although Biden is well suited to meet these challenges, there is no doubt he will have his work cut out for him over the next four years.

The biggest winner of this year's elections was the Indian American community.

For years, the Diaspora kept hearing the Indian American community 'had arrived' politically.

So often was the phrase repeated that it almost lost meaning and reached the level of platitude almost.

This year felt different -- and was different.

For the first time, the Indian American voter seemed to matter.

Both parties energetically competed with one another to prove which was better for the Diaspora.

Indian American voters were targeted and outreach comprised of everything from Howdy Modi rallies to Ganesh Chaturthi greetings.

Indian Americans also found success, not just as voters but also as candidates.

Kamala Devi Harris, the daughter of an Indian immigrant who came to the US barely 50 years ago from India, is now the country's next vice president.

At the Congressional level, all four Indian Americans currently serving in the US House of Representatives won re-election.

Ami Bera is now the longest-serving Indian American in the history of the United States Congress.

Ro Khanna could replace Kamala Harris in the Senate.

Pramila Jayapal and Raja Krishnamoorthi have earned profiles and constituencies of support that extend far beyond the four corners of their respective districts.

In a further testament to their widespread appeal, none of them have relied on Indian American votes to secure their electoral prospects.

Moreover, Indian Americans across the country were elected or re-elected to state houses and county and local offices around the country, from Arizona to Pennsylvania, from Ohio to Vermont.

Jenifer Rajkumar made history by becoming the first Indian American woman to win election to the New York's famed state assembly.

Niraj Antani will become the first Indian American to serve in the Ohio State Senate.

The success of the Indian American community transcends party and label.

Candidates from all political parties triumphed while Indian American voters irrespective of partisan affiliation came out to vote in record numbers.

The Indian American community has a lot to celebrate, but this is just the latest chapter of a story that is still being written.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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