By Preity Upala
The United States Presidential election is at it’s final stretch. In some ways this is most extraordinary election. It is the most crucial election this country has ever seen and yet it is the most subdued election in history.
So how do the two presidential candidates, President Donald Trump and Candidate Joe Biden fare?
Foreign policy will be at the heart of this election in many ways. With a dwindling economy, high unemployment and a global pandemic, President Trump will want to make China the central theme of his campaign in the months leading up to the election. And if he did, he would actually have a lot of support across the country. Recent polls have shown that there is an incredible amount of distrust and disdain towards China. This would fit it nicely with President’s agenda. On the other hand, Biden is not known to have had a tough stance on China and the public is not convinced that he would take China to task. He does not have a history of being tough on China with his own son, Hunter Biden involved in foreign companies whether it is Ukraine or China. The Democratic party is not known to have made national security, counter terrorism or the threat of a rising imperialistic China the main agenda for their campaign and and phrases of holding china accountable seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
It appears that there is no actual enthusiasm for Biden, but the party is rallying behind him as the only sentiment seems to be anti-Trump and perhaps nothing more. There is little in the way to counter the current administration’s policies.
Violent protests and riots across major cities since April have been weaponized and politicized for political gain and are predicted to only get more tense.
After what happened in 2016 with national polls predicting a Hillary victory right up to the day of the election, it would not be wise to take the polls too seriously.
The next factor to look at is this economy. The general rule is that during a phase of economic growth, the incumbent has a high chance of being re-elected. The US economy today has had it’s sharpest contraction since WW2. This pandemic has had irreversible ramifications for the US economy. It’s been seen as the worst quarter on record. A second quarter decline of about 33% and the unemployment figures at 11%, with the unemployment payments quickly evaporating, it may be tenable to predict a recession and possibly a depression in the following years to follow. The financial situation maybe more than damaging than the actual pandemic itself.
What does this election mean for Indian Americans and the bilateral relationship between Indian and the US as a whole?
At 4 million, Indian Americans makes up a tiny ethnic minority community in the US. Although they happen to be the most educated and wealthiest ethnic group, they have not been politically relevant in the past. However this is one election where they may be influential than usual and perhaps their voice could carry more mileage than it ever did.
Indian Americans in some way are stuck between a rock and a hard place. While they align with values espoused by the Democratic Party with 77% voting for Clinton in 2016, this may change. The recent stances and attitude taken by certain factions of the DNC seem to have been antagonistic to the Government of India’s recent decisions such as the Abrogation of Article 370, passing of the CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) and the NRC (National Registry of Citizens). A lot of Indian Americans see this as interference into the internal matters of a sovereign country. Some of the statements made by Democratic candidates Biden and Harris show a biased and distorted view of the reality on the ground. An attack on the Indian Government has been seen as an attack on the community itself. These recent actions have been bought in democratically with an overwhelming majority across both Upper and Lower houses of the Indian parliament as well as supported by Indians far and wide.
As well as antagonizing a major ally, Biden has seen to be pandering to large Islamic groups to garner votes, while not condemning terrorist attacks and persecution of religious minorities in regions like Pakistan and Balochistan.
What to expect in the next month?
America is searching for it’s Soul. Today, it is a divided country. The dwindling economy, race riots and the pandemic does not seem to be going anywhere. The divisive state of affairs on the ground may lead to more violent protests and riots leading up to the election and well into the end of the year.
There are 1.8 million Indian Americans eligible to vote this November. Majority of these are in the costal states of New York and California which are heavily Democrat. It will be the battle ground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texas and Florida that will be deciding the election. President Trump won these with a tiny margin of 85,000 in 2016. He will have to sustain the margin again in November if he wishes to be re-elected. Perhaps this is where the Indian-American voters could make the difference. There are more than enough Indians to make that margin that is needed. In fact, one could say, there maybe 300,000 ‘Patels’ some of these areas alone! Several groups of Indian Americans are mobilizing digitally for the current President to ensure that he makes it over the line.
The Indian American diaspora will make their choice in November, when it is time to vote. No doubt it will think about what is best for futures of the two countries. It is imperative that the world’s largest democracy in the world and the world’s oldest democracy in the world ought to work closely together. The US- India relationship is the most important strategic partnership in the next half century.
If COVID has taught as anything, it is to make us think about the kind of world that we want to live in and the kind of powers we want running it!
Preity Upala is a political editor and analyst based in Los Angeles, California. She specializes in geo-political strategies, international affairs, conflict resolution and counter-terrorism.