Torn About Bobby Jindal

I have a slightly different take on Bobby Jindal from some of my co-bloggers here at the Mutiny: I know, if I lived in Louisiana, that I wouldn’t vote for him. I just disagree with him too strongly on the social issues — intelligent design and abortion rights, for starters — to let my sense of ethnic loyalty get the better of me.

But I can’t help but be somewhat torn when I see photos like this:

bobby-jindal-shaking-hands.jpg

The rest of the very interesting New York Times profile explains what this represents: Jindal is slowly winning over the rural white voters in northern Louisiana, staunch Republicans (can anyone say David Duke?) who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for him when he ran for governor four years ago. He’s also learning how to avoid giving the impression that he is an overachieving policy wonk (which he undoubtedly is), so as to better connect with ordinary Louisianans.

For me, Jindal’s growing success at this (again, encapsulated in the photo above) taps into an anxiety I myself have had as a child of immigrants — who became the first (and only) person in my extended family to earn a Ph.D. Even if your tastes and cultural values are profoundly “Americanized,” as mine are, there remains a sense that you don’t quite “fit,” which tends to be exacerbated (for me, especially) every time some a-hole on South Street (in Philly) mutters something about “there goes Bin Laden” when I walk down the street. Part of the anxiety comes from the ignorance and xenophobia of some Americans, but a good part of it comes from myself, an internalized sense of remaining not-quite-pukka despite everything.

If Jindal wins, his victory will suggest to me he’s somehow overcome both sides of the immigrant’s anxiety syndrome: the part that comes from others’ mistrust, and also the part that comes from himself — his own sense of being something different, something other than a “normal” American, or in this case, a representative Louisianan. If he wins, I won’t cheer, but I will, I expect, quietly feel a certain sense of pride at his accomplishment despite my strong disagreement with his kind of politics. Not just because he’s a fellow desi — it’s actually more complex than that. Rather, the pride will be because he’s a fellow desi who’s evidently achieved, after a struggle, something I’ve long aspired to do: shake that dude’s hand.

279 thoughts on “Torn About Bobby Jindal

  1. Amitabh- I find it perlexing that you seem to think that his choice in his kids’ names might be political, but his choice of religion was not. In Louisiana, I’d wager that your religion matters a whole lot more politically than your kids’ names, i.e. if you’re not of a certain religion, people wouldn’t even care what your kids’ names are because there’s not much of a chance that you’ll get elected.

  2. Woot, woot! I am pleased–this is great! Jindal 2012–or, 2016, or, 2020–heh–he has plenty of time!! I am a loser, but–this is the best day of my life!

  3. . . .NO! Not one of them! Engineers, consultants, nurses, everything else. . . .

    The reason why there are so many republican-voting desis in Dallas, Austin & Houston has more to do with religion than income. The ‘Engineers, consultants, nurses’ that Anna is referring to are probably predominantly Kerala Christians who almost always vote republican. However, there is a small but growing trend among the youth towards voting democratic in my community(which includes me).

  4. Jindal just won — in a landslide.

    Not a great fan of some of his personal and public views — but this news kinda puts a spring in my step for the rest of the weekend.

  5. I play both sides of the fence.

    I have both “Kaha Hai Woh Diwana” and “Sweet Home Alabama” on my Ipod, and I don’t care if all the world knows it.

    There is no excuse for “Sweet Home Alabama.”

  6. Related to Ed-Markey’s podcast that was posted in the new-tab, it will be interesting to find out what does Bobby Jindal and future Democratic and Republic Indian-American leaders ( who will probably rise higher on the political ladder) will have to say to the sticky foreign policy issues like the US-India deal.

  7. I think when I brought up his kids’ names, my comment got misunderstood. My point was, for him and his wife, naming their kids stuff like Slade Ryan (apparently Ryan’s the middle name) is definitely a major cultural departure…

    Good point though it is a lot more subtle.

    Just wondering – has he had his Confirmation ? Do Catholics in the USA make a big deal about Confirmation ?

  8. The ‘Engineers, consultants, nurses’ that Anna is referring to are probably predominantly Kerala Christians who almost always vote republican. However, there is a small but growing trend among the youth towards voting democratic in my community(which includes me).

    That’s interesting, I would have never thought of that. It falls in line with the ideological,”moral superiority” the Repubs claim to have.

  9. While I don’t agree with everything Bobby Jindal stands for (I am a libertarian; he’s not), I don’t expect him to. Indeed, suggesting that someone should have a particular viewpoint because of his race is intellectual segregation, where a person is expected to drink from a particular fountain of idealogy, simply because of his race — not his beliefs.

  10. Bobby Jindal’s victory has got me confused again. Should I celebrate or not? This reminds me of a larger issue that has been bothering me. As an Indian-American in my 30′s, I find myself drowning in conflicted thoughts about political affiliations. Forgive my oversimplification of issues(I am not that bright, but trying hard).

    I thought I was a democrat for the longest time, but I get the sense that Democrats don’t like us anymore(Outsourcing, Indo-US nuclear deal). I have been attracted to the Dark side of the Force of late(Republican party), simply because they seem more welcoming to Desis these days. They are pro-business, pro-outsourcing, pro-nuclear deal and for increasing work visa quotas and hence….. pro-India. Republicans are also against taxes, which resonates well with my kanjoosi inclinations. Am I rich? Not yet, but could be in 5 years. But the moment I hear racist or opaque or un-secular views from Republicans, it makes me cringe. So I run back to the Democrats…. And then the Democrats say something which seems anti-India……..and then cycle goes on.

    Should Indian-Americans be voting Republican or Democrat? Which is better for us?

  11. Politically Confused Desi, I think which way to vote might differ based on your position as an Indian-AMERICAN, not an Indian. Sometimes the priorities of the two conflict, e.g. a bunch of my relatives are in IT and have been in danger of having their jobs outsourced (I know, ironic, huh?), so it would make more sense for them to vote Democrat. Some relatives are filthy rich doctors, making it more sensible for them to vote Republican for self-interest.

  12. Nala, I am an American first and an Indian next. That being said, I will always have a bond with India. Obviously individuals will have their own justifications on who to vote for based on their own self-interest. But what I am really asking is whether there is a consensus among Indian-Americans today about party loyalties? In the past, Indian-Americans overwhelmingly voted Democratic. Since the 90′s we got much richer as a community overall and the complexities of Outsourcing and the IT industry changed a lot of things. Does anyone know of credible surveys or studies done on the voting habits of Indian Americans?

  13. I am a male liberal who votes Democrat almost always, US citizen, born and raised in India. I also have respect for libertarian values which don’t always gel with the Democrats. The Christian Coalition calls themselves “values voters”. Well, I am a values voter too, except my values are different:

    • Women get to make their own choices regarding reproduction and their body
    • Focus on education, not on war
    • Live your religion, don’t talk about it, don’t try to win votes or convert people based on religion
    • The environment trumps all other concerns. We don’t deserve life if we can’t take care of our home.

    With all this said, I believe that business typically performs much better than government, and that capitalism is way better than communism on any given day. For example I believe that public education needs to see more competition from charter schools.

    When visiting India I am all in favor of the recent changes that have come about because of capitalism and economic progress. While living here in the States I can see that a little more respect for socialism would be helpful. I find it humorous that rednecks who can’t even afford a doctor’s visit or subsequent treatment will vote readily for Republican candidates who convince them that having choice in healthcare is more important than having any acccess to healthcare. It’s like saying I’d like to have a choice between going out with the two prettiest women in Hollywood, even though I know I am completely out of that league.

    People who want black and white answers regarding US politics and Bobby Jindal should move to some other planet.

    What is wrong with wanting to succeed and being able to deliver results?

    Having grown up with all kinds of parental pressure, I deeply honor and respect Bobby’s desire to Americanize, convert to Christianity and make choices that made sense to him.

    We can criticize him till the cows come home [in Punjab or in LA], but I would like to see how many of the desis on this forum can match his accomplishments, even though most desis are “type A” overachievers.

    I would not vote for this guy on any day. He is completely opposed to what I stand for. But I respect what he is doing. He is doing what makes sense to him. Mark my words, this guy is gearing up to something much larger than the LA state, he is looking at being the President of the US.

    If I had to work with this guy, I would completely feel comfortable working with him, matter of fact I would know that success would almost be assured having a guy like him on my team. But would I vote for him? No, not really, but given the choices they had in LA state, maybe I would reconsider.

    Many democratic states and cities have republican governors or mayors. These guys are much better at getting the job done, even though they have a church-sponsored idea of social justice and are extremely good fodder for Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report.

    Republicans are not all immigrant-haters. People become Republicans for all kinds of reasons. One party is not going to suit all of one’s preferences, but as long as your burning issues are addressed, I suppose you know who to vote for. I respect the Republican intent and propaganda about small government and business-like approach to things. However, this party has been pandering of late to the Christian Coalition who are ideological brothers of the Hindutva bandwagon in India. To me Republicans have something similar with communists: they sound great on paper, but in reality their ideology produce only more totalitarianism and larger government. Clinton was the best Republican president in recent times according to Alan Greenspan and I agree wholeheartedly with him. He lived up to the real Republican values, not the fake stuff we have been seeing of late.

    There are only two religions left in the world: conservative and liberal.

    A liberal Jew, a liberal Hindu, a liberal Roman Catholic, they are all the same when push comes to shove.

    However, I am a liberal Hindu who is done with pandering to the Gandhian ideals of pacifism in the face of terrorism. You cannot pull a Gandhi with Hitler, or with Osama. And in this, I am beginning to have more respect for the neo-cons. No matter how crazy I sound saying this, I will say it. Extremist Islam needs to be finally met with an iron hammer, and if it takes crazy ass rednecks in this country to rise up to the challenge, I applaud them no matter the ideological and cultural differences I might have with them.

    So I am just yet another example of what I have been trying to say in this posting:

    There is no simple black and white categorization of desis in this country. So please quit trying to portray Bobby Jindal as a this or that. See if you can make a difference in this world. I will, as soon as I am done typing this. :-)

  14. NO! Not one of them! Engineers, consultants, nurses, everything else. . . .

    The reason why there are so many republican-voting desis in Dallas, Austin & Houston has more to do with religion than income. The ‘Engineers, consultants, nurses’ that Anna is referring to are probably predominantly Kerala Christians who almost always vote republican. However, there is a small but growing trend among the youth towards voting democratic in my community(which includes me).

    I have to disagree Jacob, it nice that you want to do the whole I’m different from the pack bit (voting democratic), but down here in Houston, Kerala Christians are very diverse in voting patterns, if anything more of the adults were voting democrat, I know a lot were especially apalled at the Bush reelection, and I know my parents were grumbling up a storm when Bush got elected, and they are very devout Kerala Christians. The only pattern I might of seen was that more Pentecostals seem to vote for republican, and as far as the young, I’ve only seen more republican voters among the young (not necessarily more than democrat, but definitely more than our parent’s generation)but I wouldn’t paint all Kerala christians with that brush, at least all the ones in Texas

  15. Kerala Christians are very diverse in voting patterns, if anything more of the adults were voting democrat

    Is that so, Chako? Since we don’t have any studies or surveys to help us, its your word against mine. One of us is living in a bubble. The lovely Anna agrees with me though.

    I am proud of my Catholic heritage and my Kerala roots. I am also a Democrat and proud American. The point that I am making is that religion is a very important factor in voting preferences and it is silly to deny that.

  16. From my research, I found out that the “other” non-white governor in Louisiana that preceded Jindal was P.B.S. Pinchback, a former ex-slave, who became governor of Louisiana in 1872.

  17. Two Phd students where killed in LSU,right behind Jindals office,may be some one wants to prove that,he cant even try protect his own people.How the hell he is going to change Lousiana????

  18. 271 · niran How the hell he is going to change Lousiana????

    Ummm–perhaps by focussing on being governor, and not trying to moonlight as, e.g., an LSU cop. Really–you’re shameless.

  19. I’m new here and require edification. Understanding that God loves all, home is home and that temporary visits are desirable, if one is Indian, why does one leave India? If I go to India, shall I abscond with an Indian moniker, Raj Smith perhaps, and will I then be Indian? Would I be an American-Indian? Further what would be the point, to simply challenge nature? I can’t fathom the incongruity. Thank you.

  20. Only he knows the sincerity of his conversion. Regardless, the reality today in America is Piyush Jindal the devout, practicing, temple attending Hindu would never be considered by McCain as a VP candidate, nor perhaps even by Barack Obama. If a well to do white man named Robert Johnson converted from Catholism or Protestantism to Hinduism and started calling himself “Piyush” he’d have no chance either in either political party. There is religious bigotry in America that is as strong or stronger than racism. We’ve never even had a person of the Jewish faith be either VP or President, and they have been in America for centuries and are much more assimilated. The furthest we’ve wavered was electing a Catholic as President, JFK, and that too was only once. I wonder if JFK had converted from Catholism to Protestantism (never mind Hinduism) as a teenager, would the Catholic community be just as proud of him, taking comfort in that at least he once was Catholic? I’m sure there still would be some pride. People of color are more accepted in American political life, even by other people of color, if they are Christian, especially for higher offices. So too are white people more accepted if they Christian than any other religion. It is just the way things are right now. We are yet to get to the point where a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist (even if all were white men) are as viable presidential candidates as a Christian.

  21. Sameer, in your impassioned plea for inclusiveness, you forgot to mention atheists.

  22. Just a thought regarding Jindal’s religious articles on exorcism. If you accept that there exists a supernatural being that is good (GOD), it is then not far-fetched to accept that there may exist supernatural beings that are evil.

    As an Indian American, the belief that Indian identity is solely reflective through Hinduism is completely inaccurate and baseless. Every known religious doctrine is being practiced in India. Christians existed in India from ancient times. Apostle Thomas preached in the State of Kerala. The concept that Christianity is somehow a “Western religion” is unfounded.

    The fact that Jindal converted from Hinduism to Christianity makes him no less an “Indian”.

  23. Christianity is not a Western religion. There are no indigenous Western religions left. Christianity replaced practically all of them in Europe (both by choice and by force depending on the circumstances and the times) and it later replaced almost all indigenous religions in the Americas (mostly by force via colonialism). Christianity is an Eastern religion, from the Asian continent, specifically indigenous to the Middle East. All three Abrahamic religions (Judaism and its two descendants Christianity and Islam) are Asian religions. Hinduism is also a Asian religion, however, it is indigenous to South Asia as are several other religions. Christianity and later Islam came from the Middle East to South Asia like it came from the Middle East to Europe. The main difference is that Christianity was not as successful in replacing South Asian religions as it was replacing European religions. However, Islam was more successful in replacing South Asian religions (though not to the same degree of success as Christianity replacing European peoples’ religions in Europe) and perhaps as well Christianity in South Asia than it was replacing any remaining European religions and Christianity in Europe. This is just history; the migration of religions from one region to another.

    What makes a person “Indian” today in the US or other places is another discussion, with other levels of complexity.

  24. So Jindal lied about the Katrina story. He wasn’t in the area when he said he had the conversation with the Sheriff. Why am I not surprised?

  25. These are comments from a New Delhi born Indian who immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 13. I speak and read several Indian languages and I am Christian….have been all my life. You guys seems to have a serious problem with the fact that he became a Christian. What exactly is wrong with an Indian becoming or being a Christian?

    Intelligent design and the sanctity of life are Christian values….my Christian values. To those who question intelligent design I ask, what are the chances that the universe and all that is in it, including all the intricate cells that are in your own body, just came to existence by chance? You wouldn’t expect to walk onto the beach one day and find a wrist watch that just came into existence because the atmospheric conditions were just right. So how then could you possibly expect that living things so much more intricate than a watch would come into existence by chance? And what exactly caused the big bang that is theorized about so much?

    As for the sanctity of life, a fetus has a heart beat at 18 days after conception….you really think that fetus doesn’t have life that is worth protecting?