As I’ve been thinking about the democratic front-runners, I’ve been taking note of how different desis have been choosing sides.
Key Clinton advisor Neera Tanden made it clear in the New Yorker Magazine that she thinks Obama is too soft for the dirty work of winning an election:
Advisers to Clinton told me that there is something naÃ¯ve, even potentially fatal, in Obama’s vision of leading the country out of its current political battles… Obama will be annihilated by what members of the Clinton campaign call “the Republican attack machine.” Neera Tanden, the campaign’s policy director, … cautioned that the general election will be brutal. “You cannot let your guard down with these guys,” she said of right-wing politicians. “They take people’s strengths and make them weaknesses; if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. …Both of the Clintons have been through it and won before.” [Link]
From a more parochial perspective, the Clintons have a decades long association with South Asians:
No other candidate has raised more money from the Indian America community than Hillary Clinton. More Americans who trace their roots to India are working for Hillary Clinton. [Link]
p>As a young’un 16 years ago I worked a South Asian fund raiser at the Waldorf for the Candidate Bill Clinton (just after the Gennifer Flowers scandal). There’s a reason why Hillary herself cracked:
“I can certainly run for the senate seat in Punjab and win easily,”… [Link]
p>However, as the primary season (and general election) grew nearer, Hillary distanced herself from public appearances with Sikhs, perhaps to avoid more photos like these. Instead, she cancelled several fundraisers and refused to engage with issues that were important:
She stands up for the Sikh community when politically expedient. On the campaign trail, she made several cancellations to appear with Sikhs in public and refused to join Obama in supporting the Sikh Coalition’s appeal to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to protect turbans from searches at airports. [Link]
In general, Obama has shown more commitment to defending civil-liberties, even when unpopular, than Hillary. According to Gitmo detainee lawyers Gita Gutierrez, Elizabeth Arora, and Varda Hussain:
Senator Obama helped lead the fight in the Senate against the Administration’s efforts in the Fall of 2006 to strip the courts of jurisdiction …Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications of voting to preserve habeas corpus for the men held at Guantanamo. He has understood that our strength as a nation stems from our commitment to our core values, and that we are strong enough to protect both our security and those values. [Link, via UB]
p>Civil liberties in the US is a brown issue to me because South Asians are far more likely than white Americans to get locked up and forgotten about by the system.
p>In terms of race, the Clintons have gone out of their way to point out that Hillary is the white candidate (and is she ever – have you seen her dance?). Obama, on the other hand, comes across as an immigrant. He talks openly about both family in the United States and on the other side of the world, and his own upbringing betwixt and between has helped to shape his outlook on politics:
Senator Obama’s political outlook is shaped by truly having been a citizen of the world. He was born to a black Kenyan father, and a white mother from Kansas. A self-made man, he was raised by his single mother and maternal grandparents in an environment without many material advantages. His paternal African grandmother still lives in a Kenyan hut without running water and electricity…Senator Obama can passionately engage with, actively listen to and respectfully speak with people of all backgrounds and faiths. [Link]
p>In this way, Obama comes across as the quintessential second-gen politician and his comfort with his identity stands in sharp contrast to repeated efforts by Jindal to whitewash himself. Whereas Piyush ran as Bobby, Barack did not run as Barry, even though he was once known as such. While Jindal, despite having been the former chancellor of LSU, ran away from the killings at LSU; Obama took time out of his schedule to call politicians in Kenya when election violence began, and has openly remained involved since.
p>I suspect that the age-gap amongst Clinton and Obama supporters is replicated in the division between first and second generation brownz. And who better to exemplify 2nd genniness than Mr. Namesake himself?
And while we’ve posted it before, it’s worth nothing that Obama is the only candidate in either party to inspire this sort of creative bolly style adulation: