by Nina Sudhakar
“Politics as usual” in the United States has frequently been stereotyped as the exclusive domain of old, white males. However, the past several years (and particularly the most recent election) have indicated that serious inroads are being made regarding minority participation in politics.
A recent trend to note is an increase in Indian American Congressional candidates who, according to a recent article by Hill publication Roll Call (full article here), wield some serious fund-raising power.
Manan Trivedi, running for a Congressional seat next year, estimates that about 20-25% of his fund-raising came about as a direct result of his network of Indian “uncles and aunties.”
Young Indian American candidates may be soliciting their parents’ generation for cash because that wave of immigrants has now achieved a degree of economic success that makes them more willing to part with their money. The local Indian American community may also be heartened by the presence of visible politicians such as Bobby Jindal (Republican Governor of Louisiana), and may recognize not only the need for an Indian voice in American politics, but that these leadership positions are an achievable goal.
However, making a withdrawal out of the “Bank of Uncle and Aunty” is definitely not as easy as going to the ATM. Fund-raising has always involved the cultivation of relationships, and it is no different in the close-knit Indian American community. Maryland House Majority Leader Kumar Barve notes “[Y]ou have to have another person ask on your behalf in order to be successful. Because Indians don’t want to give their money to anybody. We’re cheap.” Instead of picking up the phone, some candidates opt to send a trusted delegate directly into a potential donor’s home.
The idea of hitting up someone you know for cash is probably as old as the concept of money. But the phenomenon of Indian Americans reaching into their pockets for Indian American candidates is an exciting political development. While Indian American funds cannot alone guarantee success at the polls for Indian American candidates, these donations certainly indicate the encouraging trend of greater political participation and engagement among the Indian American community than ever before.