Über Desi

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Desi-crats: Making sense of Elephants and Donkeys

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I came across this interesting topic of discussion on Rediff: Why do Indian Americans mostly vote Democrat?

Broadening this question to: “Who do Indian Americans favor Democrats, irrespective of whether they can vote or not?”.


Indian Americans, refers to the second (or later) generation people of Indian origin who were born or raised in the US and also the first generation people of Indian origin who migrated to this country at an relatively older age as students, professionals, business owners or workers. Given the issues that Democrats and Republicans stand for on respective issues, this is definitely surprising, specifically for first generation Indians in the US.

WStrategic alliance with India: Where the Clinton administration levied an embargo on India for nuclear tests in 1998, the Bush administration made a nuclear deal with India thereby giving it quasi-official recognition as a nuclear power. This deal ironically could be blocked by a Democrat majority Congress and Senate. In recent years, more high profile Democrats (1,2) have made remarks directed at people of Indian origin compared to high profile Republicans.

Taxes: More of the first-gen Indians in the US fall under the categories of professionals or small business and mom-and-pop shop owners and will be beneficiaries of Republican sponsored tax breaks for business owners and the upper economic strata. Democrats, on the other hand, tend to be more abundant with taxation to help fund programs for the economically underprivileged.

Social issues: In general, first-gen Indians in the US tend to be more conservative on social issues like pre-marital sex (against), drug legalization (against), marriage (man-woman) and “family values” (generic rhetoric term), issues to which Republicans have a self declared bastion.

Business and economics:
Republicans are generally seen as more pro-business, pro-big business in particular. Republican interests tend to favor to increase outsourcing and H1B visas. Democrat candidates, meanwhile run on a platform that is largely anti-outsourcing/H1B visa, which panders to their labor union base voters.

Welfare State: Democrats espouse the welfare state policy where people receive universal health care and state welfare for underprivileged individuals. First-gen Indians having witnessed third-world poverty in their early years tend to have a less favorable view of state-sponsored handouts to individuals.

HillaryWith all these reasons, it comes as a surprise that Indian Americans, even the first-generation, favor Democrats over Republicans. Democrats have the advantage of their image as the party of the minorities and that gives them instant credibility in the eyes of some. The rest of the answers may not come as a surprise, but part of this alienation may be caused by the Republicans themselves, knowingly or unknowingly.

Ideologies: The Republicans have always catered to a more nationalist ideology which is evident by the rhetoric in right-wing media outlets. The terms homeland security and war on terror have been thrown around as a blanket term for questionable policies. While, this may be a new tactic in American politics, Indians, particularly first-generation, are accustomed to and wary of divisive politics from first-hand experience in Indian politics. The war on terror, Iraq war, in particular, has not received favorable reviews among Indian Americans of any generation.

Immigration and Fraternization by association:
First-gen Indians tend to associate with other immigrant groups from the subcontinent and middle east. Republicans have always favored stricter immigration policies, even pre-9/11. Immigration laws and policies passed post 9/11 made it difficult for Indians particularly students and technology workers to migrate to the US.

Also, the vitriol spewed by right wings talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin and others against people from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Middle East because of their religion, Islam, tend to make Indian Americans queasy because it reminds them of the right-wing politicians and religion based politics played on the subcontinent.

Social Issues and Religion: People of Indian origin being more pacifist by nature, generally dislike the idea of gun ownership by individuals. Republicans count the NRA among their leading financial backers and this is a huge turn-off for many Indian Americans. And finally, the Republican party base has a large evangelical Christian base which tends to have a less favorable opinion of other religions. Indian Americans, by contrasts come in different religious groups – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and so on, staunchly religious yet with a more secular outlook, having witnessed the consequences of religion based politics in their homeland. Religion in itself may be the biggest deciding factor for a lot of Indian Americans.

Disclaimer: This post is strictly a personal opinion. This post is solely for the purpose of discussing the reasons for people of Indian origin favoring Democrats over Republicans. I realize some sweeping generalizations were made in that post but for the most part they are largely accurate as I see it. This post was not intended to offend any immigrant group, generational group or political group, but to open discuss the preferences of a certain group for a certain political party. This post was written from an immigrant POV and if anyone has anything to add or contradict, feel free to do so in the comments section

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  • Med Student

    I agree with most things on here, but most high income Indian American households switch their support to Republicans as soon as their tax bracket changes.

  • Mandeep Ghuman

    Absolute knock out Santosh. You could not have summarized it better.

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