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Right Side of History

Economic forces and Pres. Obama’s legendary timidity in the first half of his presidency could yet doom the Democratic Party’s presidential and Congressional aspirations during this election cycle.

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A recent poll found that Indian Americans are the strongest backers of Pres. Barack Obama after African Americans. The poll of Asian American voters by Lake Research Partners determined that Pres. Obama led presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney by a margin of 76 to 8 percent. That is higher than even the proportion by which they voted for him in 2008 — 67 percent for Obama against 7 percent for John McCain, according to the poll.

Indian Americans were the most heavily Democratic group among all Asians surveyed. 85 percent of Indian Americans had a favorable opinion of Obama (compared to 23 percent of Romney); 80 percent had a favorable view of the Democratic Party against 18 percent of the Republican Party. Almost 63 percent of Indians rated Obama as doing an excellent or good job as president; by contrast, Pres. Obama’s favorable rating nationally is frequently hovering under 50 percent. Strong majorities of Indian Americans believed that Democrats offer better solutions than Republicans on major national issues, such as jobs, economy, health care, immigration, foreign policy, education, etc.

Given a sample size of just 136 Indian Americans in the survey, the margin of error of the poll is almost 9 percent. Even so, the lopsided Democratic Party preference is unmistakable and in sync with past surveys with larger sample sizes. It appears that the dissatisfaction over Pres. Obama’s anti outsourcing rhetoric has not soured Indian Americans away from Obama. Equally remarkably, even though Indian Americans have celebrated the success of a handful of Indian American Republicans, notably Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, both of whom ran from their ethnic and religious roots to advance in right wing Republican circles, it does not appear that they have been influential in shaping Indian American political attitudes or weaning them toward the Republican Party.

Both Haley and Jindal have been touted as possible running mates for Romney, but with little grassroots support within their own ethnic group and virtually no political constituency outside the right wing of the Republican Party, which propelled them to statewide office, neither brings any national coattails with minorities, their ostensible political asset for an increasingly Southern White party. It is clear that neither of them is being seriously considered; vice presidential prospects are leaked frequently by political campaigns just to win brownie points with small constituencies.

Economic forces and Pres. Obama’s legendary timidity in the first half of his presidency could yet doom the Democratic Party’s presidential and Congressional aspirations during this election cycle. But the demographic trend lines of the next decade are unmistakably in favor of the Democrats. Indian Americans are wise to cast their lot with the right side of history.

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Commentary | Politics | Bigger India | June 2012 | NRI | Magazine

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