Why Indians in USA continue to be Democrats?


There are close to 3.4 million (34 Lakh) Indian-Americans in USA. It is a mobile pool of population between India and USA, but many of them settle down to acquire Green cards and subsequent citizenship. In 2012 Presidential elections, it is estimated that there were 1 million Indian-American voters. Coming from India, what kind of political ideology appeals to them in USA?
Political Parties in USA:
USA has 2 major political parties: Democratic Party and Republican Party. Libertarians are a growing political class that is a mix of the two: Socially liberal and fiscally conservative (hence the maxim: Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom). Like immigrants from other countries, Indians tend to be predominantly Democrats. Pew Research Center says that 65 % of Indian Americans are Democrats or lean Democrats.
Democratic Party is a left-leaning party with liberal views on social issues, whereas Republicans are typically considered socially and fiscally conservative with a right leaning. Founded in 1824, The Democratic Party lays stress on social justice and government’s larger role in various policies and schemes. Given their socialist moorings, Democrats tend to regulate social services (example: universal health care coverage, equal opportunity, labor protection and environment protection). They are inclined to socially liberal values. Hence, they are more accommodative towards gay issues; do not impose bans on abortions (pro-choice) and support same-sex marriage. Democrats are also in favor of tighter gun control laws. Given its philosophy of social justice and inclusivity of people of color, Democratic Party makes a good appeal to the poor and middle class and immigrant populations. President Obama is a Democrat and so were Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, John F Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt.
Republicans are more conservative in their outlook towards social issues like abortions, marriages and gay rights. They like to say that they believe in Christian values in terms of families and marriages. Thus, they -as a class- are opposed to abortions, same sex marriage and gay rights. Republicans are for more individual liberty and limited influence of government. This also explains their advocacy to keep arms. Republicans have mainly white dominance and immigrants tend to join them less. Founded in 1854, Republican Party is also called Grand Old Party (GOP). Elephant is the traditional mascot of the party, as opposed to donkey representative of Democrats. Democrats are also identified with the color blue compared to color red symbolizing Republican Party. President George H.W. Bush (father) and George W. Bush (son) were Republicans as were Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln.
Although the comparison is not warranted, BJP in India and Republican Party of USA would share some of phenotypic expressions. But more important difference lies in economic outlook. Even though, USA is a capitalist country based upon the concept of free market economy, Republicans symbolize this idea more broadly than Democrats. Republicans believe in small government size, favor fewer taxes (even for wealthy) and are perceived to be pro-businesses. Democrats tend to believe in larger governmental control (and hence larger government size), increasing taxation depending upon wealth and want to impose the concept of minimum wages. In other words, Democrats want to impose higher taxes on wealthy people to support public programs. Naturally, richer people tend to lean towards GOP, while democrats make more appeal to middle class and poor.
The perception goes that Democratic Party is more heterogeneous in terms of racial and ethnic representation while Republican Party represents supremacy of whites and Christianity. After Caucasians, Blacks and Hispanics (also called Latinos, they speak Spanish and originate from South American countries) form the 2 largest minority blocks. A Pew Research Center’s survey carried out in 2012 revealed that 31 % of Latino immigrants who were neither US citizens, nor legal permanent residents (therefore likely illegal immigrants) identified themselves as Democrats and merely 4 % as Republicans. According to National Election Pool, in 2012 Presidential elections, 71 % of Latino voters favored Barack Obama, compared to 27 % favoring Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Similarly, a post-election survey carried out by Asian American Justice Center (AAJC) revealed that more than 2/3 Asian Americans voted for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. According to the survey, 88 % of American Indians voted for Obama.
Indian diaspora in USA:
Sub-classified under Asian Americans by Census Bureau, Indians in USA constitute one of the fastest growing ethnic communities. Comprising close to 1 % of the total US population, Asian Indians are a relatively successful class in USA. The average median household income of an Asian Indian is approximately 88,000 USD compared to an average US median household income of 50,000 USD. According to Pew research, their educational attainment is also higher than the national average (32 % bachelor degree holders compared to the average 18 %). Marriage rates are also higher in Indians settled in USA: 71 % adults married compared to 51 % US adults. Inter-racial (Ethnic) marriages in Indians are very uncommon, with 86 % of Indians marrying among Indians only. Far greater numbers of Indians attach significance to family values than the average public in USA. Thus, Indians tend to be more traditional in their outlook in terms of family values, marriage and abortions. But, let us look at the major determining factor that draws Indians to USA. This is explained by the notion that USA would give you the freedom and environment to attain success! Coming from a country where Nehruvian socialism has ruled the roost (and still continues with half-hearted economic liberalization), killing potential and innovation and leading to incessant corruption and babudom, Indians have made true use of the opportunity to succeed in their newfound home. USA provides them the fertile ground where enterprising attitude, hard work and merit matter more than connections and favors. Given all this, it is perplexing that when it comes to choosing a political ideology, Indian Americans tend to side with Democrats. Indians- given their virtues and values- should be natural ally to Republicans!
Why Indians continue to favor or lean towards Democrats?
Is race a dominating factor? Agreed that Republicans carry a perception of white supremacy, but have Indians been subjected to a significant racial discrimination in USA? No! Similarly, over emphasis of Christianity in Republican conduct may also be offsetting for Indians. Two prominent Republicans – Governor Bobby Jindal (Louisiana State) and Governor Nikki Randhawa Haley (South Carolina State) have not been much of an inspiration for Indians. Both chose to embrace Christianity and have thrived upon support from Tea Party movement (consisting of conservative republican supporters). Both the leaders have maintained a calculated distance from a small but influential Indian diaspora. In comparison, look at Tulsi Gabbard! She is a Democrat Congressman from Hawaii and has become a darling of Indian diaspora.
Or is it that Indians just become pro-democrats because that is the trend! A stereotype! I would tend to agree with this. As in India, BJP is largely considered untouchable by a particular community; similarly Indians without carrying too much conviction tend to treat Republican Party as a pariah. Republicans’ concentration in so called Bible-belt and lesser presence in larger metropolis also mean a psychological distance for immigrant populations.
Republicans must also analyze as to why the party has not been able to attract immigrant populations. They must try to be more inclusive.
Quote: “The only difference between the Republicans and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their doors. That is the only difference†. – Ralph Nader, a political activist and author.
The author is a Chicago-based medical doctor (Neonatologist) and a socio-political commentator.

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