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Elections 2020: South Asian Americans React to Long Night’s Journey into Day

Elections 2020: South Asian Americans React to Long Night’s Journey into Day

  • As they tuned into the election night they were not necessarily prepared for what turned out to be a roller-coaster ride of their life. And it’s not over yet.

Heading into election night 2020, emotions were running high as former Vice President Joe Biden and his Indian American running mate, Sen. Kamal Harris were attempting to make history in the 2020 general elections. On the other side, Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States, was looking to cling to his presidency for four more years, by attempting once again, to win over white voters with the promise to “Make America Great Again”. 

Farheen Raza, host of the  ‘Authentic & Unfiltered’ podcast and “Real Talk with Farheen” on Radio Caravan. Top photo, Ajay Jain Bhutoria, who serves on the National Finance Committee for Biden, watching the election returns.

As people tuned in Tuesday night to watch history in the making and settled into their couches for what was sure to be a very long night, if not a week, opinions and nerves were on edge. 

Farheen Raza, host of the podcast ‘Authentic & Unfiltered’ and “Real Talk with Farheen” on Radio Caravan, says, “I’ve chewed through my nails…really,” adding, “As someone who suffers from anxiety, this Election Day tension is not good for me. I am at critical mass. I am stressed. It’s not just the excitement of it, and yes, it is very exciting, but I am worried.” 

The Texas resident, mother of two, further asks rhetorically, “Can I mentally handle four more years of Trump? I am worried for my children and the kind of world I am showing them. I’m not looking at policies. I am looking at character and decency, hoping and praying those qualities and Biden win.”

Raza watched the results unfold with husband Ibraheem Abbas and sons, Kazim and Hasan from the comfort of their Dallas home.

Sekhar Narasimmhan, Chairman AAPI victory Fund, with former Vice President Joe Biden.

Says, Sekhar Narasimmhan, Chairman AAPI victory Fund, “This has been a close and hard-fought election. American democracy is winning, but we must make sure that all votes are counted. Nobody can declare themselves the winner. That is done in each state by the Secretary of State.  It’s time for Americans to come together as we have many crises facing the country.”

Fifty-two-year old entrepreneur Gaurav Kapoor, from San Jose, California, who watched the results from the edge of his seat with his extended family says humorously, “Looks like over the next four years our minds will be taxed more than our pockets.”

Kapoor, who “was surprised and mad that people still voted for Trump” further adds with a shake of his head, “In the balance between humanity and economy, economy seems to be winning.” 

Speaking to American Kahani, Indian American entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, Ajay Jain Bhutoria, who serves on the National Finance Committee for Biden, and was a major donor to the Biden campaign, says, “We have to wait for complete results of Blue wall states. A majority of the votes in the urban areas of MI, PA, & WI have yet to be counted. We have to wait till every vote is counted.”

Adds Bhutoria on a positive note, “Biden -Harris will win these states when all the ballots are counted. There are mail in ballots to be counted in these states and every vote has to be counted. We need to wait and as Biden said, ‘keep the faith till every ballot is counted’. I am very confident Biden-Harris will win and unite the country. This will be a close election, but we will win!”

Bhutoria, who watched the results with wife Vinita and sons Raj and Yash says, “I strongly believe in VP Biden and the people of America. I was not even a little bit nervous watching. We will win this!” 

But not everyone was as calm and confident. 

Executive Director and co-Founder of the Hindu American Foundation Suhag Shukla.

Executive Director and co-Founder of the Hindu American Foundation Suhag Shukla says, “I was antsy all day, but ended up falling asleep by 10 p.m., once it became clear that there would be no definitive announcement for at least another day, if not longer. Yesterday, seeing the polls running smoothly in my neighborhood in Philadelphia, and experiencing first-hand the very straight-forward process for absentee voting, left me feeling proud and confident in our democracy. Regardless of the rhetoric coming from politicians or rants from the media, the American public is doing our part, taking our civic responsibility seriously. Today, I woke up to what I expected — no result. I’m anxious for closure, and also know that there are issues that came up during the election that need to be addressed, like unfair attacks on Hindu American candidates.”

Milan Vaishnav, Director and senior fellow,
South Asia Program Carnegie Endowment
for International Peace

Milan Vaishnav, Director and senior fellow, South Asia Program Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told us, “Right now, the consensus is that Biden is heading towards a narrow election victory. The vote counts in the swing states appear to be trending in his favor, especially when one considers the nature of the outstanding vote. However, Republicans look to retain control of the Senate, which will undoubtedly act as a major constraint on Biden’s legislative (and judicial) agenda.”

Purnima Voria, Founder and CEO National U.S. India Chamber of Commerce, watching the election results being tabulated from home says, “Financial security was significant in people’s mind during this election along with the uncertainty over whether they would be able to take care of their families and feed the kids. Economy was definitely the top issue. With the Cares Act and other stimulus packages, President Trump provided a helping hand when the country was in the midst of a recession. Now we are seeing the results of that right decision. Biden continued to harp on the Coronavirus outbreak and lives lost, thinking it would be very important.”

Hoping for a Trump win, Voria says, “Watching last night I was not nervous because with the majority of the electoral votes counted, I saw Trump inching toward victory. Then I woke up to a complete neck to neck race! I’m still hoping Trump wins another 4-year term, but Bien may well be the next president. No one really knows!” 

Rajiv Bhateja, 63 and an engineer from Silicon Valley, who watched the results with other members of the grassroots group They See Blue says, “We are disappointed with the Senate results so far. Some of the races considered to be close in polls tuned out to be not close at all.”

Citing Lindsey Graham in South Carolina as an example of this, he adds, “We are disappointed that we seem to have lost ground in the House, but we are hopeful we will take back the white House.”

Bhateja makes it a point to stress that the viewing party he attended was outdoors, with appropriate social distancing maintained and everyone was masked.

Joe Daniel, who moved to the U.S. in 1975 as a mere one-year-old from Kerala, India with his parents watched Tuesday evenings vote counting with wife, Rekha.

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A member of They See Blue, Colorado, and Daniel is ecstatic that the efforts of his group were successful. “We replaced incumbent Republican Senator with a Democrat.”

While being optimistic, Daniel confesses that both he and his wife were nervous. “Initially, we didn’t think it would be this close, but I am not surprised either.”

New Jerseyan, Namratha Reddy, 44, who works in financial technology says, “For me the experience of watching the results stream in was very interesting this time around because I was watching it with my cousin and her husband (names withheld on request) who are both strong Republicans. So, we were watching it on Fox News, something that I don’t normally do. I noticed how everything was viewed from the angle of a Trump victory. It was an odd feeling.”

Reddy further adds, “I was a bit shocked by my cousin, who otherwise is so similar to me in her upbringing and value system, even though she’s only half-Indian. I got to see first-hand how people like her, who are well educated and intelligent, can buy into all the lies that Trump feeds them. I realized that she and her husband grew up in White neighborhoods with a monoculture where everyone different is viewed as the ‘other’ and ‘strange’.”

Critical of media outlets, Reddy says, “After 11 pm I came home and watched ABC as always and then I began to notice how this channel was also doing the same, but for Biden. It then struck me how important it is to keep switching channels to get the correct picture as they are all biased.” 

Reddy says with finality, “I am trying to stay neutral and I am sure we’ll have some drama.”

Reddy does feel some pride in her home state, Wisconsin “where at least some of the big cities are showing blue.”

And with Tuesday night turning into Wednesday, one can only wait and watch as the presidency still hangs in the balance.

(Alpana Varma also contributed to this story)

Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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