- Even as they parrot the President’s talking points, these Trump supporters also factor in Biden’s likely tax hikes that impact small businesses, relations with India and Harris’s alleged inauthenticity.
The historic election of Kamala Harris as vice president of the United States has got the whole world celebrating. In the native countries of her parents, India and Jamaica, jubilation knows no bounds. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his bonhomie with President Donald Trump, called her victory “path-breaking” and “a matter of immense pride for all Indian Americans.”
However, not all are as euphoric as some. Kamala Harris has numerous detractors within the Indian American community. The criticism comes mainly from Trump supporters who resent her “left wing and radical” beliefs. Expressing their support for President Trump, they insist he should be judged by his deeds, not words. As Trump is not a career politician, he lacks the smooth talking and glib ways of that vocation, they say in his defense.
Manga Anantatmula, who ran for election to the U.S. House to represent Virginia’s 11th Congressional District on a Republican ticket and lost, says, “We can’t say (the Presidential election) over.” Lashing out at Democratic voters, she said, “people didn’t want to go out for voting but have been rushing out for protests, riots and now for celebrations.” She argues that Trump should have placed age limits on those who could vote by mail and also set an earlier date so that counting could end sooner. Alleging widespread voter fraud and corruption, Anantatmula is in no mood to concede defeat. “Trump is going to court as we have evidence.”
“I have mixed feelings about Kamala Harris,” she told American Kahani. “For the first time a woman has been elected, I am happy about that. But as a person, I am disappointed. Kamala Harris lacks integrity; she has prosecuted and convicted more Black people than anybody else,” she adds.
Anantatmula maintains that Harris is just a politician who will do what is best for herself and she has aspirations to be President. Although she hopes the responsibilities of office will help change Harris for the better, but she is just not Vice Presidential caliber, she feels.
Biden and 7 Eleven
Citing an incident about Biden, she says, “How can Indian American Democrats forget how Biden remarked that you cannot enter a 7 Eleven without an accent, implying that Indians are low level, unintelligent people.”
Anantatmula feels that “Biden is not friendly towards India and he is already sold to China. Trump was more inclined towards India and very accepting of Hindus. He was the first one to give importance to India as a growing power and treated India as an equal friend. Past presidents would always give preference to China and Pakistan. Trump is the only one who picked up India, because it is not a terrorist state, and realized that India can play a pivotal role in bringing peace in the region. All past presidents visited India only for investment or tourism. Biden will do the same.”
When asked how he felt about the election of Harris, Republican Candidate for Lt. Gov. of Virginia, Puneet Ahluwalia, echoed the suspicion of voter fraud, saying, “We have to await the final ruling of the courts, especially SCOTUS.”
A small business owner in Georgia in her mid-40s, told American Kahani on condition of anonymity, “I can’t stand her, she’s phony.” She claims that Harris only identified herself as Black for their votes even though she’s half Indian.
A hotel franchise owner, she believes that the Republicans always look out for small businesses while the Democrats only fill their own pockets. That is why they get bought by China, which is controlling at least 40 countries by giving loans to build their infrastructure. Trump saw that and tried to at least end the one way trade that the U.S. has with China. She argues that Trump has his own money, has been into bankruptcy and came out of it. Trump’s relationship with Prime Minister Modi is a factor in her support for the incumbent President. “He had a good relationship with Modi because Modi also works tirelessly for the nation and wants nothing for himself, has no hidden agenda. They don’t indulge in wheeling and dealing. Besides, they both stand up to China,” she says.
She also fears the Democrats will raise taxes and many small businesses will shut down, particularly because of their proposal to raise the minimum wage. “Everyone talks of unemployment but we can’t find people to work for us. People don’t want to work because they get so many benefits just staying home,” she said. When asked to clarify what these benefits are, she said many people know ways of manipulating the system to get undue benefits from the stare without working.
About Harris, she added, “She turned against India on the Kashmir issue.”
Ram Sriraman, who worked for decades with Ford Motor company and now plays golf and bridge at his retirement home in Naples, Florida, says Harris is too left wing and rebellious. Although coming from Tanjore district in Tamil Nadu, the same state that Harris’s mother hailed from, he cannot approve of her policies. He believes that Trump has benefited the economy a lot by cutting corporate taxes. Companies who would park their cash abroad, began investing it in manufacturing in the U.S. again, employing large numbers of people, he added. Employment among Blacks and Hispanics went up and so did their wages as he clamped down on illegal immigration. Business was booming. Trump did what was good for the country, says Ram, who has lived in the U.S. for 44 years. “No president has accomplished so much for the country as Trump,” he adds.
Ram admits that Trump’s behavior annoyed and alienated many. “He lacked maturity and he should not have reacted to every criticism thrown at him.” he asserts.
Haseena Mooppan is not a typical Trump supporter. She is a Muslim from Kerala who came to the U.S. in 1977 with her physician husband and lives in New York. She volunteers at a foundation for Muslim women victims of domestic violence.
‘Phony’ Kamala Harris
“Kamala is phony and doesn’t deserve to be vice president,” she declares. “Biden was under great pressure to pick a Black American for Vice President and he said no African American candidate was suitable. What an insult to the Black community! Kamala is not African American, she is Indo-Jamaican,” she argues.
“Everyone says there’s systemic racism in America but immigrants with good education from all over the world do well in the U.S. It’s a play by the Democrats to keep the Blacks backward so they have a permanent vote block. There is no denying that there is racism, but if it was so bad, immigrants and especially Indian Americans would not have done so well,” she says.
Trump did for Blacks what no one did before, according to Mooppan. Employment and wages went up because of immigration reform and tax cuts for corporates. Listing some notable measures taken by Trump, she says, he cleared permanent funding for historically Black colleges (e.g. Howard in D.C.) for 10 years. Typically these colleges would have to approach the Federal government for renewal of funding each year. He also slashed the paperwork required by Black students to avail of financial aid for college. Further, approval of the School Choice program enabled Black children to enter better schools than the poorly run ones in their neighborhoods.”
“Blacks have voted for Trump like never before,” Mooppan claimed.
What does she think of the Muslim ban on entry into the U.S.? “I have no problem with him trying to vet the people on the basis of where they came from, and those were hotbeds of terrorism. He (might have) sounded like he was demonizing Muslims. But he was not,” she clarifies.
Trump lacked the necessary tact and diplomacy, she concedes. But his policies were good, according to her. When asked about the Kashmir issue, she said he had promised not to interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries and he kept his word and that is why the U.S. did not have any wars for four years. She feels that his rough behavior and lack of polish gave an opportunity to his opponents to paint him darker than he was.
Vaishnavi Kondapalli, an Indian classical musician from Westford, Mass., is critical of Harris’ stand on Kashmir. “She will work to undo the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act and reinstate Article 370. She is taking sides. How can I say anything positive about her?’ She condemned the leftists for all the rioting, looting and violence in recent months, Kondapalli argues.
On his failure to check the spread of Covid 19, nearly all Indian American Trump supporters said that it was an unprecedented situation and CDC made several mistakes. Even well governed European countries have failed, so why blame him alone, is the common refrain. Work not words, is how Trump’s admirers would like him to be viewed.
Alpana Varma worked as a Research Assistant at the Delhi University and then as a journalist for over 10 years for several leading national dailies. After leaving India for Europe, she has been working as a teacher, translator and freelance writer and editor. She lived in Mexico briefly where she worked in intercultural communications. Currently she is based in Miami.