- Many have taken to the social media to express their relief at the defeat of Donald Trump and pride in the election of an Indian American to the position that is just a heartbeat away from the Presidency.
When she probably walked down Telegraph Avenue and crossed University Avenue to enter the campus of the University of California Berkeley, 19-year-old Shyamala Gopalan must have gazed in awe at the Sather Tower. At that moment, she couldn’t have imagined that some 62 years later her daughter would be the first woman, first woman of color and the first Indian American to be elected the Vice President of the United States America.
This historic moment was made possible by “audacity” of Joseph R. Biden in choosing her as his running mate, Harris said as she introduced the President-elect at a celebratory event in Delaware on the evening of Nov. 7. History indeed unfolded on the morning of Nov. 7 when the media called the election for Biden and Harris.
Expectedly, most Indian Americans across the country were ecstatic about this historic moment of monumental proportions. They have taken to the social media to express their relief at the defeat of Donald Trump and pride in the election of an Indian American to the position that is just a heartbeat away from the Presidency. A number of South Asian Americans were also seen on news networks joining the celebrations that have broken out across the country.
Ajay Bhutoria, Indian American entrepreneur from Silicon Valley, who serves on the National Finance Committee for Biden, and was a major donor to the Biden campaign told American Kahani, “Today is a most historic day!”
Bhutoria, who will be celebrating this monumental win with bhangra and dhol at his residence along with about 50 Biden supporters, says, “America can now look forward to new beginnings ahead. I have been on the campaign since day 1 and I am so happy today.”
Pointing out that the Biden-Harris ticket had won with the highest number of votes ever received by a presidential candidate, he said, “more Americans voted in this election than in any other, and they have received more votes than any other presidential ticket in the history of our country.”
Bhutoria points out with joy, “And for the first time, we will also have a woman of color and of Indian origin, in the second highest office in the land.”
Congratulating President-elect Joe Biden on his victory and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, “the first woman of color and first person of South Asian descent to be elected to the White House,” Suhag Shukla, Executive Director and Co-founder, Hindu American Foundation (HAF), said, “It’s been a long 4-5 days and our system works — votes were cast in person or by mail and state officials across this country worked diligently to oversee counting by their respective regulations. And if they want to be contested, the legal process is available. That’s a democracy with balance of powers in action.”
A jubilant Amit Jani, National Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Director for Biden for President campaign says, “We are proud of our individualized and culturally relevant outreach to engage with some of the AAPI voters who may have felt neglected before,” adding, “The AAPI community feels galvanized, empowered and heard – that their voices and votes matter.”
Azra Baig, part of Muslims for Biden and South Asians for Biden N.J. chapter said, “I went to Philadelphia for the celebrations and what a feeling it was. People kept stopping randomly and taking pictures of my friends and I. I guess we looked different from the rest in our hijabs (traditional scarves).We felt the energy and the hope.”
Baig, a resident of South Brunswick, N.J., traveled to Philly with some Muslim friends, who wanted to be part of this historic day for South Asian women. “She has broken so many glass ceilings and will inspire many girls and women after her. I have to recognize the effort of the South Asian community and Muslim community across the country in achieving this. I have never seen so much community engagement before. The fact that the campaign included these communities, that was great,” she said.
Talking to India West, a tearful Harini Krishnan, California director of South Asians for Biden said, “For the first time, we have a woman, a woman of color, and a woman of Indian descent in the White House. I know Shymala Aunty (Harris’s late mother) is looking down from heaven and smiling.”
Krishnan who canvassed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, plans to celebrate with Doritos — Harris’s favorite snack food — and chocolate chip ice cream, Biden’s favorite treat, she was quoted as saying.
The social media world also took to the virtual streets in celebration. Actor Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “We must heal. But first, we must gloat!”
Celebrity Chef Padma Lakshmi tweeted saying, “Donald Trump, please pack your knives and go.”
“On this day we remember Saint John Lewis, and his incarnation in @staceyabrams,” former acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal wrote on Twitter.
Jennifer Rajkumar, who won the New York State Assembly seat from District 38, also tweeted her congratulations. “We did it. Here’s to President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris.”
Actor-writer-produce Mindy Kaling, whose video with then Sen. Harris making dosas in her kitchen went viral sometime ago, tweeted, “Crying and holding my daughter, ‘look baby, she looks like us.” The tweet was accompanied by a picture of her daughter and Vice-President elect, Kamala Harris.
Rajiv Bhateja, 63, a Silicon Valley engineer and member of They See Blue, the grassroots group that heavily campaigned for Biden-Harris says, “We (South Asians) definitely made this happen,” adding, “South Asians registered the largest increase in voters among all demographics. The margins of victory in Georgia and Pennsylvania are a small percentage of South Asian voter turnout. So our votes mattered. I am truly delighted that Biden won and that Kamala Harris will be the first woman and south Asian woman to be vice-president. Truly, history has been made!”
According to the 2020 Asian American Voter Survey, co-sponsored by APIA Vote, AAPI Data, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-AAJC, Asian Americans would constitute a critical mass in several competitive states, including Arizona, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. They were also likely to be influential in congressional races in Southern California, Texas, and New Jersey, as well as in other states.
Neil Makhija, Executive Director of IMPACT, issued a statement on Harris’ historic election victory. “She becomes the first Indian American and Black American ever to be elected Vice President of the U.S.”
“A generation of Indian Americans made this country their home because they knew it meant anything was possible for their children. Today, the daughter of one of those Indian Americans proved their faith. It is with pride, hope, and enduring faith in America that we congratulate Vice President-elect Kamala Desi Harris on her historic victory,” said Makhija.
“Her election sends a message to a new generation of young Black and Brown children that they belong, and that in America, anything is possible. Her election will supercharge the political engagement of the Indian American community.”
IMPACT raised a record $10 million which doubled turnout of South Asian voters in critical states, including Pennsylvania and Arizona, according to the statement.
But not everyone is ready to pop the champagne, just yet. Seton Hall University management professor and Trump supporter, A.D. Amar cautioning the victory dance, says “Let’s not forget the results are not finished and to make any kind of judgement before the results are tabulated, counted, audited and certified would not be appropriate.”
Fearing a prolonged process, Amar says, “This was our fear with mail-in ballots and not the old fashioned direct system of pulling a lever and the vote getting directly audited by the main computer. This is a tricky system where things can easily go wrong or be manipulated by those jealous and who want to see their candidate win. Human elements always bring in error.
Amar also pointed out that, “The ballot has to be audited to decide if they should be counted or not. When we hear slogans ‘every vote counts’, I ask, why should every ballot count if it’s not right? If it has come from someone who is deceased or from someone not in the correct electoral zone. We have to determine whether the ballots are legitimate and then start counting. And if something is mailed after the deadline – 8 pm Nov 3 (as Sam Alito in Pennsylvania had decreed) – why should it be counted?” he asks. “Those votes should be counted, but put aside and secured but not add them to the election result.”
Amar, who heralds Trump as the right man for the job, says Biden will be wrong for America. “As a business professor, I have been following Trump and his management style and his image and goals for America. And I was so glad when he confirmed his candidacy in 2016. I believe he did a great service to America in his first term.”
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.