- Gold Star father and Pakistani American Khizr Khan, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara and others urge South Asian Americans to help Democrats to win control of the Senate.
With the Senate runoffs in Georgia heating up, early voting underway and Jan. 5 around the corner, Asian American grassroots organizations are stepping up efforts to bring their community to the polls. One such effort was the Georgia Virtual GOTV Rally for Democrat senatorial candidate Jon Ossoff organized by the AAPI (Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders) Victory Fund and South Asians for Biden on Dec. 18. The other Democrat in the runoffs is Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Stressing the importance of the Asian American vote in the electoral process, and pointing to the fact that Asian Americans turned out in record numbers during the general elections, doubling their votes from 2016 and contributing to a Biden-Harris win, speakers such as Khizr Khan, called out the Trump administration for their lies, deception, corruption, incompetence and division, urged Asian Americans to do their patriotic and moral duty and vote. Stating that with democratic values, rule of law and the Constitution being under threat, Khan asserted that the Asian American and South Asian community had a greater need than ever before to turn out and vote in the Senate elections. “This is what this moment asks of us,” said Khan, a Pakistani American father of United States Army Captain Humayun Khan who was killed in 2004 during the Iraq War. A lawyer and founder of Constitution Literacy and National Unity Project, Khan is a Gold Star father whose son was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star and is laid to rest at the Arlington Cemetery. Khan received international attention following a speech at the 2016 Democratic Convention criticizing Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump‘s speech promoting the idea of banning Muslims from entering the country.,
Stressing the importance of activism of South Asians and their notable engagement in civic participation, Khan pointed out that South Asian American activism and participation in democracy have become a symbol of unity, decency and the strengthening of democracy.
Looking forward to the end of these long and tumultuous four years, and return to competent and compassionate leadership who care about all Americans, Khan pointed out that the end was near and getting Ossoff and Warnock to the Senate would cement the path.
Khan, calling on Georgians to show their strength, courage and belief in the rule of law a second time, urged Asian Americans to head to the polls and vote for their futures and that of their loved ones, stating that when they would look back at this time they would be proud of their involvement in this election.
Joining Khan, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, author, podcaster and NYU law professor, who, reminding viewers that he was unceremoniously fired by President Donald Trump, stressed the urgency of voting out incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. He reminded viewers that winning the presidential election and getting Biden-Harris elected to the White House was good news for the cause of justice and reform, their work was far from over.
Not mincing words, Bharara called Loeffler and Perdue symbols of self-interest and not proponents of public interest. Pointing out that Loeffler and Perdue much like the current president had not acknowledged the Biden win, a hard hitting Bharara pointed out that they were not only in Trump’s back pocket but also that of the big business. He he had spoken to Jon Ossoff on his podcast about how sitting Sen. Perdue did not have the courage to confront Ossoff in a debate after one bad performance and asked those listening if that was the integrity and conduct one would want from a senator.
Bharara also lent support to fellow Indian American Neera Tanden, who was recently nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget, and has come under Republican fire. He said if one wanted to see good people like Tanden confirmed in the Senate, one should win in Georgia.
Finally, Bharara urged those watching to make a fuss, call their family and friends and elect Georgia Democrats to the Senate if they cared about health, jobs and justice.
The evening also saw star power with Los Angeles-based comic Rajiv Satyal drawing audience chuckles by drawing parallels between driving and politics. “Speaking of gears, if you put the car in D for drive that’s Democrat, you go forward and if you want to go backwards, you put it in R, that’s reverse and Republicans.”
Satyal also compared the left lane to the Democratic left, where people want to go a little bit faster, whereas in the right lane, they want to go too slow. He also likened the shoulder “where people pee or change their tires” to anarchy and the far right and the carpool lane to the far left, where one pools their resources, working together and helping each other.
Satyal also drew much laughter when he lauded the Black-Brown community for finally mixing and giving us Vice President-elect Kamala Devi Harris and even joked about “Oprah Choprah” — the union between talk show guru Oprah Winfrey and her discovery — self-help guru Deepak Chopra.
To energize the younger Georgia voter, Satyal emceed a ‘how well do you know Ossoff and Warnock’ version of the popular Hollywood Squares with Indian American actors Sheetal Sheth, comedian Rizwan Manji who was recently seen on the critically acclaimed “Schitt’s Creek” and and Sarayu Blue from the NBC TV series “I Feel Bad” (2018) as well as cameos in shows like “Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Veep,” and “Bones” to name a few vying for the ultimate prize – two senate seats.
Their good old-fashioned camaraderie definitely brought some added oomph to the evening.
But the true star of the evening was a humble and personable Ossoff, who thanked the Asian American and South Asian American community for their support. A true Georgian, Ossoff traced his deep roots to Atlanta, and the late John Lewis, even mentioning his wife, Alicia, an OBGYN at Grady hospital, in hopes of connecting with Asian voters in Metro Atlanta. A calm and collected Ossoff also spoke of his media production company, Insight that produces investigative stories about organized crime and political corruption among others for international news organizations.
A passionate speaker, Ossoff spoke of exposing, confronting and attacking abuse of power, violations of human rights and corruption to connect with the Asian audience. Giving a shout out to Georgia for becoming a critical battleground state, Ossoff spoke of a new South rising — one which rejects the racist and divisive political strategy deployed in the South since Nixon — “The Republican Party’s Southern Strategy” – aimed at dividing the people along racial and cultural lines, so they fail to grasp shared economic and health interests, all issues that resonated with his Asian and South Asian American audience.
Calling out the top echelons of the GOP for their racism and bigotry, Ossoff promised to ensure jobs, healthcare and justice for all people in a multicultural and multiracial coalition, much to the delight of his audience, vowing to stand for and with them.
Other speakers like co-director South Asians for Biden, Georgia chapter, Joy Kirpalani pointed out that in order for democracy to be restored and for Biden-Harris to deliver a much-needed change and in order to “loosen the grip that Mitch McConnell has on the Senate where all Democratic bills go to die,” Democrats must be given a fighting chance. Kirpalani pointed out that one way to do this was to come out and vote for Ossoff/Warnock, whose moral compass was aligned with that of President-elect Biden and who were “true public servants and not just politicians”.
Soujini Kumar of South Asians for Biden, also brought home the fact although the battle was won, the war was not yet over. Stressing the fact that only 400,000 ballots of the 1.3 million requested have been returned, and quoting Georgia’s `SHEro’ Stacey Abrams, Kumar in an effort to encourage voters summed up the need of the hour in one sentence — “Our time is now and we have the right candidates and the right time. Let’s go get ‘em Georgia.”
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.