Bernie Sanders and the South Asian Progressives

Thanks to a host of factors, including the rise of Bernie Sanders, there’s a new group of South Asian progressives. They’re gunning for radical change — for all.

Meghna Rao

October 25, 2019

Bernie Sanders and the South Asian Progressives
Bernie Sanders in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore)

“Tax the rich,” stomped the crowd in three-beat unison at Bernie Sanders’s rally last Saturday. Sanders, one of 18 Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election, had come to Queens, New York on his campaign route. Across the street were the Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing projects; across the water was Wall Street.

At Queensbridge Park, a long list of speakers opened for the 25,000-plus crowd before Sanders took the stage. Documentarian Michael Moore dropped one-liners, Ohio state senator Nina Turner delivered sermons, and U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Sanders her tio. Then, there was the hip hop of Anik Khan, a Bangladeshi rapper from Queens, and the precision of Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s Pakistani American campaign manager.

There’s no easy way to categorize the South Asian vote. Indians have accounted for both the highest number of H-1B visas, reserved for skilled workers, for the past decade, and the fastest-growing group of undocumented immigrants, which grew 75% from 2010 to 2018. Just 2% of Pakistanis and 3% of Bangladeshis voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, compared to 14% of Indians. South Asians overwhelmingly vote Democrat, but it’s impossible to ignore the phenomenon of Indian Trump supporters — cheering at Howdy Modi!, celebrating Diwali in the White House, supporting Trump’s campaign with their dollars