September 22, 2020
Before the start of a South Asians for Biden Zoom event in July about the rise in hate crimes during the pandemic, A.R. Rahman’s iconic theme to Bombay (1995) played in the background. On India’s Independence Day on August 15, about 1,900 viewers tuned in for the group’s targeted discussions about social justice and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s role in the U.S.-India nuclear deal. In keeping with stereotypes about “Indian Standard Time,” it began eight minutes late. Exactly a week later, Democratic presidential nominee Biden and vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris sent out celebratory tweets about the Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
South Asian Americans are no stranger to Brownpandering and political campaign efforts to woo Brown constituents on both the left and the right. The 2016 Post-Election National Asian American survey found that major South Asian groups — 90% of Bangladeshi Americans, 88% of Pakistani Americans, and 77% of Indian Americans — overwhelmingly voted for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. But after the 2016 presidential election results defied predictions, propelling an outspoken reality star from Trump Tower to the White House, Democrats are no longer banking on South Asians’ recent history of leaning left and are actively trying to capture voters on the fence. While early polling shows that Asian Americans as a whole are leaning Biden, about one in six are persuadable. Some community organizers believe the Trump-Pence campaign has been further ahead with engaging Indian Americans in particular, so grassroots efforts around the Biden-Harris ticket are scrambling to catch up.