Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

South Asian Americans relieved as Nikki Haley drops out GOP presidential race, but worried about Trump

By 37ci3 Mar7,2024


Voters in South Asia watched Nikki Haley withdraw from the presidential race on Wednesday with little fanfare. Many said they were not inspired by Haley, who they said had a weak connection with the American Indian community.

Indian Americans in particular, 68% of whom are Democrats, said they struggled with his presence on the campaign trail: A member of their community has been on the national stage so far, but they felt he didn’t represent them.

The GOP primary campaign has been a mixed road for the community since Haley and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy grabbed headlines and the spotlight on the debate stages.

Nikki Haley supporters at a campaign rally
Haley supporters at a campaign rally in Portland, Maine on Sunday.Scott Eisen/Getty Images

“I’m glad it’s over,” said Ashwin Ramaswami, 24, a Generation Z candidate running for the first state Senate in Georgia. “It was fascinating to watch.”

Experts say Haley’s policies are far from the priorities of Indian-American voters. Varun Nikore, executive director of the nonprofit AAPI Victory Alliance, said that while he has presented himself as a more moderate alternative to former President Donald Trump, he has not reached out to South Asians on issues such as guns, climate and reproductive rights.

Haley’s departure effectively cements Trump’s candidacy. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

“Nikki was still in the extremist camp — frankly, the Trump camp — on all of these key issues,” he said. “It’s so far out of touch with South Asian Americans and the vast majority of AAPIs.”

Voters say Haley’s exit brings a combination of relief and concern. They say he did not represent them well, but they are also worried about the Biden-Trump rematch.

“Nikki Haley has come up in many conversations among my South Asian friends, family and colleagues,” Nikore said. “And maybe a few of them had hope. “I felt like a lot of them were rooting for Nikki, not because of her, but because they knew how extreme Donald Trump was.”

Still, Haley wasn’t even on the radar for many Asian Americans. A request A study by AAPI Data and The Associated Press-NORC found that only 23% of Asian American and Pacific Islander adults had a favorable opinion of Haley, and a majority, 40%, said they did not know enough about her to form an opinion. said.

“He doesn’t represent my politics,” said Geetika Rudra, 31, an Indian-American voter from New York. “I think the fact that he even contacted me shows that he doesn’t represent a lot of people’s politics.”

Identity and racism on the campaign trail

Some South Asian voters say Haley has never made an effort to connect with the community or fully embrace her identity. Others say they didn’t know he was Indian until this election cycle.

Haritha Iswara, 23, of Washington, D.C., said Haley never addressed her identity in a meaningful way that supported communities of color, and said she used it more often to perpetuate the myth of the model minority.

Instead, Haley and Ramaswamy said they fought to win over a base of white Christians, and ultimately it didn’t work. According to him, there are racist ideas in the Republican Party, he thinks that none of them stand a chance.

“I hope this will make people realize that resorting to these extreme Christian nationalist talking points and white supremacist ideologies is not going to fly,” he said. “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how conservative your views are. “The Republican Party is so extreme now that you are just another brown man for them.”

Nikki Haley greets supporters
Haley greets supporters at a campaign event on Jan. 15 in Des Moines, Iowa. Carolyn Kaster / AP file

Throughout her campaign, Haley faced racist attacks from other conservatives.

In January, Trump promoted a birth conspiracy theory About Haley, who claimed she was unfit to be president because her parents were Indian immigrants. Haley was born in South Carolina.

In February 2023, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter passed away racist rant About Haley on the podcast. “Why don’t you go back to your country?” he said. “What is the point of worshiping cows? They are all starving there. Did you know they have a rat temple where they worship rats?

Even Ramaswamy took it repeated blows Because Haley chose to go by her middle name “Nikki” instead of her Indian American birth name Nimrata Randhawa. “The easy thing for me to become a politician to follow this path is to shorten my name, admit I’m a Christian and then run away,” Ramaswamy said at a town hall. “Let’s face it, it happens. Do Vivek ‘Vikki’ or whatever.

Buttons supporting Nikki Haley
Buttons supporting Haley in Portland, Maine on Sunday.Joseph Prezioso / AFP – Getty Images

Rudra said the focus on his personality from both the left and the right was unwarranted.

“I think we can agree with him politically and you should,” said Rudra. “I don’t think it has anything to do with his personality.”

He disputed the idea that Haley was “crying it out” and said that younger generations have difficulty understanding the assimilation pressure that older generations of South Asians face.

“I understand that a lot of people think he’s betraying the culture or the community just by being a Republican,” he said. “I think it’s symbolic of the fact that most of the South Asian diaspora in the United States is concentrated on the coasts.”

Looking beyond Haley, Ramaswamy, who is running for the Georgia state Senate, sees a new guard of South Asians emerging in politics. He said Haley is admirable as long as she stands up to Trump, but new voices are desperately needed.

For Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy, it wasn’t just Indian Americans in that room, it was South Asians,” he said of the grassroots campaign. “I saw them arguing and I felt that my position was not represented here at all. This is really unfortunate. “It would be amazing to see a presidential candidate from South Asia who represents my values.”

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