Kamala Harris and her rise | HT Editorial
Take pride in her roots, but don’t expect special treatmentUpdated: Aug 12, 2020 19:22 IST
The tale of the incredible Indian living the American dream continues with Kamala Harris’ selection as the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate. If Joe Biden wins the November elections, as the polls currently predict, Ms Harris, half-Indian, half-Jamaican, and all-American, will be a heartbeat away from being the world’s most powerful person. Her prospects are even better in the future: Mr Biden has repeatedly hinted he will be a single-term president making Ms Harris a shoo-in for the Democratic candidacy in 2024. Ms Harris represents the political pinnacle of the Indian-American community’s meteoric rise in the United States (US). Numbering barely 4.5 million and mostly first-generation, Indian-Americans have emerged as the US’ most highly educated and most wealthy ethnic group. However, what has been even more remarkable is the speed with which they have entered domestic politics. Winning elected office is the most difficult barrier of acceptance for an immigrant community to cross. Despite the relatively young provenance of the Indian-American community, it can already boast of two state governors, 10 national legislators, and, now, a vice-presidential candidate.
Mr Biden’s choice of Ms Harris fulfils his public promise to choose a female running mate. Since she is identified as a black American politician with the larger US public, he also paid off a debt to the community which saved his campaign. Through her identity, she is a symbol of racial, ethnic and gender equality at a moment when social justice movements have rocked the country. Among these, the fact that she is an Indian-American was arguably the least important element of her profile when it came to the reasons Mr Biden chose her. That should not be a concern. Being an Indian-American means you are from a community that is too small, too liberal and too well-off to be a political consideration. Nonetheless, it is striking that Latinos, a community that can claim to have been part of US history for over four centuries, have yet to have one of their number chosen to share a presidential ticket.
The success of the Indian-American community in becoming part of the US mainstream also means that no one should expect Ms Harris to see India in any special light. She will be more familiar with India than the average American. She will not be necessarily more sympathetic. Her voting record shows her to be more liberal than Mr Biden and, therefore, less than aligned with the Narendra Modi government. Ms Harris has been chosen as a flag bearer of inclusivity, a living antidote to four years of President Donald Trump. She will, unless given reasons otherwise, tend to have a sceptical view of India’s rightward political turn, whatever her sentiments about her mother’s homeland.