The Senator From Punjab
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The Senator From Punjab
Apparently, the transformational politics of Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) bid for President of The United States of America is changing more than who can make a viable run for the office. Of course, all changes bring other changes, and the most recent one that Obama brought is changing who the evil, all controlling bugaboo minority in American politics is. Thanks to Obama, millions of Jews in America can sleep peacefully, knowing that the new bogeymen are Indians. According to an unsigned document that Obama’s campaign released on Friday, Hillary Clinton is not the senior Democratic Senator from New York. She is, apparently, the sole Democratic Senator from Punjab.
Punjab is a state in northwest India, not a state in the northeast of the United States. The headline on the document reads, “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)'s Personal Financial and Political Ties.” It then goes on to list several things pulled from public documents, such as newspaper accounts and financial disclosure forms, each of which shows Bill or Hillary Clinton representing their Indian constituents, accepting campaign contributions from companies that do business in India or investing in Indian companies. The language used to describe these activities, however, would make a tabloid journalist blush. In accepting $60,000 in campaign contributions from Cisco Systems, Clinton is not taking money from a pioneering software firm that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs, created millions, if not billions, of dollars of wealth and has created the software that enables e-commerce. Instead, Senator Clinton is cozying up with a group of robber barons who “laid off American workers to hire Indian techies.”
The rest of the document reads similarly, and takes the next step into conspiracy theory paranoia by creating a nefarious cast of characters, including respected hotelier and Democratic activist Sant Singh Satwal. Satwal is an immigrant who has built an empire of hotels, a living example of the American dream. He is also from Punjab.
Let us review the number of economic and political fallacies in this document. Initially, New York City has the greatest number of Indian immigrant families in the country. Senator Clinton is doing her job by advocating for her constituency. Moreover, trade with India helps bring a valuable ally in the global war on terror closer to the United States. We have been dealing with Islamist terrorists for perhaps twenty years. India has been dealing with them since before a group of Puritans set out on the Mayflower. On the economic level, trade with India helps reduce costs of business, making products cheaper and more available to more people. More Americans are able to consume products that were once playthings of the rich, and more Americans are able to use cheaper costs as a springboard to starting and expanding their own businesses. Global free trade has been the single most empowering force for Americans and their trading partners alike. Economies are not zero-sum: we all do better when we all do better.
However, this has never been about good governance nor has it been about economics. Over the last ten years, as the economy has become more globally integrated and Jews have become more accepted in society, the new bogeyman has become the Indian. Whether it’s people grumbling about telemarketing centers, manufactured goods, skilled artisans and executives coming to America, the Indian is the latest person to occupy the role of “foreigner who threatens American workers and has no loyalty to America.” One could very well expect that the next document will mention the “Hindu Occupied Government” or accusations that Indian-Americans are more loyal to India than they are to America.
The sad thing is that to date, Obama truly has run a transformational campaign. He has reached out to traditional Democratic constituencies, but has done so in a manner not seen since, well, Bill Clinton. He has offered up idea after idea, and has spoken inconvenient truths to both Democratic and Republican groups. Instead of continuing in his twenty-first century campaign, however, Obama has chosen to go back to nineteenth century Know Nothing politics. And just as the Know Nothings were happy to accept the cheap labor of Irish immigrants, so too is Barack Obama happy to accept the money and support of the incredible South Asians for the Obama movement.
Following the public outcry and disgust for his tactic, Senator Obama made what political observers call a “non-apology apology.” He said, “I thought it was stupid and caustic and not only didn't reflect my view of the complicated issue of outsourcing.” Senator Obama would be well advised to go back and read the document that his campaign is issuing on his behalf. It’s not about trade and economic dynamism. The document stops just short of constructing a hulking, decadent “Beast From The East” coming to The West to steal and corrupt. (Imagine the Persians from 300, only answering telephones and writing computer code.) If it were just about economics, the document wouldn’t have had the desired salacious effect. After all, who gets worked up about policy details and numbers? For someone who’s seemingly running on the politics of unity and hope, Senator Obama’s latest jab against the thousands of Indian-Americans is nothing more than the same, tired old politics of division and fear.
Dheeraj Chand is a political analyst in Washington, D.C. He maintains a website and blog at http://www.dheerajchand.com . He has family ties to Punjab, a state in northwest India.