California AG Represents New Brand of Indian-American Politicians

It’s unfortunate that California Attorney General Kamala Devi Harris has gotten national attention due to President Obama’s remarks about her looks. She is a politician who deserves to be noticed instead for her achievements.

“Harris has been referred to as the ‘female Obama,’ ” wrote Natalie Pate in the Vanderbilt Political Review last October, referring both to her mixed ethnicity and her accomplishments at a relatively young age. “National Journal named her a rising star of the Democratic Party, and one blog even predicted that she would be President Obama’s first choice for Supreme Court Justice if he gets that chance” in his second term.

Harris, whose father’s from Jamaica and mother an Indian immigrant, became in 2010 the first woman and person of African-American and Asian-American heritage to be elected attorney general of California. Harris has previously been in the spotlight for the way she dealt with banks in her home state.

“She snagged a key speaking slot during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, opening for Bill Clinton,” wrote Pate. “In her speech she addressed the act for which she is most famous—staring down the country’s five major banks by walking out of talks over settlements for Californians going through foreclosure until the banks came back with a better deal.”

No wonder she is predicted to have a bright future on the national stage. This will be a welcome relief to many Indian Americans, who till now have had to put up with the likes of Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

Jindal, who has national ambitions of his own, is not faring well on his home turf.

“Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, one of the nation's most prominent Republicans and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, has fallen out of favor with local voters, and his bold plan to scrap the state income tax is running into trouble,” Reuters reported on Sunday. “His Louisiana approval rating was down to 38 percent in a recent poll, worse than Democratic President Barack Obama in one of the most conservative U.S. states.”

On Monday, Jindal announced that he is shelving the plan.

As for Haley, she has been a disaster for South Carolina, so much so that even the National Review has expressed disappointment.

Indeed, Haley’s performance has been so poor that Democrats are hopeful of unseating her in even this most Republican of states.

Not only are Jindal and Haley embarrassments to us, they are also unrepresentative. A poll during the last presidential race showed less than one-third of Indian Americans even willing to consider voting for Mitt Romney, with 68 percent saying they would vote for Obama, 5 percent for Romney, and the undecideds comprising 25 percent. Obama’s job approval rating in the community was a whopping 81 percent.

Clearly, Jindal and Haley’s hard-right social stances and their flaunting of their born-again Christianity (both are converts) do not sit well with a lot of Indian Americans. Harris represents a welcome antidote, since she is much more in line with the views of most Indian Americans.

And now she has been joined by another Indian-American progressive from California. Dr. Ami Bera was elected congressman in a hard-fought race last November from the state’s seventh district. He is already making waves.

“Bera has been made one of the two chairs of the New Americas Council along with Congressman Keith Ellison,” the Indian Express reports. “New Americas Council chairs will lead outreach efforts to immigrant communities and other new Americans, critical parts of the rising American electorate that is crucial to Democrats’ success in 2014, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement.”

I hope we hear more from Kamala Devi Harris and Ami Bera.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "How Mark Twain’s Politics are Obscured in His Museum."

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