Hindus in N.J. who voted for Trump in 2016 say their support is waning – nj.com

Posted: November 7, 2020 at 3:59 am


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Four years ago, then-candidate Donald Trump forged an unlikely alliance with the Hindu American community. In an Edison banquet hall where posters of Trump showed him superimposed upon lotuses and Bollywood dancers wielded lightsabers for an interpretive dance condemning terrorism, Trump made his now-famous decree:

We love Hindus, Trump said. And if elected, you would have a true friend in the White House.

Trump lights a diya lamp at an RHC rally on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, in Edison.

For a group typically snubbed by Republicans, Trumps proclamation reverberated.

That was the biggest gift candidate Trump could give to us, to the Hindu community, Shalabh Kumar, founder of the Republican Hindu Coalition which hosted the rally, told NJ Advance Media.

The same month, an ad showing Trump speaking Hindi, parroting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modis re-election slogan and featuring clips from the rally went viral across Indian American media, with a multi-million-dollar fundraising push from the RHC.

You know how some kind of a moment happens and everyones enthusiastic, even though you might not be Republican, but just because the wave of your community joining something Thats how everybody was at that time, Dhiren Parikh, a 2016 Trump voter from Old Bridge, told NJ Advance Media.

He added: This year we dont see any movement.

Hindu-Americans who supported Trump in 2016 reported a reversal in attitude from the Trump campaign, contrary to its surprisingly active push four years prior. Though its no secret Hindu Americans en masse will go for the Biden-Harris ticket in New Jersey and nationwide, an ardent subsection of Hindus that showed up for Trump in 2016 might wane come election day, representing the campaigns failure to capitalize on would-be supporters.

Though polling data cant paint an exact picture of Trumps support among Hindus, which make up about half of all Indian Americans, 72 percent of registered Indian American voters plan to cast their ballots for Biden and 22 percent for Trump, according to the Indian American Attitudes Survey which surveyed nearly 1,000 Indian Americans. In 2016, 32 percent of Indian Americans held a favorable view of Trump in the Post-Election National Asian American Survey which polled more than 4,000 Asian Americans.

Attendees show their support for Trump at an RHC rally on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, in Edison.

The campaign side this time around in 2020 has gone back to the traditional Republican outreach towards the Indian or Hindu-American community, which was simply a checkbox approach, Kumar said. You talk to a few Indians, you talk to a few Hindus, and check the box, youve done the minority outreach. There really has not been any serious outreach this time around.

The RHC has not held any major events this election cycle and Kumar, a Trump megadonor and one of the Hindu communitys most powerful political power brokers, has taken a back seat in 2020.

Others expressed the same frustration, complaining that the Trump team has made no efforts to reach out this time around, issued no statements, forged no community bonds and has just generally been absent.

President Trump has not made any formal statement or his campaign team about the Indian Americans are they thankful for [Indian Americans'] presence in this country or not?... South Brunswick resident Jyotsna Sharma told NJ Advance Media. "So why do they want to discard this community altogether?

Indian Americans show their support for Trump at an RHC rally on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, in Edison.

Of course, not everybody agrees. A.D. Amar, president of the Indian-Americans for Trump 2016 PAC and Seton Hall University Professor, feels the Trump campaigns footprint has been felt by Indian Americans and sees the group serving as a decisive bloc in swing states. Still, Amar worries that Kamala Harris, of Indian and Hindu heritage, will invigorate Hindu Americans to vote Democrat.

Democrats typically enjoy the support of Hindus and Indians along with their multicultural coalition of Jews, Muslims, African Americans, Latinx Americans and immigrants.

If you are a Hindu-American, Indian-American, you naturally move towards Democrats because Democrats are considered to be a party of minorities they welcome minorities a lot more than Republicans do, Kumar said. Thats a very natural tilt toward the Democrat party. Thats the connection of the heart, connection of feelings. Not economic policies.

But, analogous to Jewish voters, a reliably blue bloc with a fervent swath of Trump supporters, there are a significant number of Hindus who admire Trump for his friendship with Indias strongman leader Modi, just as Republican Jews like Trumps relationship with Israels Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Coupled with Trumps aggressive posture against Pakistan, his action against terrorism and his business-first economic policies, theres much Hindu Americans, the religious group with the highest socioeconomic levels in the U.S., found attractive in Trumps first term.

Part of the disenchantment, however, this election cycle is Trumps inaction on immigration reform.

Kumar has asked the Trump administration to clear the green card backlog, where more than a million immigrants have gotten petitions approved from employers but are stuck in a backlog, waiting for legal permanent residence. Additionally, hes lobbied for so-called DALCA kids or Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrival to enjoy the same legal protections as DACA kids.

RHC seeks a more definitive commitment from the Trump administration towards that, Kumar said. Even though we know President Trump is all for it, but the Trump administration needs to commit to it.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump appears with Republican Hindu Coalition Founder Shalabh Kumar at an RHC rally on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, in Edison.

Some Hindu Americans are also turned off by Trumps racial rhetoric.

This country is a land of immigrants and this kind of discord doesnt land anywhere. We look for more peace and prosperity and more respect for each otherHe should have set better examples when it comes to white supremacy, Sharma said, who cannot actually vote as she is still waiting for a green card.

For Parikh, the change in campaign strategy and Trumps tone on immigration were enough to swing his vote to Biden.

What we thought at the time candidate Trump can do for America, for me personally, didnt turn out that way, Parikh said.

Regardless, Hindu Americans are not a monolith, and trends in voting are just that: trends. There still exists a significant portion of Hindu voters whose adoration for the president is undiminished, who dont care about identity-based campaigning.

Why does he need to reach out to specifically South Asians, or African Americans or Hispanics? South Brunswick resident Jinesh Patel asked NJ Advance Media. It doesnt make sense, just for an election gimmick. I think he has done a lot in the last four years for South Asians, and African Americans, and Hispanics and America as a whole.

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Josh Axelrod may be reached at JAxelrod@njadvancemedia.com.

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Hindus in N.J. who voted for Trump in 2016 say their support is waning - nj.com

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November 7th, 2020 at 3:59 am

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