Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Ethnicity a Handicap When Running for Office?

I recently read this article discussing how more Indian Americans are running for office and found many things surprising. First, the two most widely recognized Republican Indian politicians, Bobby Jindal (Governor of Lousiana) and Nikki Haley (leading candidate for Governor of South Carolina) have both abandoned their Indian religions in favor of Christianity. Coincidence? If these politicians chose to convert to Christianity because of marriage or even to follow what they believe to be their true faith, all the power to them. However, if the conversion was a political and strategic move, I think it's just sad. Has the bible become such a central part of politics that our leaders must have some connection to it? It seems to always come up- abortion, marriage, evolution, especially from conservatives. So can you be Hindu or Jain or Sikh and run as a Republican? If it was a political move, maybe these candidates preemptively converted without either giving Americans a chance to prove that faith doesn't matter or being critiqued for their faith and showing America that apparently it does matter.

Another interesting element of the article was the discussion about name changes. Piyush became Bobby, Nimrata became Nikki, Jigar became J., all because the Americanized names are just easier to say. I've always wondered about this as well. Is something like that really a factor when Americans sit down to vote or do minorities maybe find it either annoying or insulting to have people constantly messing up their names, especially when they are in the public eye. I've been told several times that I have it easy with the name "Robin," but I'm curious as to whether making an ethnic name seem more American may actually make upset voters from the candidate's ethnic group. What's in a name when you're running for office?


I think the underlying theme of the article was the interplay between whether these Indian candidates are giving something up to run for office or simply running as who they are, Indian Americans raised in the United States who are more assimilated into American culture than their Indian immigrant parents. I really look forward to seeing possible trends develop in the future so this can be studied further.

5 comments:

  1. Robin I sense vitrol. what if these people are really Christian?

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  2. Again, if they are really are Christian, all the power to them. I'm just not quite convinced and incredibly wary of what it would mean if the religious conversion is not genuine. Furthermore, if Jindal and Haley have truly chosen to change their faith for personal purposes, I still hope that future candidates don't see the switch to Christianity as a clever political move that should be adopted.

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  3. "but I'm curious as to whether making an ethnic name seem more American may actually make upset voters from the candidate's ethnic group. What's in a name when you're running for office?"

    To comment on that, I think members of the same ethnic group would vote for the candidate regardless. Many Indians of the older generation (1st Generation immigrants) are just excited to see a fellow Indian make it that far in US politics. When Bobby Jindal made office, Indians everywhere were excited. They didnt even know who he was or what he stood for. No one cared that he changed his name to 'Bobby'. I'm sure many people didnt even know what his real name was.

    "what is a name?" ..Sorry to drift from Law / politics... but Kal Penn can be accused of the same... changing his Indian name to assimilate to Hollywood..

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  4. Maybe I'm being Naive but surely they wouldn't reject hinduism just for political expediency. But you have a point with the name I think just look at all the crap some people (and I think these people are in a small minority) for Barak Hussien Obama's middle name. But most Americans don't mind his name (obviously or he wouldnt have been elected) I think most people would have accepted them for their indian names but why risk it? A Bobby by any other name would still run as conservatively.

    Mike

    KANSAS LAWYER

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