For Indian Americans, Kamala Harris’ nomination as the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate has been an energising moment.
“It’s a real affirmation that the Indian American community and politicians of Indian origin have arrived,” said Democrat Ami Bera, the longest-serving Indian American in the US House of Representatives. “It sends a message that folks that look like you are in the highest office.”
Harris’ ascension comes at a time when more Indian Americans are entering politics. Democrat Sara Gideon, for example, is running for the US Senate from Maine against the Republican incumbent Susan Collin. Shiva Ayyadurai, who dubiously claimed to be the inventor of email, is seeking Republican nomination for the Senate race in Massachusetts. In Texas, Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former diplomat, is the Democratic nominee for the 22nd congressional district.
These are just a few of the aspirants. Besides them, there are many Indian Americans vying for federal and state office, such as Zohran Mamdani and Rik Mehta. If they succeed, these desis will be building on the work of the five history-making Indian Americans who were elected to the US Congress in 2016: Harris, Bera, Pramila Jaypal, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Ro Khanna.
Indians Americans, however, are not the only ethnic community finding larger representation in the US Congress. An analysis by the Pew Research Center shows that the 116th Congress is the most racially and ethnically diverse in history. It has 56 African Americans, 43 Hispanics, 17 Asians or Pacific Islanders, and four Native Americans.
This is, in some way, a reflection of the growing diversity of American society. According to the 2019 US Census Bureau estimates, 63.4% of the population was non-Hispanic white, another 15.3% was Hispanic or Latino, 13.4% was African American, 5.9% was Asian, and the rest was made up of others. Around 1.3 million Indian Americans are expected to vote in the November elections.