Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Common Ground - Raj Verma

Indian Identity and American Politics

A recurring theme emerging from the recent exchange between Senators Clinton and Obama has been the role of race and gender in electoral politics. Just as race and gender issues provoke emotional responses and fierce debate among other minority groups across the United States, the Indian-American community also struggles to address identity politics with regard to coalescing different cultures and social backgrounds of Indian descent within its own community. Specifically, as a minority race in the American community, Indian-Americans are composed of different religions (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians), different cultural/regional backgrounds (Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, etc) and varying socio-economic careers (small business owners, doctors, taxi cab drivers, engineers, etc). These differences have caused fractures and enduring scars between each group in the past, both in India and in the United States. Yet, in a very peculiar and special way, Indian-Americans have joined together and represent a strong 2.6 million individuals to Congress. Do Indian-Americans, with their vast regional, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds, have the ability to become a legitimate and powerful force on Capitol Hill? Some would argue that the community’s political prowess has already taken shape. For example, the community’s response to and support of the U.S.-India Civilian Nuclear Agreement was well-regarded by members of Congress and White House administration. Moreover, Indian-American candidates are propping up across the United States (seven candidates in the November 2006 ballots), bringing with them a unique ‘Indian-American identity and perspective’. But, the Indian-American community faces several large obstacles in the way of becoming a united and pervasive force in American politics. These obstacles include a lack of clarity of purpose and a true understanding about the Indian-American community’s identity. These obstacles must be surmounted before any further progress can and will be made. One of the reasons USINPAC has been successful is its strategic calculation of uniting the Indian-American community on issues of immigration, small business administration, and foreign policy to bring a potent and united front to Congress. But what Senator Clinton and Obama’s remarks about race should evoke is a discussion within the Indian-American community about race, cultural, and religious reconciliation in order to meet the interests of the community as a whole. What values and interests do we promote as Indian-Americans? What differentiates our community from other minority groups and the broader public? What public policy goals should Indian-Americans be pursuing together? How does the Indian-American community address the needs of its very diverse and pluralistic Indian-American composition? Granted, the discussion of these topics have been relevant for quite a while, yet, there seems to be a greater need to concretize these issues before the community continues to assert itself in the harsh realities of the political landscape. The practical implication of understanding Indian-American identity is self-evident. The next time Congress or White House administration pushes for a deal on immigration, how the Indian-American community responds and advocates depends entirely on how the community views itself. A frank and truthful discussion about the Indian-American community, by Indian-Americans themselves, is required at a time when the public has placed special attention to race relations in America.

Raj Verma, JD/MPA

Blog Contributor
Raj Verma is the President of the Future Leaders Council for USINPAC. He currently resides in Washington DC.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

South Asian Group aids in Obama’s Iowa win

The South Asian Friends of Obama (SAFO) claimed victory with Obama and his campaign this past Thursday in Iowa. The group, led by enthusiastic young Indian Americans, played an important role in canvassing and getting out the vote efforts. Since this summer SAFO volunteers in Chicago made calls to people in Iowa to support Obama.

Motivated by the recent Iowa win, SAFO has already mobilized to duplicate the Iowa efforts in New Hampshire, where a group of SAFO volunteers are already on the ground. In addition a series of meetings have been planned for the February 5 elections in states with a higher Indian American population like California, New York and New Jersey.

Read the full article here and check out SAFO's site here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bhutto's Assassination and Why Huckabee won't get the Nomination

When the Republicans went out to look amongst their very interesting field of candidates they were posed with a very difficult decision. The conservative values base that put George W. Bush into office didn't like the leading contenders both who are (or where) pro-choice non-religious candidates. They looked to good old Senator McCain with his good old experience but he just was either to old or too moderate at the time and Fred Thompson well lets just say Law & Order seemed to be a better gig for him. Frustrated with their lack of choices, values voters gave birth to a new candidate one that stood for them and with them former Iowa governor, Mike Huckabee.

His quick rise came as people soon realized Rudy couldn't win in Iowa and New Hampshire and well they didn't want Romney to steal the show. Huckabees publicity grew as value voters continued to push him along up the chain and in many polls is seen as a top contender in Iowa but even with all that loss of weight and his executive experience Huckabee lacked an important understanding, Foreign Policy. On several occaisions Huckabee was stumped by the press on recent foreign policy developments which he had no briefing or understanding for. Not only did Mr. Huckabee not have an understanding of most any foreign policy he also rarely knew about latest developments where he would respond to reporters with a puzzled look and a lack of understanding.

Now going down the list of top tier candidates although Giuliani has no street credentials on foreign policy he does typically know whats going on and bottom line knows how to attach it to his policies; national security. Romney is quite well versed on foreign policy compared to most republican candidates and has released many policy papers on important international issues as well. McCain having served time in Vietnam and long time senator is probably the most well versed on foreign policy with good ideas for implementation.

With the tragic assassination of Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, this has dominated the news cycle meaning if a candidate doesn't have anything good to say regarding this issue it probably won't be covered. With the Pakistani elections right dab in the middle of early primary/caucas season this will be a huge time share on the network news cast with presidential politics meaning foreign policy becomes the trump card.

With polls still showing Huckabee in the lead, a number of news outlets are starting to scrutizinize candidates foreign policy and once these come under the microscope there is a good chance that the Huckabee campaign will come to a collapse. Most campaign officials are even admiting a lack of understanding on the issue.

So what does this all mean for Mike Huckabee and the Republican nomination? Although recently Mr. Huckabee has had a huge rise to almost the top Huckabee will not be able to gather the support for the Republican nomination. He may win Iowa at best and maybe a smooth talker but not understanding an international political situation in an ally and nuclear power in the middle of the Iraq and terrorism conflicts is something that just won't be overlooked.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Common Ground - Raj Verma

What’s Your “Presidential Test”

For some, the principal litmus test for their selection for President is a candidate’s view on abortion. For others, their selection of President is contingent on a candidate’s moral values and/or executive experience. What we look for in a Presidential candidate is worth big money. Political strategists on each campaign staff are aggressively trying to understand what the public wants in a Presidential candidate, and are investing huge amounts of dollars to identify the most desirable Presidential qualities.

The science of decision-making and sociology are highly complex and variable. A multi-disciplinary model, one which includes economics, political science, and psychology, helps strategists understand how people come to make decisions. The common denominator is the study of human behavior and decision-making—precisely what political strategists, pundits, and commentators are assessing in a highly complex matrix. With that in mind, what factors do you take into consideration when choosing the candidate of your choice? Here is my generic ‘Presidential Test’ for you to consider. The test attempts to identify the strong qualities of a candidate given the current social and political condition of the country. The five-step test should be applied in sequential order and considers each candidate outside of his party or political persuasion. Of course, there can be plenty of other tests applied—can you think of any? The strategists and pundits are listening!

1) Which Presidential candidate offers the most convincing evidence and opinion of the condition of our country today?

2) Which Presidential candidate offers the best vision of where our country is headed, or where he/she would like the country to go?

3) Has the candidate delivered on a vision he/she presents, in his/her current job or in a former position?

4) Does the candidate offer any ‘value-added’ agenda or scheme that separates him/her from other candidates in relation to how the candidate addresses foreign policy?

5) Has the candidate left his/her current position in a better position than when he/she first entered the position? i.e. if a candidate is currently a senator or governor, how has the senator’s district fared, or governor’s state progressed over the course of the candidate’s term?

Given these five tests for a good President, who comes out on top? Which candidate is your winner at this time?

Raj Verma, JD/MPA
Blog Contributor

Raj Verma is the President of the Future Leaders Council for USINPAC. He currently resides in Washington DC.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Clinton Getting Desperate?

After the release of the most recent poll which shows Obama tied or leading Clinton in New Hampshire along with Iowa as discussed in an earlier post discussed today it seems that the Clinton Camp is no looking for any way possible to stop Obama's sudden rise to the top. As reported by the Washington Post today, Bill Shaheen a top NH Clinton Rep was quoted saying

"It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" Shaheen said. "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome."
Although the Clinton Camp was quick to respond in this story by the AP

"Senator Clinton is out every day talking about the issues that matter to the American people. These comments were not authorized or condoned by the campaign in any way," spokeswoman Kathleen Strand said.
Ofcourse the Obama camp thinks completely differently on the whole discussion:
"Hillary Clinton said attacking other Democrats is the fun part of this campaign, and now she's moved from Barack Obama's kindergarten years to his teenage years in an increasingly desperate effort to slow her slide in the polls. Senator Clinton's campaign is recycling old news that Barack Obama has been candid about in a book he wrote years ago, and he's talked about the lessons he's learned from these mistakes with young people all across the country. He plans on winning this campaign by focusing on the issues that actually matter to the American people."
I think what you are seeing here in this whole case is the Clinton Camps worst nightmare. Clinton was comfortable in the early lead and it seemed that Obama's big message was not resonating with voters in the early states. Although Clintons lead remains strong in National Polls the recent slip ups in Iowa and New Hampshire are of big concern and the only challenge she can really provide is on experience. The voters seem to be choosing the voice of change and hope over the voice of experience and the Clinton campaign really have no way to fight back Obama.

Obama has written several books in which he has pretty much put out on the table all the poor decisions he has made in his life and how he has learned probably one of the smartest moves he made in his move to run for President, even the republicans seem to only have one attack on Obama for his lack of experience and that just doesn't seem to be enough for voters. These negative campaign tactics Shaheen is using is not a sign of how Hillary runs her campaign but really more an expression of the real feeling of concern that exists within the internal ranks of her campaign.

Slip ups seem to be happening across the board for the Clinton camp and as things seem to be getting heated up the exchange will be interesting in the upcoming democratic debate at 2pm EST on CNN in Iowa. Will they be cowards like our republican friends or make a true spectacle?

We shall all see...


Republican Debate: Whats the Point?

If you watched the republican debate you realized as Taegan Goddard described was a "shoulder shrug". It seemed that no candidate really stepped forward to shine in the spotlight. What could of been one of the most important opportunities for all the major candidates to solidify leads and for 2nd tier candidates to gain a voice in a crowded field, was essentially a waste of time.

Romney seemed to stick to his normal tone but there were no major attacks as were expected against his now leading Iowa/SC rival Mike Huckabee. Marc Ambinder described how "Huckabee sounded good" but nothing out of the ordinary. The candidates seem to be comfortable with their respective campaign models and don't seem to want to change it up at all. The Republican field is still wide open but Giuliani continues to not really distinguish himself in a race where every thing he says includes three words 9/11, Hillary Clinton, or lowering taxes. Giuliani seems to think he can truly survive till Florida as he portrayed in his interview with Tim Russert on Meet the Press Sunday.

I do think that the democratic debate will have more of a purpose where Obama and Hillary definitely starting their duel as Bill Shaheen announced attacks on Obamas Drug use today!


Clinton and Obama Tie in NH: What the Poll Really Tells Us

CNN has just reported that the a recent CNN/WMUR poll from the Granite State shows Clinton and Obama tied up around 30%. With other polls that continue to come out stating Clinton is on top by 3 or Obama leads by 6, the truth is the actual numbers here mean nothing. With margin of error these polls show how irrelevant the numbers actually are but they do tell us another story, this election is in no way over. In most cases this is just heating up...over the course of the last 24 hours I have received over a dozen emails from different representatives at all levels in both camps saying the same thing....THEY NEED SUPPORTERS TO GET OUT THERE!

The polls tell us that the election is very close and truly in this one every vote does matter in Iowa and New Hampshire where the tie is essentially three ways with John Edwards still in the mix. And if Edwards does win in Iowa or finishes a close second NH polls will all go to the dust and it will be a fighting chance along with South Carolina. People are really starting to tune in now with less than a month to go before the January 3rd Iowa caucus and every campaign is looking for the same thing. Volunteer or Donate...this is one race where every penny, every phone call, every door and every vote really matter because the momentum and the election are all still very much in the air.

There are about 8000 Indian Americans in both Iowa and New Hampshire, many of which in key precincts where a couple hundred votes could easily swing the election. Now is the opportunity to get out there.

If you live in NH and Iowa I recommend you:
  • Learn and find a candidate whose policies and issues you agree with
  • Take a Saturday and go out volunteer & help campaign
This is one election where I promise you every vote does matter!

If you don't live in an early primary states I recommend you:
  • Learn and find a candidate whose policies and issues you agree with
  • Call your local DNC and Check the Candidates site to see how you can help!
  • Make a contribution to the candidates, EVERY PENNY MATTERS so your $15 dollar donation could help pay for a 1000 flyers to support your candidate in New Hampshire
If you already are helping comment below and tell us how...


The Rise of the Indian American: NRI Named CEO of Worlds Largest Bank

Fortune, CNBC and many have been predicting the successor to the Citi Thrown as being one of two Indians for a few weeks and now the announcement has come. Thanks to SAJA Forum for getting this out quickly, a truly remarkable moment for Vikram Pandit the new CEO of Citigroup. Vikram who has been an executive in Citigroup made his mark on Wall Street and at 50 years old is now controlling over 200,000 employees and over $2 trillion in assets for Citi.

SAJA has a great list of Indian CEOs of major companies but I think there are still more out there that we should continue to compile! The continuing rise of Indian Americans in major multinational companies shows the drive our community has to move forward and really live the American Dream. Leaders of most major banks in the US play a strong role in Financial policies that are set forth by the Government and with the Presidential race heating up a great deal of talk is about how the Mortgage crisis can be solved, I wonder what Vikram thinks?


Monday, December 10, 2007

The Race for the Vice President

Currently the attention in the Presidential race seems to be all focused on the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses, but they are also giving an indication of what could be the VP derby that will soon follow the nomination process.

If Senator Clinton, Obama or Edwards become the Democratic nominees the following names are rising to the top of the betting pool:

Sen. Evan Bayh: from the Midwest and has a background as a Governor and a successful Senator in a Republican state and he has been campaigning for Sen. Clinton since he withdrew from the election

Governor Bill Richardson: A Hispanic Presidential Candidate and from the Mountain states that are now in clear play for both parties

Governor Tom Vilsack: He has been very active with Sen. Clinton in Iowa and also has a great personal story and will not overshadow the Presidential candidate

Senator Joe Biden: He definitely bolsters any Presidential candidates Foreign policy credentials

Senator Jim Webb: Strong Military background, former Republican, from a Republican state also very symbolic over his victory over Mark Allen

Governor Mark Warner: Attractive candidate who won in a Republican state and is very popular in Virginia and could bring that state to the Democrats

There are many other candidates and as the picks of Sen. Lieberman, Dan Quayle tell us there are some surprising candidates that are not talked about a lot but could surprise us like Gov. Martin O'Malley from Maryland, Harold Ford Jr., Gov. Schweitzer from Montana.

Who else could be a VP for any one of these candidates?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Common Ground - Raj Verma

The Race Behind the Race

There can only be one winner. Well, usually. On its face, the debates showcase competing egos and differing ideologies all with the aim of securing the most powerful position in American government. A subtle look at the presidential debates reveals a different race for other coveted posts, and is something to debate about. As you watch the Presidential debates and discuss the various differences on foreign policy, domestic issues, and character traits, be aware that some of those on stage are vying for desirable and high-impact positions in the winner’s administration. If the polls, at this point, suggest that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination and gain the Presidential nomination, does candidate Bill Richardson return as Secretary of Energy? Will Edwards be appointed to a post in the administration? Perhaps Clinton will nominate Obama for a position on the Supreme Court. Similarly, if Giuliani grabs the nomination on the Republican side, do we see Mike Huckabee appointed as Secretary of the Interior? Perhaps John McCain is interested in a post in the State Department. Is he preparing himself for such a position?

One has to remember that although the candidates present themselves in the most ‘presidential’ manner as possible, there can only be one president, and all the candidates bring various strengths to the table that better equips them for a position they currently hold (senator, governor) or a position they may seek (Secretary of State, Vice President). All the candidates brandish strong credentials. But take a closer look at the debates and identify who is vying for an alternative position. One clear example of this appears to be the well-orchestrated positioning of Joseph Biden and Bill Richardson, two darkhorse candidates who have virtually little to no shot at winning the presidency. In a recent debate, Biden and Richardson both admonished Obama and Edwards indirectly for attacking Clinton’s integrity and character. Was this a noble gesture? Or a subtle hint to Clinton—‘I’ll protect you now, you find a position for me later’? The next time you watch the Presidential candidates during the debate, be aware of the jockeying, the kind of positioning that will help each candidate win, in ways that you may not expect.

Raj Verma, JD/MPA
Blog Contributor

Raj Verma is the President of the Future Leaders Council for USINPAC. He currently resides in Washington DC.