As the countdown begins for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris team to take over in the US, liberals are heaving a sigh of relief.
Donald Trump’s four years in the White House was one of the most divisive in recent US history, with White Supremacist groups earlier lurking in the background becoming increasingly more acceptable thanks to the President. People of colour, mainly Black Americans were the target of racial and police violence. The Black Lives Movement took root and coloured people across America became easy targets. Not just African Americans but Indians, including Sikhs, Latinos and other South Asian were subjected to hate crimes. The events of January 6, when Trump supporters stormed the capitol complex was a wake-up call for many.
With Joe Biden taking oath in a few hours, Americans are hoping that the country can turn the page on the Trump era. The reality is that the forces unleashed by Trump cannot be forced back easily. The US remains a deeply divided country with many of Trump’s over 70 million voters convinced that the elections were stolen by the Democrats. Biden and Harris will have to hit the ground running, as America grapples with a mounting health crisis, a shattered economy and half the nation regarding the Biden-Harris duo with suspicion.
Biden is committed to healing the deep divide and rescuing America’s soul. His empathy for people honed by personal tragedy --- losing a wife and a daughter as a young senator and more recently losing his son Bo to cancer, will stand him in good stead. Besides, he has made all the right political moves. Choosing Kamala Harris, a Black American of South Asian descent as his running mate was one such gesture. She will be the first woman to be holding the highest office in the administration. His appointments mirror the reality of today’s multi-cultural and diverse America. Trump’s government appointees were mainly rich, White and male.
Besides Harris as Vice President, there are 20 Indian Americans who will be part of the Biden administration. Indian-Americans have got a large slice of the pie. Significantly, of them, 17 are women. Most Indian-Americans have traditionally supported and voted for Democrats. The Howdy Modi event organised by Indian-American admirers of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Houston in 2019, may have given the impression that the community had veered to the Republicans. President Trump, with an eye to getting the India-American votes through his rapport with Modi, had attended that mega meet. Yet, most Indian Americans, especially the younger members, continued their traditional support for Democrats.
The pro-Trump statements that were frequently quoted by Indian reporters who had covered the meeting, did not reflect the mood of the community. A long-time resident of Washington, who did not wish to be identified, said. “Those new-fangled Indian-American supporters of the Republican party under Trump are prone to make a lot of noise in public about their love for both Trump and Modi. The Democratic supporters are usually better educated and not given to making public statements of support.”
Among the 20 Indian Americans given important jobs in the Biden administration is Vivek Murthy, US Surgeon General. Neera Tandon, Director Management and Budget, Vanita Gupta Associate Attorney General in the Justice Department, Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, Mala Adiga, Policy Director in First Lady Jill Biden’s office, Garima Vera, Digital Director in Jill Biden’s team, Sabrina Singh, White House Deputy Press Secretary, Aisha Shah, Partnership Manager at the White House office for Digital Strategy, Sameera Fazil, Deputy Director US National Economic Council (NEC), Bharat Ramamurti, Deputy Director at the White House National Economic Council, Vinay Reddy, Director speechwriter for the President. Neha Gupta and Reema Shah are with the office of the White House Counsel.
Sonia Agarwal will be in the Climate Policy team. In the National Security Council of the White House, there are three Indian-American's --- Tarun Chabra, Sumona Guha, and Shanthi Kalathil. Guha will be Senior Director of South Asia while Kalathil will look at Human Rights. A Bangladeshi-American, a Sri Lankan American and a Pakistani-American are also part of the Biden-Harris administration.