Because let’s look at when the Democrats “let” immigrants run: It’s often when the party faithful and their sons have no chance. Of the six Indian-Americans who ran for the US Congress this week, five ran as Democrats and five (including one Republican) lost.
My liberal Indian friends (there are many) may shake their heads and say they will never switch allegiances. They need to stop and think about what could happen if Republicans seriously embraced immigrant candidates—both parties would actually have to work for the growing minority-becoming-majority vote. That could only be beneficial for the diverse needs of a diverse constituency.
This is where Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley fall short, though. Both are the products of a liberalized immigration policy (the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act) but they have been very careful to avoid overt support of more open US borders. Jindal’s website scarcely mentions his background; a timeline of his life starts only in 1988 when he graduated from Baton Rouge High School. Most of us children of immigrants, meanwhile, begin our stories with the year our parents came to this country—whether we were around or not. In Jindal’s case, it is actually relevant; his mother was pregnant with him when she arrived. Haley has been more open about her background but is still dogged by accusations of using race when it’s convenient; in 2001, she listed herself as white on her voter registration form.
Further, could it be just coincidence that both politicians converted to Christianity? He’s a Hindu-turned-Catholic and she’s a Sikh-turned-Methodist. Perhaps they have their legitimate reasons—it doesn’t get more personal than your name and your religion—but the party needs to proceed carefully: There’s a red flag if immigrant candidates don’t appeal to their own immigrant brethren. Indeed, Jindal and Haley have upset some Indians, who feel the candidates can take their campaign donations but had to become something else in order to be accepted by the Republican Party—and by America.
Actually that’s a sentiment the once-moderate Mitt Romney might share. Maybe even John McCain. They, too, had to embrace more conservative platforms that advisers told them were necessary for the win. If the elections of 2008 and 2012 proved anything, it’s that the only future of the Republican Party rests with a new, diverse slate of politicians and policies. Just one note of caution for 2016: Let those candidates be who they are.