Bobby Jindal enters history books


by Sunny
22nd October, 2007 at 12:02 pm    

America always has the capacity to surprise you. On Saturday Bobby Jindal became the country’s first Indian-American governor, and that too in the deeply Republican conservative south state of Carolina Louisiana. It has not had a non-white chief since Reconstruction. Typically Indian, he is also a bit of a geek. (hat tip to Tim for clarifications).
A NY Times profile recently said:

But he is not a natural fit for Louisiana. The state likes its governors to know the fundamentals of the Cajun two-step, speak some derivation of French patois, and at least get to a duck blind, regularly and publicly. But Mr. Jindal has labored assiduously to overcome the disadvantage of being a non-Cajun, Rhodes Scholar policy wonk whose given name was Piyush, and who has a penchant for 31-point plans.

He is a born-again Roman Catholic who has suggested that teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution may not be out of place in public schools, favors a ban on abortion and opposes hate-crimes laws. Conservative views aside, the slightly built congressman is anything but a backslapping good ol’ boy.

Jindal

Oh, yeah he’s a crazy Republican nut. So like our liberal cousins from across the pond at Sepia Mutiny, I’m a bit torn as to whether this is a good or bad thing. On the one hand he has broken through a glass ceiling in a very conservative state, on the other I’m deeply opposed to his politics. A few years ago I would have had more enthusiasm for this development than I do now. What would trump for you?

Update: SAJA have a round-up of coverage across the States and India.


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Filed in: Race politics,United States






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  1. Tim Worstall

    Well Done Sunny…

    Bobby Jindal’s got himself elected. Over at Pickled Politics Sunny has this to say:

    On Saturday Bobby Jindal became the country’s first Indian-American governor, and that too in the deeply Republican south state of Carolina.

    Err, there is…


  2. Federal Government and Politics

    Federal Government and Politics…

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…




  1. Sofia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 12:13 pm  

    Shitty views are shitty regardless of what colour person is spewing them. So he broke the glass ceiling and is going to do what exactly for minorities?? I’ve met plenty of Asian professionals in this country that have views that I find abhorrent, but seem to get away with because they are Asians and not white saying these things..

  2. Sid — on 22nd October, 2007 at 12:18 pm  

    yes even an indian policy wonk can be an okie from Muskogie.

  3. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 1:56 pm  

    spot on Sofia.
    a bit torn by it Sunny? I’m shocked.

    this man has atrocious politics – intelligent design and a ban on abortion?

    it would be highly racist for me to be keen on some individual politician’s appointment just because of their colour. Sorry – i’m not that tribal.

    should we care he is brown?
    so should we be pleased about Condoleeza as well then?

    i dont think my spectacles are so race-coloured that I can see anything worthy of this man’s position. Soon all indians in america will be running the place – is that going to be a good thing if they all turn out to have atrocious politics and turn out to be racist to boot?

    My goodness.

  4. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 1:58 pm  

    Next time there is any criticism of Melanie Philips i believe my tribalism will have to assert myself. #but she’s a woman!# i dont care what she says, she#s a woman!

  5. Morgoth — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:12 pm  

    *faints*

    I’ve just agreed with the entirety of a post by Sofia (#1) and Sonia (#4).

  6. sahil — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:14 pm  

    Have to echo the comments above, this guy sounds like a opportunist nutter. What makes him Indian: his culture, or his skin colour?? Anyways it seems like business as usual in the south.

  7. Bape — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:22 pm  

    He is typically Indian in one way, that being that he’ll nail his colours to any mast that might help him progress. The guy is an opportunist with horrendous politics.
    Nothing to celebrate here. Blind Bush supporter, would probably declare war on India and send back the IT crowd if it would garner him enough votes.
    Pathetic.

  8. Sofia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:26 pm  

    I watched a programme the other day about Barack Obama, which I found quite uncomfortable..either he was “too black” or “a black pandering to the white establishment” and then out of somewhere came his “muslim fundamentalist credentials”..I know if you criticise someone in the public eye..you should do it for their policies alone and not what you think they should be “representing”, simply because of the colour of their skin or religion. But somewhere along the line you have to wonder if their race as well as their political credentials have gotten them to where they are…if their race has played a part then surely what they do on behalf of ethnic minorities should be looked at. Same goes for women…whether that be the Margaret Thatcher or Benazir Bhuttos of this world

  9. Nyrone — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:31 pm  

    I don’t care what colour he is, if he’s a republican clone parroting the same line with a brown mask, who cares? The first thing I did when I read about this yesterday was check his interview out on Youtube, to get a feel for what he seemed like in person.

    He seemed like a rather typical bland, generic US politician, I’m sure he’ll fit right in with the rest of the clan…I thought Keith Ellison represented a much bigger step in terms of breaking through the ethnic/religious political ceiling recently.

    This is V interesting topic to me though.
    Makes me think about self-identity a lot and wonder why I care if ‘my people’ are doing ‘well’ etc…
    All I know, is that Indian ticket inspectors on the train HATE MY GUTS and always come down on me 100 harder than my white friends…

    Is this a form of tough love, or does he just think he can treat me like crap because he is my ‘elder’ and I have to say ‘Yes Uncle-Ji, I’ll be good’?

    Am I now being too hard on Jindal too?
    Do I pass judgement on a racial basis?
    God, I hope not!

  10. Sunny — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:54 pm  

    Yeah yeah, I did say that I have little sympathy for his politics. But he managed to get into the heartlands of the American south, and that is quite a tough nut to crack. If this wasn’t a glass ceiling, I doubt I’d care.

  11. Sofia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 2:57 pm  

    I thought the American south had a problem with blacks not anyone else…with usual stereotypes around about Indians.

  12. Ravi Naik — on 22nd October, 2007 at 3:18 pm  

    I think his victory is positive, even though his views are very conservative, even by US standards.

    But then again, we are talking about Louisiana. A state where in the 90s, Klansman neo-nazi David Duke lost the governor’s seat by a small margin. Bobby Jindal lost the gubernatorial race 4 years ago, and it was reported that rural areas (who voted massively to David Duke) didn’t vote for him because he was non-white.

    But he fought back, and campaigned in rural areas (see the above picture), and managed to get 54% of the vote. The majority of people in that state are very conservative, so he is not really doing fringe politics.

    I find it inspiring that someone has had the courage to campaign in the deep south being asian, and just break the traditional narrative. He suffered a very ugly and racist campaign from the democrat side, but he endured it and at the end he won. For many Indians, they are content to be an invisible minority, and I think his victory will inspire other south asians (hopefully liberals) to get involved in politics.

  13. Ravi Naik — on 22nd October, 2007 at 3:24 pm  

    “I thought the American south had a problem with blacks not anyone else”

    It is a white vs non-white world in America, Sofia.

  14. Ravi Naik — on 22nd October, 2007 at 3:27 pm  

    Ok, in american politics it is white male vs others.

  15. Rumbold — on 22nd October, 2007 at 3:31 pm  

    I agree with Sofia and Sonia that his ethnicity is far less relevant than his views. However, Ravi Naik is right to say that he did well to win in such a traditionally racist state. Even if you disagree with the new governor’s views (as I do), it is nice to know that some Louisianians are voting for their candidate based on his views, not his skin colour.

    I am not sure what makes him an opportunist though. Many South Asians are socially conservative, and there are a number of gays and ethnic minorities who oppose laws designed to cut out ‘hate speech’ towards them. He is just as likely to believe these things as an Indian-American running as a social liberal on a Democratic ticket believes what he is espousing.

  16. Tim Worstall — on 22nd October, 2007 at 3:47 pm  

    Worth noting that he’s Catholic (as you do): that’ll help him a lot in Louisiana. A huge amount especially in rural areas (Cajuns tend to be Catholics).
    I agree that you can see his views as “conservative” if you really wish but there’s a huge divide between the Catholics (that ban on absortion is pretty much a requirement for remaining a Catholic) in the US and the Southern Baptists, the born again Jerry Falwell etc crowd. The latter really don’t like or trust the former.
    I agree the evolution thing is pretty stupid though.

  17. Rumbold — on 22nd October, 2007 at 3:58 pm  

    Mike:

    “White people = scum of the Earth

    Non-white people = holier than thou”

    Er.. most of the comments on this thread have condemned a non-white person because of their views. Nobody has come out and said that Jindal is great because he is brown. Try reading what is actually written.

  18. Mike — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:10 pm  

    Ravi Naik is right to say that he did well to win in such a traditionally racist state.

    I love it when disgruntled ‘desis’ mutter darkly about those ‘red neck’ rootin tootin’ Yanks from ‘down South.’

    India is hardly what you’d call a ‘tolerant’ and ‘progressive’ nation. It’s like Jim Crow America on crack cocaine and steroids – the Caste system is a moral disgrace. And yet none of you seem to care about real racism in the developing world. It’s all ‘Daily Express-this,’ ‘Melanie Philips-that,’ …*yawn*

    You can’t engineer racism out of existence. But at least we’ve managed to keep it under control.

  19. Sunny — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:14 pm  

    Poor Mike can’t find anything else to do today so he’s trolling. If he spent enough time here he’d realise we condemn racism with Asians as loudly as possible.

  20. Mike — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:16 pm  

    ‘Nobody has come out and said that Jindal is great because he is brown.’

    The way that this story is being spun – i.e. an Indian-American is elected by ‘dose’ rootin tootin’ red-neck Yanks – is patronising in the extreme.

  21. Bape — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:17 pm  

    He has got a ‘send the immigrants back home’ policy as well, I believe. Interesting that.
    Most politicians campaign on policies that will get them into power. This is opportunistic. Singing Bush’s praises, like new labour not having the backbone to stand up against Blair, is pitiful in my view.
    Its just a complete non-event really.
    ‘Right wing man becomes governor’. Thats all it should say

  22. Sunny — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:26 pm  

    dose’ rootin tootin’ red-neck Yanks

    Clearly you missed the reference to those lovely guys from the KKK above. I mean, who wouldn’t want to welcome those folk with open arms? I actually didn’t play the KKK card too heavily but I could have. So please, go away and stop trolling this site.

  23. Mike — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:27 pm  

    Bape

    ‘He has got a ’send the immigrants back home’ policy as well, I believe.’

    Er, yes, because they’re illegal immigrants, i.e., they’re breaking the law…!

    ‘Singing Bush’s praises’

    Bush is pro-amnesty

    ‘Right wing man becomes governor’. Thats all it should say.’

    Stunning analysis!

  24. Fred — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:37 pm  

    first off im from La and i DID vote for Jindal. You can sit in your northern states and talk about us in the south about how backwoods and redneck we are all you want. We elected him for a reason because he was the best person running for office we didnt look at the color of his skin and we dont care about it we just want some one who is gonna take care of our state. there was one comment about his belief in god and thinking it should be in schools. excuse us for thinking that our kids and country has got out of hand because they dont have a relationship with the lord. why dont you talk about your own politics and leave us to ours.

  25. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:49 pm  

    tough nut to crack? well possibly not if you favour the same policies – like banning abortion – that some people are in favour of.

    So what does this prove? That americans are not racist because they’ll vote in a brown face if they think that person will promote whatever it is they want – abortion bans and intelligent design to be taught in schools.

    so good. at least they’re supporting people because of their policies, not their skin colour. i dont like those policies, so im not going to be swayed cos a ‘brown man’ is in favour of intelligent design.

    and one brown man being voted in, does absolutely nothing with regards to barriers to participation: like lack of decent public healthcare, and good schools which you dont have to pay a bomb to get into.

    this is about obsession with the ‘image’ of politics, the colour of people who are leaders, rather than reality on the ground for real people.

  26. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:52 pm  

    so – personally id rather consider a vote for an old white man – or a Martian- if he’s/its going to look at the issues on the ground – like why are people socially excluded? what do they need to be able to participate in society? – and have something real to offer in that context, than some ‘representing’ face – which is like mine – which is going to echo status quo power.

  27. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:56 pm  

    “He has got a ’send the immigrants back home’ policy as well, I believe. Interesting that.”

    why, he was born in the USA, he probably doesn’t want any more people from India or Bangladesh or wherever, crowding his precious state. ( ooh unless they’re the unaborted babies perhaps – he doesn’t seem to be too interested in that particular population control method)

    he sounds like a complete twerp. ban abortion indeed. i feel like socking his jaw.

  28. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

    obviously, i should stand up and shout and say – AH! BUT HE’S NOT A WOMAN! HE DOES NOT REPRESENT MY MINORITY! HE HAS NO IDEA WHAT IT IS TO BE LIKE A WOMAN!

  29. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 4:59 pm  

    that’s right, listen to Fred. if they want to elect twerps, why should we care just cos it happens to be a twerp whose parents came from India. after all he’s American, why should he be singled out for where his ancestors came from?

  30. Sunny — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:11 pm  

    Sonia – erm, women are not a minority. I hate to point out the obvious.

    Fred – we’re based in the UK, not America.

    Tim W. – good point.

  31. Sid — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:14 pm  

    so – personally id rather consider a vote for an old white man

    This is a pejorative term in British politics. Ask Ming Campbell.

    I think ‘young, right-wing, skinny-ass Indian nutter’ should be one as well.

  32. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:27 pm  

    duh sunny, we’re still an underprivileged group thanks very much.

  33. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:28 pm  

    i hate to point out the obvious indeed!

  34. sonia — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:29 pm  

    and if some people are going to be tribal, i think “we” can as well.

  35. Sunny — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:47 pm  

    you’re welcome to be as tribal as you want, but women are not a minority. I’m not sure you can apply the “under-priveleged” accusation in such a blanket way either. :)

  36. Jakey — on 22nd October, 2007 at 5:50 pm  

    Jindal becoming governor of Louisiana reminds me in some ways to the Dalit leader Mayawati becoming chief minister of UP state in India this year. Both were disadvantaged in terms of their ethnicity or caste but their politics appealed to the majority of voters in their respective states. Both cases are a victory for the democratic process rather than anything else. The difference is that Mayawati is a liberal progressive politician while Jindal is not. Could both be a sign of changing times? Maybe in the future Indian Americans could play a more active role in American politics than do today; likewise Dalit politicians could become more powerful in India. Wishful thinking maybe but a sign of gradual change.

  37. Jai — on 22nd October, 2007 at 6:14 pm  

    India is hardly what you’d call a ‘tolerant’ and ‘progressive’ nation……And yet none of you seem to care about real racism in the developing world. It’s all ‘Daily Express-this,’ ‘Melanie Philips-that,’

    That’s because most of us here are British and are not (directly) from India or ‘the developing world’.

  38. Rohin — on 22nd October, 2007 at 7:36 pm  

    All I had to say on the matter, on an American site, was that I find it quite nauseating that Indians, be they here, America or India, are automatically gratified to see this victory, despite Jindal being such a morally repugnant politician.

    If you agree with his policies, fair dos, you’re both nuts so go ahead and be proud.

    If you don’t agree with his views, I don’t understand. Are Indians still so desperate for ratification and achievement that they latch on to any brownface no matter who they are?

    Recognising a glass ceiling being broken…maybe. But to be honest, I think American rednecks with stupid right wing views are not actually stupid enough to ignore what someone speaks for. That Panorama episode referenced above had some shocking lines in it “I don’t like him…Obama, Osama…it’s too close for me.” But none of those types of lines would be said if Barack Obama said what those rednecks wanted. Because Jindal does, they like him. It’s not as thought they’ve embraced Indians, just a bible-totin’, Republican loon with a tan.

  39. Ravi Naik — on 22nd October, 2007 at 10:26 pm  

    “I find it quite nauseating that Indians, be they here, America or India, are automatically gratified to see this victory, despite Jindal being such a morally repugnant politician.”

    I can understand that you find his beliefs repugnant… but morally repugnant? My… that sounds more like a judgement of his character rather than his beliefs.

    “Are Indians still so desperate for ratification and achievement that they latch on to any brownface no matter who they are?”

    Anyone who fights and achieves something – fair and square – despite all the odds, deserves credit in my book. Specially after having failed for being brown. And even though I disagree with his views, he does inspire me. He is the first Indian-American governor, and even if you don’t want to admit it because he is not a liberal or progressive: he has indeed broken a glass ceiling. So he is not just a brownface.

    Of course, if he fucks up as a governor and becomes as incompetent as Bush, then I will take everything back.

    “But to be honest, I think American rednecks with stupid right wing views are not actually stupid enough to ignore what someone speaks for.”

    It didn’t happen four years ago. But hey stupid rednecks… how can one count their stupid ways? I am glad we can discuss about this without caricaturing people for their beliefs.

  40. SajiniW — on 23rd October, 2007 at 8:19 am  

    I thought the cities in Louisiana were colour-neutral, so wasn’t surprised by Jindal’s win. New Orleans has a long history of black mayors, inclusive of current incumbent Ray Nagin.

    Shame the neutrality doesn’t extend to other faiths :(

  41. sonia — on 23rd October, 2007 at 1:44 pm  

    good point Sajini – and useful to point out.

    and good points too Rohin. “Are Indians still so desperate for ratification and achievement that they latch on to any brownface no matter who they are?”.. good question. seems to be the case.

    and if that were the case…I would say ( ooh bring it on folks) that that would seem to indicate the need for external approbation in the face of a deep-seated inferiority complex.

    why hang on to such complexes? now that is internalising racism and victimhood- in such a silly way – because then, it doesn’t matter if there arent any White or Blue people left in the World to treat you badly, you’ll just treat yourself badly cos you dont think you deserve any better.

    (like women often do in patriarchal societies, when there aren’t any men left to tell them to put their dopatta on straight, and not have any fun, because they just tell each other, or the younger women)

  42. Robert — on 24th October, 2007 at 8:50 pm  

    Glass ceiling broken = good.
    Fundamentalist Christian Conservative = bad.
    Ergo:
    Fundamentalist Christian Conservative breaks Glass Ceiling = noteworthy.

    Yes of course the politcs should trump the ethnicity. But it is still interesting, and suitable fodder for Pickled Politics to discuss the issue.

    Note how the glass ceiling breakers are so often those who adopt the politics of the establishment (or at least the prevailing hegemony). Are they less “threatening” to the white majority? Is radical policies AND radical skin colour just too much to bear?

  43. Ravi Naik — on 24th October, 2007 at 9:58 pm  

    “whseem to indicate the need for external approbation in the face of a deep-seated inferiority complex.”

    That explanation is somewhat simplistic, Sonia. I do know a lot of people which I respect for their achievements, despite not agreeing with their political views. I am not so narrow-minded to discredit people just because their views are different from mine. That does not imply that I have an deep-seated inferiority complex.

    Now, I am happy when Indians do well – no matter their religion or political views, and I believe Bobby Jindal’s win is a good thing. If he didn’t win, guess what? Another person with similar conservative views would have won. At least with Jindal’s victory in the deep South, will inspire others to follow suit… and that cannot be a bad thing. Do not underestimate the power of role-models in society.

  44. Soso — on 25th October, 2007 at 3:41 am  

    There’s no such thing as a ‘born again’ Roman Catholic.

    The author that coined that term is an ignoramus.

    And as for the indictment of Mr Jindal’s Chrisitanity, as though it were somehow un-South Asian? Do people here realise that Christainity didn’t arrive in India with european colonialism, but rather has been present on the subcontinent since the 400s?

    It predates the arrival of Islam by more than two centuries and is nearly 9 centuries older than Sikhism.

    And with more than 60 million adherents it is also India’s fastest growing religious community, now outnumbering Sikhs by a ratio of almost two to one.

    Revealing, then, that the mention Christian is absent from the side-bar list of ‘organisations’ on this blog.

    With such glaring ommissions emerging from a such morass of soft prejudice, is it any wonder Sunny is surprised, in fact broad-sided?

    What’s more, Mr Jindal’s independance of thought, his initiative, his conversion and his ability to ignore the destructive tenors of a self-serving race industry mean that he connects with the larger world, that he can see Whites for who they are and is, thus, a very black sheep, indeed!

    And a very WELCOME ONE.

    Another Ali Hirsi, in many ways.

  45. Ravi Naik — on 26th October, 2007 at 1:24 pm  

    “What’s more, Mr Jindal’s independance of thought, his initiative, his conversion…

    Another Ali Hirsi, in many ways.”

    I have little sympathy for Ali Hirsi. She is a islamophobe of the worst kind, by saying that Islam by definition is a radical religion and cannot be reformed.

  46. koppakabana — on 29th October, 2007 at 12:25 am  

    Hi Sunny – all -

    First, Jindal is not the first Indian-American government official to be elected in the southeastern US. Check coverage on other politico types in South Carolina – Dino Teppara (senior staff for Joe Wilson, former co-chair of the Indian & Indian-American caucus) and Nicki Haley. The south also has quite a few black politicians, Jim Clyburn being the first to come to mind.

    Jindal is strange as he converted to Catholicism FOR POLITICAL REASONS, not for any personal commitment to the faith.

    I really like the south, by the way, I happen to think that the south is the part of the US that actually *got* what civil rights was all about (until disaster aka Katrina).

  47. koppakabana — on 29th October, 2007 at 12:29 am  

    Let me just tack on that it’s nice to see another brown face in US politics, but it bothers me that he sold out (changing his name, converting religion) just to fit in.

    I would almost be happier if he ran Republican but with his real name and original faith.

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