Hiral Tipirneni’s strong showing another indication of seminal year for US democracy

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US flags in Washington, DC. Photo: Reuters.

NEW YORK – It’s not just the massive push back against guns and shootings on school campuses, walkout by angry students, across red and blue states. A lot of those students come from homes where parents swear by guns, vote Republican. Teachers are walking out too; to protest budget cuts, demand more pay. So they don’t have to buy school supplies to fill annual shortage in classrooms, struggle to buy a house, are left out of the American Dream.

Or the strong, angry backlash on social media, to rampant sexual abuse at workplace. It’s not only given a new identity to American women, but to women worldwide. Ask Roy Moore, who might blame his Alabama Senate loss to the timing of this outburst, in December. After Bill Cosby, it’s now the turn of Harvey Weinstein to face the music.

More than anything else, results from elections for public office, especially from conservative-leaning states – either dealing a stunning loss to strong Republican candidates, or a dead heat, to wafer thin close races, indicates this is a seminal year for US democracy. Voters are disillusioned by myriad promises which blanket them like snowflakes, melt away by the next day, as harsh economic and political reality sets in.

Voters in mid-term and special elections have shown clearly they are done with being docile puppets to the wiles of vested interest politics. They are tired and angry of being labeled as a Republican, who blindly votes Republican. They are revolting like high school students, who don’t want to live in fear of being mowed down in a hallway. Those students don’t care if their parents love the NRA, are hunters or fishermen, Democrats or Republican. They want to live a normal life.

It’s a titanic shift in the political sphere, which augurs well for America.

Labels of Democrat or a Republican, pro-Trump or anti-Trump, are blurring, burning out like art work at the Angry Man festival in the Nevada desert. What’s shining, like reflection off a polished mirror in sunlight, is the decency and conscience of the American public, to do the right thing.

Take the example of novice Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, an Indian American physician, who had no prior experience in politics. She decided to run for the US House of Representatives, from Arizona’s 8th District, one of the most conservative districts in the US which Trump carried by more than 20 percentage points in 2016, bothered by the President’s bombastic style of politics.

Tipirneni lost to Republican veteran state Sen. Debbie Lesko by a margin of only five points; a stunning result for her own party as well as to Republicans. The latter fear a calamity in the November polls, lose control of the House. The Senate majority is up for grabs too.

In a way, Tipirneni’s loss brings to mind the close loss of another Indian American politician, Bobby Jindal, from Louisiana, who in his maiden attempt for the Governor’s office, in 2003, lost to Democrat Kathleen Blanco, by a margin of 48% to 51%, almost similar to Tipirneni’s 47% vs. 52% reversal.

Jindal went on to win a Congressional race and then served as Governor for two full terms, from 2008-2016. When Jindal first declared his candidacy, it was unthinkable for most Louisianans that a Brown man could even contest, forget about win a race in an area dominated by White Supremacists and White elites for decades.

Then too, it was the disillusionment of voters with corrupt, morally flawed, incumbent politicians that first handed Jindal a loss and Blanco got a chance because of her Democratic stripes. But voters gave Jindal a chance too, to prove his worth.

That same conscience shown by Louisianans in Jindal’s district is now being shown by voters around the country, who are flipping sides, to try not only get a right candidate into office, but attempt to improve their and their children’s lives.

And this strong voter conscience is really at play, and here to stay, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. It published a report today after a year’s study, entitled ‘Facts, Trust and Democracy’.

It’s a major survey of public views of the US political system and American democracy. The survey finds that while Americans are in broad agreement on important ideals relating to democracy in the US, they think the nation is falling short in realizing many of these ideals.

Some of the major findings of the survey include, a majority support making sweeping changes to the political system: 61% say “significant changes” are needed in the fundamental “design and structure” of the U.S. government to make it work in current times.

Also, most Americans say it would be too risky to give presidents more power. About three-quarters of the public (76%) say it would be “too risky” to give presidents more power to deal directly with the nation’s problems.

Since 2016, Republicans have become less likely – and Democrats more likely – to say it would be too risky to give presidents more power. Still, large majorities in both parties (70% of Republicans and 83% of Democrats) oppose the idea of giving presidents more power, says the Pew study.

Importantly, a large majority of the public (67%) says “their side” in politics has been losing more often than winning in recent years on issues that matter to them. As in the past, this sentiment is less pronounced among those who support the party in control of the White House than the party out of power. Even so, more Republicans and Republican-leaning independents feel like their side has been losing more often than winning (53% to 44%).

In addition, nearly three-quarters (73%) say the quality of candidates running for local office in recent elections has been good; just 41% say the same about the quality of presidential candidates.

America today is not exactly what President Trump envisaged when he hollered in campaign rallies to “Make America Great Again’. But nevertheless, it’s truly happening. The American public are galvanized. They are trying hard to ensure that America is Great Again.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)