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India Currents gave me a voice in days I was very lost. Having my articles selected for publishing was very validating – Shailaja Dixit, Executive Director, Narika, Fremont
Optimism and excitement fill the air when you speak with Beej Das. He has the chance to become the first Indian Congressman in history to fill any of the 174 seats spanning from Maine to Florida. Beej is hoping to serve all of the citizens within Massachusetts’ 3rd district as their member of the House of Representatives. A self-described progressive democrat, Beej has been aiming to work across the aisle with Republican citizens, donors, and lawmakers. He frames himself as a qualified candidate who is not an entrenched politician, as he looks to capitalize on the American people’s current wish for change in Washington.
Indian-Americans make up a sizable portion of Massachusetts’ 3rd District, and Indian-Americans around the country are in support of Beej Das’s campaign for the House of Representatives. But in a well functioning democracy, tactic support and monetary donations, while necessary, are not a substitute for actual voting and campaigning. Data shows that Indian-Americans vote at significantly lower rates than both other minority and majority groups.
The race for Massachusetts 3rd district is teeming with candidates, so many that they could play a 5 on 5 basketball game against each other and still each team would have a substitute on the bench. This means that the number of votes needed to win the primary on Tuesday is much smaller than it has been in past years for long time incumbent Tongas, who is retiring this year.
In other words if Indian American voters turn out in this election, as in many elections, they could be the deciding vote in who wins and who loses. However this is not likely to be the case on Tuesday, because of the simple fact that Indian Americans don’t vote, regardless of whether they have an Indian candidate or a candidate who is looking to directly address their needs and concerns.
Beej, the son of a longtime college professor and engineer, has worked to gain the support of educators, steel workers, and union workers, among others, in his district. He has focused on citizens across all segments: young and old, women and men, Republican and Democrat. Beej Das is hoping that his time spent engaging the Indian community during his campaign, and that their expressed support for him, will convert into votes for him on Tuesday. I am hoping that Indian-Americans who have fought so hard to become Americans will use the power granted to them by the constitution to voice who they want to represent them in Washington, regardless of who they vote for.
As campaigns analyze data to employ micro targeting and segmentation for the purposes of determining which voting demographic groups to engage with in order to gain the most votes, communities that do not vote will be A/B tested out of the system.
Spotlight issues important to the Indian American Community:
Education has always been a top priority issue for the Indian-American voter, especially when it comes to issues regarding creating more opportunities in higher learning or increasing the support for STEM and digital learning across all levels of education. Beej Das, the son of a career educator — his mother is a long time professor at UMass Lowell — has expressed his clear support for increased STEM funding, increased digital learning environments, and an increase in support for technical vocational schools. Additionally, he is working to bring down the cost of higher education and make the student loan system more transparent. Candidate Beej believes that higher education organizations have been mis-incentivized and are being run more like for-profit businesses than centers for educational enrichment. Part of his platform is based in altering this system and increasing incentives for the long-term development of professors and the protection of tenure.
Healthcare is an issue of growing importance to all Americans. It is universally understood that the goal of any legislation around healthcare is to reduce costs, increase access, and improve the quality of care. At-home elder care is also of growing importance to the Indian-American community, as people have to navigate the complicated regulations and structures around Medicare and Medicaid. Beej is hoping to alleviate some of these headaches and confusion by creating a clear standard for both of the aforementioned programs, and by putting forth reforms for a single payer system. He cites his support for the current healthcare bill in the senate proposed by Bernie Sanders, Bill S.1804. Under candidate Beej Das’ proposal, “a federally funded base level of coverage would provide basic healthcare services, including annual physicals, contraceptive coverage, basic dental coverage, and critical care coverage.” Under his proposal those who wish to participate in the private market will be able to. More about his plan and policies on a wide variety of issues can be found on his website, https://www.dasforcongress.com/.
Importance of Indian Americans Voting:
Individuals who make the decision not to vote are making the decision not to be represented or taken seriously in a country and system that they fought so hard to become a part of. Failing to vote whether by mail-in ballot or by going to the polls is failing to help Indian Americans have a seat or voice at the most important table in the world. It is up to us as individuals to show our fellow-Americans that they can trust an Indian-American candidate to be a champion and a protector of the rights of all, regardless of race, wealth, or any other perceived limiting factor. The most important next step for the Indian community is to get out and vote regardless of the size/location of the election and regardless of which candidate people ultimately vote for, the most important thing is to do our duty as Americans and vote.
What can engaged American citizens do next?
Get involved now! Members of Massachusetts’ 3rd district should get out and vote. It is important to support one’s local candidate on Tuesday, the 3rd of September. This election is going to be decided by a few votes and many candidates have been working hard to turn out all the citizens within the district. Which means everybody is going to party, why should Indian Americans miss out! Additionally, many out of district Indian-Americans are joining Beej’s call bank to help support the candidate on Tuesday. Those who do not support Beej should also let people know, by getting out and voting for one of the other players in the game. It is up to us Americans around the country to get involved in campaigns in our own district and state, to use these campaigns as teaching tools for children, to get them internships with their congressman, and who knows — one may even find out that they or someone they know may be the perfect candidate to run for office.
Roshn Marwah is a student of politics. email email@example.com.