Tag Archives: campaign

Rishi Kumar Recruits Student Interns for 2022 Election Campaign

The summer days go by slowly? Well, why don’t you join a summer internship program and find a fabulous leadership opportunity right where you live? You may even be teamed up with your schoolmates.

Get involved in a high-energy campaign by joining the Rishi Kumar for Congress Fellowship program. Submit your application today at RishiKumar.com/Fellowship to be invited to an interview.

With this internship, you will discover a unique empowerment opportunity: You will find plenty of opportunities to be promoted to a Team Lead, Associate Manager, Manager, Sr. Manager, Associate Director, and Director positions.  In the summer of 2020, this program was led by 14 directors, and 45 managers leading specific functional roles, mentoring, and leading interns from 29 states.  The Kumar for Congress team drove an unprecedented engagement with our neighbors, the likes of which our district had never seen before: 100,000 doors, a million phone calls made, called 86,000 seniors offering them help with groceries/medications, and the videos went viral with 1.25 million views. In the November 2020 election, Rishi fell short by 45,000 votes in challenging a 30-year veteran incumbent but did get more votes than any other challenger in the last 30 years.

Rishi’s motivation: Rishi brings a fearless political agenda and is on a mission to change the broken Washington culture by bringing a new brand of people-driven, not lobbyist-driven politics. Watch Rishi’s personal story here. Rishi won with the most votes in Saratoga’s 60-year election history on a people-centric platform and a track record of “Getting Things Done”.  We have had only 2 competitive congressional races in Silicon Valley. This is a unique opportunity that is not to be missed.

Joining the Fellowship Program would allow you to:

An opportunity to lead teams, and discover invaluable management skills.
– Win MVP awards, get recognition awards
– Get a personal letter of recommendation at the end of the program upon request
– Earn valuable political and leadership experience while working alongside dozens of your peers
– Run for the California Democratic Party Executive Board or for a delegate seat.
– Earn passes to the California Democratic State Convention and even meet Presidential candidates

This internship is mirrored after the fellowship program of President Obama’s winning re-election run in 2012. Last summer the Kumar for Congress team had students participating from Stanford University, Georgetown University, University of California (Berkeley), UCLA, San Jose State University, Santa Clara University, and many local high schools.

For further info, please contact the campaign team at campaign@rishi2020.com


As lockdown orders begin lifting across the United States, the Asian American community is not only concerned about protecting themselves from exposure to COVID-19 but also their physical safety. Since the outbreak of the virus, hate incidents against persons of Asian descent have surged throughout the country with reports of harassment, vandalism, and violent assaults. In March, the FBI assessed that hate crime incidents against Asian Americans would likely increase due to the spread of the virus and the assumption that certain individuals may associate COVID-19 with the Asian American community. 

#WashTheHate was launched in March following a series of violent assaults against Asian Americans and is a social media campaign created to raise awareness about COVID-related bigotry and xenophobia. It features videos of Asian American celebrities, leaders, and influencers, as well as community allies, washing their hands in accordance with CDC recommendations while sharing personal stories about how the pandemic and racism has impacted their lives. Notable participants include Tony Award-winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly), Panda Express founders Peggy and Andrew Cherng, Opening Ceremony co-founder Carol Lim, actor Ludi Lin (Aquaman), actor Osric Chau (Supernatural), singer AJ Rafael, actress Amy Hill (Magnum, P.I.), recording artist/producer Shawn Wasabi and former Miss America Nina Davaluri. Over two dozen national advocacy organizations have also endorsed the campaign. 

Comedian, Maulik Pancholy, on #washthehate

Due to the nationwide quarantine and social distancing restrictions, each of the PSA participants shot their portion of the spot in their homes using nothing but their smartphones. The self-shot footage was then compiled, edited, and transformed into the final product by Asian American communications agency IW Group, creators of #WashTheHate. To promote the PSA and social media campaign, #WashTheHate organizers and participants have embarked on a virtual speaking tour throughout Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 

“As someone who’s come face to face with COVID-related bigotry, I understand the concern that many Asian Americans feel as the country begins to reopen and we start stepping back into the world,” said Tzi Ma, who experienced a racist encounter outside a supermarket near his home at the start of the outbreak. “We hope this PSA allows the public to see this situation from a different perspective while underscoring the need for solidarity during this critical time.” 

“Throughout history, there’s been a tendency to single out and cast blame on certain groups of people during difficult times. We must be vigilant in preventing this from happening again, not only to our Asian American Pacific Islander community, but to any community,” said Celia Au. “This PSA reinforces the need to stop bigotry and create solidarity, so that we can all come out of this pandemic standing stronger than ever before.”  

“A self-shot spot is usually the result of creative experimentation but, in this case, it was an absolute necessity,” said Telly Wong, Campaign Director of #WashTheHate and IW Group Chief Content Officer. “We needed to get this message out promptly, and this was the only way to do it. Our PSA was the result of a group of amazing individuals working together to address and elevate a serious concern within our community.” 

The Rising Relevance of Tulsi Gabbard

“As you know, I grew up in the beautiful state of Hawaii, which is the only state in the nation which has a majority and minority population. So, my upbringing is perhaps a little different than most other folks in the country,” said Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), speaking at an ethnic media tele-briefing organized by India Currents and Ethnic Media Services, quickly establishing herself as the outlier in an overcrowded field of democratic candidates for president in 2020.

With her well-timed punch at Senator Kamala Harris’ prosecutorial record during the second Detroit debate, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) caught the imagination of the nation, leading her to become the most googled candidate after the debate; landing her on the front page of the New York Times; and being endorsed by conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan.

Calling into significance her military record, the Times referred to Gabbard as “a singular figure in the 2020 race,” who cannot be boxed “neatly into any one established ideology or school of thought.” And Noonan lavished praise on Gabbard, calling her “an impressive underdog. You get the impression she’s out there on her own. Good for her, she’s got guts.”

Her debate performance helped Gabbard carve her place as the only democratic presidential candidate who cannot be pinned down, who is different, and who is likely to stay in people’s minds for speaking her mind.

Like any good strategist she tailors her narrative to the occasion. To the audience of reporters from minority communities, she talked about the word “aloha” and how it means hello and goodbye, but more than that it means “recognition that we are all connected regardless of our race, religion, ethnicity, orientation, where we come from or all of these things that make up this beautifully unique fabric that is America,” she said.

On the Bill Maher show, Gabbard was careful to be non-committal, refusing to respond to the provocations of the host. When Maher asked her about the Trump-Putin relationship and Putin’s election meddling, Gabbard’s response was a study in generalities: “We have to take seriously the security of our elections because of the vulnerabilities that exist, still, now, that really have the ability to undermine our democracy,” answered Gabbard.

And on the national stage, she was combative. “She put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said, referring to Senator Kamala Harris’s record as an Attorney General in California.

To be clear, the facts on the pot issue are murky. “There’s some context missing in this claim and its framed in a misleading way,” confirmed PolitiFact, a fact checking outfit, adding that the 1,500 number could not be independently verified and that “the attorney general’s office does not prosecute the vast majority of drug cases in the state.” It’s the county district attorneys who do so.

Absolute truth notwithstanding, Harris stumbled when she dismissed the debate throw down, and Gabbard quickly established herself as a credible contender and challenger in a race that’s more about confrontation than conversation.

Gabbard is jostling for position and has probably realized that she needs to challenge the candidate who poses the biggest threat to her campaign. That person happens to be Kamala Harris. While both women are remarkably well-spoken and self-assured, Harris is well-ahead of her in the race for the country’s leadership.

It’s ironic that both Gabbard and Harris are women of color with connections to India, Harris through her Indian American ancestry, and Gabbard through her Hindu affiliations.

Interestingly, when it comes to the Indian American community, Gabbard has a clear edge over Harris, indicating that Harris’ Indian American heritage doesn’t hold as much sway as Gabbard’s Hindu leanings for Indians in America. According to AAPI data from the FEC filings of the first quarter of 2019, 44% of Indian American contributions went to Tulsi Gabbard and a mere 14 percent to Kamala Harris. Further, a clear majority (60 percent) of Gabbard’s AAPI contributions came from Indian Americans, in contrast to 22 percent of the Harris AAPI campaign pie. And, as a sector, more Asian Americans have donated to Tulsi Gabbard than to Kamala Harris.

The Asian wave of support, however, has not offered much name recognition for Gabbard. A Morning Consult poll revealed that 71 percent of the respondents knew of Kamala Harris and viewed her favorably, while more than half had no idea who Tulsi Gabbard was or were not inclined to support her.

By chipping away at the vulnerabilities of another woman of color, Gabbard has captured the headlines of news cycles, making her visible, vocal and viable. In order to see the finish line, though, Tulsi Gabbard must be more than just a Harris challenger.

She is already articulating her positions on trade partnerships and nuclear proliferation treaties. And the canny politician that she is, Gabbard has realized that to be taken seriously she must deal with the elephant in the room: her 2017 visit with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. “This is why diplomacy is so important, because the only alternative to diplomacy is war. This is why it’s so critical to have a leader in this country with the courage to meet with adversaries or dictators or potential adversaries with the understanding that by doing so, we can achieve these historic agreements that will reduce the nuclear proliferations,” she remarked during the ethnic media briefing.

In the last few days, the Gabbard campaign has met its grassroots fundraising goals to qualify for the next Democratic debate in September, but the challenge is in meeting the polling threshold of 2% or more in four polls by the August 28 deadline.

Whether she makes it to the debate stage or not, Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard has proven she’s a force to be reckoned with.

Jaya Padmanabhan was the editor of India Currents from 2012-16. She is the author of the collection of short stories, Transactions of Belonging.





Andrew Yang Brings Presidential Campaign to Ethnic Media

On Tuesday, July 23, Andrew Yang became the first presidential candidate to participate in a teleconference with ethnic media reporters, organized by Ethnic Media Services and India Currents magazine.

Pleased to be offered a bubble tea as he sat down at a dais, Yang greeted about four dozen ethnic media representatives by noting how his own parents, after immigrating to the United States, had relied on Chinese newspapers for news and loved watching Chinese television as they raised their two sons.

“I’m an entrepreneur, not a politician,” he said as he introduced himself. Before deciding to run for president, he spent the past seven years, “creating thousands of jobs in Ohio, Michigan and Alabama … but it was like pouring water into a hole in the bathtub,” he said

“Technology is transforming our way of life,” he remarked, and “our political system in America is way behind the times in understanding technology.”

Yang was queried repeatedly about his position on immigration issues. Emphasizing the contributions immigrants, including his own family, make to the U.S. economy, he cited his own father’s 65 patents for General Motors and IBM and the proliferation of immigrant and second-generation leaders in upper corporate echelons in Silicon Valley as examples of how immigrants make the country “stronger and more dynamic.”

“My immigration policy,” he said, “has a number of facets.” Among them would be to “greatly expand” the H1-B visa program, which he said, “has zero crowding-out effect on American workers.”

If companies couldn’t hire the people who obtain those visas in the United States, he said, they would hire them in another country.” 

For those who come to the United States to get an education, “we should staple a green card to their diplomas. We should get them to stay,” he added

Immigrants don’t cost U.S. citizens jobs. It’s automation and technology that are driving the transformation, he explained, and Washington politicians who aren’t up to the challenges of changing with the times, he maintained.

Looking ahead to the next Democratic candidate debate, July 30 and 31 in Detroit, he described that city, where he worked for nine years, as an archetypal example of the transformations buffeting U.S. society, and the government’s inability to navigate a changing world.

Detroit, he said, has gone from a city of 1.7 million people to 680,000 as it’s lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs due to automation. Current retraining programs, are ineffective with a success rate of 15-20%, leaving us instead with record levels of disability, suicide and overdose rates that for the first time have overtaken vehicular accidents as the country’s leading cause of death. 

He also advocated for “securing the southern border,” to “put resources in place so there’s a humane policy” and to “create a new path forward” for 12 million undocumented immigrants already in the country – too many to be deported without crashing the economy. In response to another question, he added that the U.S. should “of course” do what it can to ease the pressures in nearby countries that force people to take their chances on emigrating to the U.S.

Yang’s campaign is perhaps best known for his “Freedom Dividend” proposal to guarantee U.S. adults a monthly $1,000 stipend per month. In response to a reporter who questioned the possibility that the concept might seem too “communist” for American voters, Yang responded that the money would be funded through a tax on corporations such as Amazon that currently do not pay taxes despite being ”a trillion dollar company.” 

“If Americans get our fair share, there’s lots to go around,” he said. Furthermore, he argued that $1,000 per month would hardly be a disincentive to work, but would allow new mothers to tend to their children, teenagers to stay in school and boost the economy and create jobs by putting more disposable income into circulation.

The GOP-dominated state of Alaska, he said, already has such a program, passed by a Republican governor in a very pro-market, pro-business political climate. He also cited JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimond’s recent advocacy for “something similar,” a negative income tax, Yang said, commenting with a chuckle that Dimond is “not very communist, or socialist.”

Asked about climate change, he described it as “an existential threat” and said the government “needs to do much more.” Too often, he said, the government acts merely “after the fact” of a disaster and instead “needs to be engaged in making communities more resilient.” As an example, he said that the National Parks System invests about 5% of what experts believe should be dedicated to tending its lands, leading to wildfires quickly burning out of control.

“The federal government is the natural leader,” he said, and disasters such as the Pasadena Fire could be prevented “if we provided better resources.”  

Yang cited an interview he’d done that has been viewed or listened to a combined 10 million times in various social media platforms as a transformative moment in his campaign so far, although he said at the outset of the conference call that he acknowledges only ranking “seventh or eighth” among the candidates so far. That interview can be seen here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTsEzmFamZ8).

Yang said politics is an unusual career path for his culture, but he’s proud to be the first Asian American to run for president as a Democrat and suggested that his campaign will counter fears generated by the rise of racism and hate in the United States.

Campaign Rhetoric Revisited

Emotional exhaustion is likely commonplace amongst the electorate. After all, the candidates put forth by the two major parties would hardly qualify as the first choice for most Americans. The Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been embroiled in a scandal involving the careless handling of classified emails. On the other side, the Republican nominee is billionaire Donald Trump who continues to offend moral sensibilities across the board and seemingly delights in doing so.

divided country1

Each of these candidates is vilified by the opposing party in hopes of gathering enough traction to bolster their own case. What’s fascinating, however, about how both of the parties have presented their candidates is that they have relied heavily on emotional appeals to strengthen their respective bases. From the campaign slogans to the highlighted issues and the rhetoric regarding the opponent all showcase masterful uses of propaganda. This isn’t a new occurrence, mind you, but it’s been converted into an art-form when considering the individuals being promoted in this election cycle. In this last leg of the campaign, a close examination of the rhetoric and imagery of the campaigns is helpful to understand how each candidate is being presented to the American voters.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was under FBI investigation this year regarding the use of a private email server to send classified documents. She denied any wrongdoing, barely recanting even after the FBI announced that she was responsible. Yet no indictment was brought forth, something that could have ended her campaign overnight. Ironic that the candidate of choice for the equality-seeking “Black Lives Matter” would receive favoritism in the face of criminal offenses, which is why her campaign slogan isn’t about political issues but gender. “I’m With Her” draws a hard line in the sand, reminding her base that her opponent is a man—the gender of the status quo—lest they are considering casting a vote for a rich, white candidate.


Businessman Donald Trump is a contradiction of similar magnitude. A life-long Democrat who expressed dissent towards Republicans less than a decade ago, Trump has claimed he believes marriage to be between a man and a woman and has built his platform criticizing immigrants, even though his third wife happens to be one. In fact, a recently surfaced video revealed Trump crudely gloating about making sexual advances on women, which led to theologian Wayne Grudem recanting his support for Trump. Yet the slogan that drives his campaign, “Make America Great Again” has helped him draw voters who buy his rhetoric, which centers on an anti-establishment sentiment. The slogan also begs the question as to what greatness he’s appealing to, since it would be easy enough to connect his words and actions to the highly publicized sexual indiscretions of former presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy, a rather unlikely scenario considering that both happened to be Democrats. Yet this message has connected with a base that holds the opposing party responsible for the current state of political disarray.

With unanswered questions and issues surrounding both candidates, one would imagine the electorate would move away from the two parties to seek outward, yet nine out of ten voters polled were leaning towards one of these two candidates. Curious that an educated and informed electorate would stand for this, the likely reason is that American politics relies heavily on targeting the compartmentalized nature of western education, and the rather binary nature in American culture. Coke vs. Pepsi. Capitalism vs. Socialism. Republican vs. Democrat. As Edward Bernays eloquently explained in Propaganda, an influential book which brought together psychology, democracy, and power published in the late 1920s, compartmentalization allows for “the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses [which] is an important element in democratic society.” In another vein the binary nature makes it easier to mobilize the masses to, say, vote instead of getting frustrated and giving up on the system altogether.trump1A common thread in political demagoguery on both sides of the aisle has revolved around the failure of politicians to effectively safeguard the public interest. While the right wing has identified this as an inherent flaw in a system that allows for career politicians, the left believes this to be a byproduct of corporate interest manifesting as lobbying. The Republican National Convention brought many excited about a political outsider winning the nomination. Little concern was expressed regarding his moral failures, and his penchant for conveniently changing his stance on issues based on the audience he’s speaking to. In a nutshell, Trump was presented as the anti-establishment solution that America needed.

The Democratic National Convention was hardly any different. In the Democratic primaries, Bernie Sanders regularly criticized Hillary Clinton for running a campaign funded heavily by Wall Street. Yet after Clinton won the nomination, a parade of wealthy celebrities—political and otherwise—marched on stage to support her. Comedian Sarah Silverman even talked down to Bernie’s supporters, expressing that they were being ridiculous for voicing their frustration with the nomination of an establishment candidate. If Edward Bernays had been alive today, he would have applauded the brilliance of both parties. After all, it was he who organized the very first public relations display for Calvin Coolidge a century ago, inviting Hollywood celebrities for breakfast with the candidate in order to show him as a likable candidate to the press. Press and media play crucial roles in the building up—as well as the tearing down—of propaganda.

In the early days of television, the first-ever televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon was held on September 26, 1960. Political pundits who heard the debate on the radio felt that they were evenly matched with some even giving the Republican incumbent a slight edge over his younger rival. But those who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy trumped Nixon. He had a tan, a wide smile and an easy nature, whereas Nixon had just recovered from a knee surgery, looked pale and ineffective. Many felt that his live performance in the debates helped clinch the presidency for Kennedy in a tightly contested election. But we needn’t look to the last century to see the effects of visual imagery in helping shape public opinion.confident_kennedy

It was early 2008 when Shepard Fairey created the iconic “Hope” poster. It arguably became the tipping point in Barack Obama’s successful presidential campaign. Few know that the original iteration of the poster read “Progress,” and included Fairey’s signature “OBEY Star” over the campaign’s sunrise logo. Commissioned by the Obama campaign and managed by publicist (or propagandist, as Bernays would call him) Yosi Sergant, Fairey adapted the poster to read “Hope.” He was also asked to remove the “OBEY Star,” which has been a part of his brand for decades. “The OBEY sticker campaign can be explained as an experiment in phenomenology, [which] attempts to enable people to see clearly something that is right before their eyes but obscured; things that are so taken for granted that they are muted by abstract observation,” reads the manifesto on Fairey’s website.

Incidentally, what was right before his eyes was the rather conscious removal of what had manifested as an anti-authoritarian symbol, a byproduct of that very experiment. As it originally stood, the “Progress” poster with the word “Obey” made a far more accurate observation than its revision, at least according to Fairey’s interview in 2015: “There have been a lot of things that [Obama has] compromised on that I never would have expected. I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he’d support].” While authority had a new color in tow, the machine itself remained intact. Had Fairey’s art intuitively captured the conflict he sensed between the man and the machine when “Obey” was featured? If so, his experiment in phenomenology (simplistically described as the objective study of subjective topics like perception and emotions) was derailed when he gave in to the propagandizing of his art.obama-206x300Yet therein lies the problem. Humans are highly subject to their own emotions. This is the underlying premise for psychology, economics, even politics. While it’s easy enough to point out that greed and fear are to be legislated against, Lord Acton observed, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Those in power seek to hold on to it, employing any and all means necessary. They leverage the very emotions they condemn. The two campaigns use emotional triggers to bolster their cases. It’s easy when her campaign can invoke the fear of a Trump presidency that deports every immigrant. Likewise, someone who has bragged about committing some form of sexual abuse continues to have support behind him because his opponent cannot be trusted. And the media outlets perpetuate these manipulations.

In 1999, the Journal of Educational Psychology published a study labeled, “Effects of Repeated Exposures to a single episode of the television program Blue’s Clues” on the viewing behaviors and comprehension of preschool children. While the age range was certainly limited, the experiment found that continuous repetition led to higher audience retention, and the recalling of transmitted information more readily. This might shed light on why 24-hour news channels recycle content regularly. It’s also why it’s become increasingly difficult to dispel myths and even lies from political discourse. One of the most prevalent ones concerns the “wage gap.” While it is true that there is a twenty-cent gap between men and women, that number is an average across all types of jobs. When looking at the same job, however, the gap shrinks to less than five cents. But after a misleading statistic has been repeated by demagogues incessantly, reality is simply the reiteration of a propagandist’s well-crafted narrative. Of course, this cuts both ways.

trump_hillary3The bases of both parties have consistently made it clear that they rely on talking heads to help decision-making easier for them. But genuine change doesn’t come easily. It’s not a bumper sticker or even a cast ballot. It starts with accepting the inconvenient truth that those you were taught to trust, could betray that trust if it helped their careers. While Mitt Romney was criticized in 2012 for saying that 47% of Americans don’t pay taxes, Hillary Clinton has seen little backlash for claiming that Bernie Sanders’s supporters live in their parents’ basements. Likewise, President Obama’s policies are often criticized by Republicans who don’t seem to realize that he would be considered a moderate Republican just a couple of decades ago. “But when … the herd must think for itself, it does so by means of cliches, pat words or images which stand for a whole group of ideas or experiences,” Bernays observed rather accurately. Neocon. Socialist. Communist. Fascist. It’s much easier to compartmentalize another human being that way, after all.
The reality and influence of propaganda in American politics is unlikely to change overnight. The Internet age has fueled that to an even greater extent. As search engines learn about the individual conducting the search, the results are curated to display links that would interest someone of their political leanings. Further use simply reinforces an echo chamber for most. Compounding this issue is when social media giant Facebook comes under fire for promoting left-wing issues by fraudulently pushing them to the top of their “trending topics.” For these reasons and more, it is increasingly important for Americans to do their research instead of regurgitating what they heard or read. Settling for the chain of command to deliver talking points in bite-size pieces is the very reason this election looks the way it does. So the next time someone suggests voting, ask them who would benefit from the execution of such carefully crafted propaganda: the voters or the establishment?

Based in Southern California, Arpit Mehta is an international visual artist, writer, and a consultant to creatives. As a polymath he is fascinated by the exploration of the human psyche from both a philosophical and a logical perspective, which is why he’s often drawn to topics like politics, economics, and technology.