Biden campaign embraced everyone who wanted Trump ousted, putting aside their ideological differences. Democrats used and amplified the ancient proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The Presidential Elections in the United States are over, and the Democratic party has managed to topple the nationalist Trump government by defeating Republicans. Joe Biden, who was often mocked as “socialist” by President Trump, turned out to be the President-elect. However, what would hurt the white supremacist supporters of Trump the most is the election of Kamala Harris as Vice President. A woman of colour, with Jamaican and Indian descent, became the Vice President of the USA, despite 4 years of rabid polarization and historic divide between people. How did Democrats manage to pull this up? Can Indian opposition take a lesson or two from Democrats? We analyse below.
Inclusion over exclusion, participation over prohibition
In his victory speech, Joe Biden said: “I am proud of the coalition we put together, the broadest and most diverse in history. Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Progressives, moderates and conservatives. Young and old. Urban, suburban and rural. Gay, straight, transgender. White. Latino. Asian. Native American.”
The democrats eventually pulled a coalition comprising of people who ultimately had single aim- ousting of Donald Trump from the White House. These people were fed up of Trump Administration, his habitual lying on important issues, and his absolute disregard towards values that the US celebrated earlier. Pluralism had a nightmare last four years in the US, as white supremacists became more vocal and violent with their threats.
However, Democrats used and amplified the ancient proverb: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Biden campaign first embraced it’s own. Progressive and left-leaning leaders like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar were at the forefront of the Biden campaign. And let’s be honest, Biden and Sanders have major differences, not forgetting how AOC and Omar were tagged as “left radicals” even by democrats. However, these leaders not only convinced the progressives to back Biden but also campaigned for the leader until the very last vote was cast.
On the other hand, Republicans like Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former New Jersey Republican Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman, former senior Trump administration official Miles Taylor, Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and many more supported the Biden campaign.
In fact, The Lincoln Project, a group of lifelong Republicans — political strategists for Republican candidates for the last 30 years — banded together to mount a rogue offensive aimed at defeating the sitting president of their own party.
Biden campaign was full of people who believed that the US under Donald Trump has gone dangerously astray. The campaign embraced everyone who wanted Trump ousted, putting aside their ideological differences.
India does not follow the two-party system. However, Indian opposition, on the other hand, could not pull up a united front to fight Mr Modi in the 2019 election. The Mahagathbandhan formed by BSP, SP and RLD was an anti-Congress, anti-BJP alliance. The Congress, considered as the largest opposition party in India, could not gather the regional parties to put up a fight. Instead of consolidating the opposition votes, the votes got divided, which eventually helped the BJP. Black and South Asian communities voted Biden and Harris with sheer enthusiasm, however, the Dalit and Muslim votes could hardly be consolidated by Indian opposition. Let’s look at the Bihar elections. The AIMIM and its alliance garnered around 4% votes as per the exit polls. Even though it is unlikely to harm the RJD+ in Bihar, it can still be seen as votes that the opposition let go.
Biden campaign, however, insisted till the very end- “Every vote counts”.
Indian opposition needs to reunite, by taking every single person on board who wishes to oust Mr Modi and the BJP. A consolidated fight can bring in a comprehensive victory.
Representation of Marginalised
Congress is a party that gave the first Prime Minister to India from a minority community. Manmohan Singh, a Sikh from Punjab, was elected as Prime Minister in 2004. In the US Elections, Biden chose Kamala Harris, a black and Indian American woman, as his running mate. When you stand for diversity, your actions should indicate the same. You cannot become a leader of marginalized and oppressed communities until you choose one of them to represent you.
Indian opposition needs to give more space to minorities, Dalits, indigenous tribes, Adivasis etc. When people see “one of them” leading fight for their rights, they are more likely to vote for that person other than some exported candidates. The top bodies managing the opposition parties need ample presence of leaders from these communities that have been at the receiving end of the current administration’s failed policies.
Calling out bigotry
Joe Biden, slamming Trump for sharing a video where people shouted “white power”, said the President has “picked a side”. Democrats, during their campaign, kept racial inequality at the centre of the issues they were fighting. The “Black Lives Matter” movement took place in the US right after the CAA-NRC movement happened in India. Though the Democrats could be seen denouncing racism and white supremacy at every given instance, Indian opposition has somewhat embraced the “Hindutva”, the ideology of Modi’s BJP.
Congress’ Rahul Gandhi has repeatedly held the RSS, the BJP’s parent organisation, responsible for the polarisation in recent years. However, some leaders from Gandhi’s own party seemed to contradict his stand. “Secularism” is what Congress projects to stand for, however, it is often seen as the lite version of the majoritarian BJP. Congress and the opposition did not fight the abolition of article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, fearing that the majority community would abandon them in the elections. The opposition has also been mum over the detention of political leaders after the special status of Kashmir was withdrawn. It continued to participate in TV shows that were inclined to spark communal tensions and spread bigotry.
Hate crimes, such as lynchings over cow beef, have gone unnoticed for the opposition. The opposition was hardly seen protesting against the increasing divide between communities.
The Delhi riots case, in which activists claimed to have been falsely implicated, did not see the opposition coming out for help. The activists in Bhima Koregaon case still rot in prison over an alleged conspiracy theory that remains to be proven in a court of law. However, the opposition does not seem to worry about these activists or the people these activists represent.
The same concern was voiced by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor recently. Stressing that secularism as principle and practice in India is in “danger”, Mr Tharoor said: “The Congress party cannot risk trying to become ”BJP Lite” as it may end up making it ”Congress Zero””.
The opposition needs to unequivocally call out the “Hindutva” agenda of the ruling dispensation, as trying to neutralise its secularism and tilting towards majoritarianism can harm the prospects of it winning next general elections.
Don’t Distance Your Colleagues
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have a different point of views on many important issues. Where Biden is seen as a centrist leader, Harris is seen tilting towards left. Biden does not support “medicare for all”, while Harris backs the policy. Their views tend to differ on many issues such as immigration, abortion, marijuana etc. However, that did not stop Biden from choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate.
On the other hand, the Indian opposition seems to act against its own when the views are different. Congress fired its spokesperson Sanjay Jha after he wrote a couple of pieces criticising his own party for lack of internal democracy. The opposition, while upholding “democratic values” and criticising the ruling dispensation for “crushing dissent”, has not acted in a way that would reflect their views in their actions.
Hindi Heartland, the swing states of India
There has been a long tradition of indulging into elections in Hindi heartland states on the basis of caste or religious equations. However, the recent campaign of Tejashwi Yadav in Bihar has proven that issue-centric politics can garner the support of people from all walks of life beyond the equations of caste and religion.
There’s a common understanding in the political circle that as long as Hindi heartland keeps voting for Mr Modi, it is not possible to defeat the BJP at the centre. There’s also an understanding that these cow-belt states have been deeply polarised and have become a stronghold of the BJP.
Joe Biden, who flipped swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, devoted the lion’s share of his travel schedule to these states. His campaign, in these states, prioritized their ad spending, direct voter contacts and get-out-the-vote efforts. Biden built a coalition of African Americans, women, college-educated professionals and seniors, while peeling off some anti-Trump Republicans and working-class white men who had defected to Trump in 2016.
Whereas, as mentioned earlier, BSP, SP and RLD, the parties from UP and Bihar, fought against the Congress in 2019 elections. Ideologically, these parties are more friendly with Congress than they are with the BJP. However, the unwillingness to come together for “greater good” has harmed the Indian opposition.