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South Asian American millennials plead with their older relatives to vote for Clinton

By Neha Thirani Bagri

Donald Trump has been trying to woo South Asian American voters.

A campaign ad that Trump released around the Diwali holiday on Oct. 30 featured him speaking Hindi and appropriating the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign slogan in a ridiculous accent. “Ab ki baar, Trump sarkaar,” he said (meaning “this time, a Trump government”).

Also last month, Trump spoke at an event that mixed Bollywood songs and anti-Muslim political rhetoric in New Jersey, organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition, a newly formed group that is trying to energize South Asian Americans to vote for the him.

This week, the Republican Hindu Coalition released an ad branding Huma Abedin “pro-terrorist” and questioning her “Pakistani and Saudi background”, which has been airing on various South Asian TV stations across the country.

But many South Asian Americans are pushing back on the idea that their community stands with Donald Trump, and they’re asking their older relatives to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Last week, a group of South Asian American millennials launched a campaign called #Voteagainsthate, inspired by The Great Schlep project. They released a video starring South Asian American actors and musicians, pleading with their parents, grandparents aunties and uncles, to vote against Donald Trump.

“Please, please don’t be on the wrong side of history,” they say in the video that features a clip of a Sikh protestor being thrown out of a campaign event. “Because even if you’re not with her, he’s not with you.”

Following a montage of pictures of South Asian Americans in the US in the seventies and eighties, the actors ask their older relatives to remember why they came to the US and what they stand for as a community. The video includes Krishna Andavolu (host of Viceland’s Weediquette), Arjun Gupta (How to Get Away With Murder), Sheetal Sheth, (Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World), Utkarsh Ambudkar (The Mindy Project), and others. So far the video has had 3.5 million impressions across Facebook, Youtube and Twitter.

“We want to make it pretty clear that most South Asians do not stand with Donald Trump,” said Vijay Chattha, executive producer for the project. “It seems like most of the publicity that has come out about our community in this election has been for Trump, and that is by no means statistically accurate.”

Of the roughly over 3.1 million Indian Americans in the US, only 7% are currently leaning towards voting for Trump, according to the National Asian American Survey. The community traditionally skews left, and in the last three presidential elections about 90% of South Asian voters voted for the Democratic candidate.

But Chattha argues that changing the minds of the few older Republican members of the South Asian community in swing states such as Florida and Ohio, might make all the difference in such a close election. Chattha says that Trump ads have overwhelmed the South Asian networks, where there are scarcely any ads for Clinton.

Many in the community who are wavering towards Trump have a negative perception of Clinton. “In the video we are not specifically advocating for Hillary, but we are advocating against Trump,” said Chattha. “The energy in this campaign is more about not electing somebody, than electing a particular candidate.” He describes his video as an attempt to start a conversation between generations, aimed at people over the age of 65 who immigrated to America between the 1960s and 1980s.

The team is not working alone. South Asians for Hillary (SAHILL), a volunteer organization of about 5000 people that launched last summer, has been phone banking, knocking on doors and advocating for Clinton amongst the community.

A critical piece is the older South Asians, the aunty and uncle generation, and we have been trying to get them involved, to support the effort and knock on doors,” said Rajan Trivedi, the national co-chair of South Asians for Hillary. “We’ve been pretty pleased to see that we’ve found some success in that.”

Since September, the group has been running an initiative called “Project First Gen Voter Registration” which is attempting to get first generation immigrants to register to vote. “Please talk to your parents, grandparents, and relatives on the importance of voting,” reads the website.

The group held a counter rally outside the Republican Hindu Coalition’s event in New Jersey, and Trivedi describes Trump’s effort to reach out to the community as a “last ditch effort that was unsuccessful”.

“He frankly does not represent our community both from an immigration, economy, education or small business point of view,” said Trivedi. “I would have to worry about staying in this country and my economic and physical security if I am in Donald Trump’s America.”