Road Rage 2020: Volume 6 - Teetotaler Talkers and Democratic Duelers Visit Texas

By Samir Shukla

Modi and Trump in Houston

The Texas India Forum organized the “Howdy Modi!" event for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to connect with Indian-Americans while he was in the country for the annual United Nations General Assembly and the UN Climate Summit. Modi invited President Trump a few weeks before the event to also speak to the crowd, estimated to be around 50,000, on September 22, 2019.

There's no way Trump would not have attended this event when asked. It was a chance to speak to a huge crowd in a state that is slowly turning blue.

Trump didn't seem to veer far from his prepared speech, checking off things he's done, while giving some red meat (or maybe in this case, red chili pepper) bits to the crowd.

Modi gave a long speech that gave the crowd what they came to see. The audience was there for Modi, the venue was sold out before Trump was in the picture. Trump, of course, is never one to pass on a rally.

Both Trump and Modi love to talk in front of huge crowds. Both are famous teetotalers who get a huge buzz not from booze, but from adoring crowds. Call them polarizing, but both are savvy with talking points that will get a friendly audience cheering.

Modi knows that India's economy is slowing and he is going to have to make changes. Hence he is out to make more deals with the US.

Trump is the rich kid born into a life of ease, self-loving and politically astute. Modi is a self-made man from a poor family, measured and politically astute. His political savvy helped him win his second term as Prime Minister earlier this year with a large margin. Trump is now ratcheting up his reelection campaign, which he may yet win, but it won't be by a large margin. In fact, Trump can lose the popular vote by an even larger margin in 2020 then he did in 2016, and can still win reelection, thanks to the Electoral College. Of course, a strong Democratic candidate able to unite the Democrats while convincing independents and even some Republicans to vote blue could seal Trump's fate as a one-term president.

Modi likes to talk and watching Trump sitting there for an extended period while someone else is in the limelight was interesting, to say the least.

Indian-Americans are becoming very active in politics. Trump and the Republicans also know that Indian-Americans lean Democratic by a plurality. Nearly 70 percent voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. It is a politically involved community that is growing and both political parties recognize this.

Whatever the political leanings of Americans, Indian-Americans, and Indians, the United States and India are natural long-term economic partners. No other country, or trade wars, can hold China at bay as when Western democracies create economic and political alliances with India.

The United States and India should be natural partners, fully engaged with each other economically, socially, and on the security front. This will remain a key partnership through next year and beyond, whether Trump wins reelection like Modi or is sent packing.

Democrats Keep Debating, Chapter Three, Houston

The third Democratic debate was held in Houston on September 12, 2019, ten days prior to the Modi event. There were 10 candidates this time, as all the others didn't make the cut due to stricter DNC eligibility guidelines. The candidates, if they want to beat Trump, will have to start inspiring people with simple passion and, yup, I'll say it again, move more to the center. Moving to the center is anathema for contemporary progressives who want to make massive institutional changes. Sorry guys, things don't work that way. Don't scare people away. First things first. You have to win elections before you can enact any change, let alone sweeping changes that you wish to see.

The debates are showing increasing friction where the moderate and hard progressive wings of the Democratic Party are trying to get a foothold. The scales are tipping to the left in the primaries while the moderates try to hold the hard progressives at bay. Of course this is very early in the game and the modus operandi right now is to try to please the hard-progressive base. Just like the Republican candidates tilted hard right in the 2015-2016 primaries and debates.

The requirements for Democrats have now gotten tougher and several candidates have already dropped out, while some of the more flexible ones may survive until the caucuses and primaries begin early next year.

In my estimation, the presumed Democratic nominee or a clear frontrunner will emerge after Super Tuesday in early March of 2020. North Carolina is among the states that will vote in the Democratic primary on March 3.

The Democratic National Committee has announced the next debate in Ohio on October 15, 2019. Currently 11 candidates have qualified, one more than the third debate, which means a second debate may be held October 16. If this number holds, it would be smart for the DNC to hold just one debate. An extra candidate won't make much difference and the debates are already grinding on many folks.


Samir Shukla is the editor of Saathee magazine. Contact -