In a commentary he wrote for Newsweek, Jindal accused liberals of reducing Haley’s candidacy to her gender and ethnicity, which was “unsurprising given their obsession with identity politics.” He called on Conservatives to avoid falling into this same trap.
“While liberals praise themselves for supporting the precedent-breaking ascendancy of various gender, sexual, and ethnic minorities into positions of authority, their hypocrisy comes through when the minority breaking the glass ceiling evinces conservative views. Liberals denounce conservatives who reject claims of systemic bias as self-serving bigots, but direct even more intense fire at conservative minorities, whom they deem self-hating frauds who aspire to sneak into positions of privilege by betraying their groups,” he wrote.
Jindal, a former governor of Louisiana and an arch conservative who does not emphasize or highlight his Indian roots, was variously derided as “Uncle Tom” (or Uncle Bobby/Uncle Tamas/Uncle Taj)) when he ran for the Republican nomination in 2016. “Bobby Jindal is so white that he couldn’t win a Spelling Bee if he tried,” went one of the jokes. Jindal’s parents immigrated to America from Khanpur in Punjab.
“My dad and mom told my brother and me that we came to America to be Americans, not Indian Americans,” he said in a speech in 2015.
In contrast, Nikki Haley (born Nimrata Randhawa) speaks frequently of her immigrant background although she was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, highlighting her experience growing up in a racially divided town with dad who wore a turban and mother who wore a sari.
Jindal suggests that such an approach could be inviting trouble. “Any candidate offering themselves to lead our nation should expect harsh scrutiny, and everything seems like fair game in modern campaigns. Candidates once expected the media and voters to respect personal matters as out of bounds, but that zone of privacy shrinks smaller and smaller with each campaign—especially as candidates share more and more personal information via social media,” he said. It was not clear from his oped if he was endorsing Haley, who like him is a former Governor.
Jindal’s comments came on a day the New York Times ran a story — among several in the US media recent weeks — on, as the headline put it, “Indian Americans Rapidly Climbing Political Ranks.” The article noted that the US Congress sworn in last month includes five Indian Americans, nearly 50 are in state legislatures, and the “vice president is Indian American.”
“Nikki Haley’s campaign announcement this month makes 2024 the third consecutive cycle in which an Indian American has run for president, and Vivek Ramaswamy’s newly announced candidacy makes it the first cycle with two,” it said.
Notably, the increase in Indian American representation is not centered on districts where Indian Americans are a majority, it observed, pointing that Washington Congresswoman (Pramila) Jayapal represents a Seattle-based district that is mostly white, aand Michigan Congressman Shri Thanedar represents a district in and around Detroit, a majority-Black city, and defeated eight Black candidates in a Democratic primary last year.
This is a different kind of phenomenon than seen with Latino and Black representation that depends primarily on ethnic backing.