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Issues Over Heritage In Illinois Election Campaign

"We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else"

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Midterm Elections, illinois
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois. VOA

In an Illinois congressional district where just six percent of the constituency is Indian American, the incumbent Democrat Congressman is being challenged by another Indian American.

“I see it as American versus American,” Jitendra Diganvker, or “JD” — the Republican challenger for the Illinois 8th district, said.

“Yeah we happen to be Indian,” he added dismissively.

“It is a good thing that members of minorities are running as Democrats or as Republicans,” the incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi said.

The Illinois 8th District is 51 percent Caucasian, 28 percent Hispanic,14 percent Asian, and four percent African-American, according to the most recent U.S. Census data. Of those Asians, about half are Indian, according to the campaigns’ estimates.

Views and policy

In this diverse district, voters care about issues more than identity.

“I don’t care about them being Indian American. I just hope that whichever one wins that they support and help the people,” said Michelle Sims, an employee at the DuPage Community College. “And if you’re Indian then, hey, that’s fine. Just help the people.”

A Jamaican-American university student, Amara Creighton, says she thinks it is great that two minority candidates are running and have support, regardless of their ethnicity.

“I think what’s more important is their views and their policies,” Creighton said. “I mean, it doesn’t really matter to me what their minority is as long as they’re standing up for us and doing good for us.”

This rare instance of two candidates of the same minority running against each other is reflective of a larger trend throughout the United States – record numbers of Indian Americans are running for office and winning their elections.

In 2016, four Indian Americans — one of them being Krishnamoorthi, were elected to the U.S. House and a fifth was elected to the Senate — outnumbering in just one election the total number of Indian Americans to serve as U.S. representatives.

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Incumbent Raja Krishnamoorthi goes by his first name, which his constituents can more easily pronounce. VOA

Krishnamoorthi, a businessman and former deputy state treasurer, was elected to his first term in the House of Representatives in 2016. He succeeded Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who was elected that year to the U.S. Senate.

Diganvker is a small businessman, Uber driver, and ardent member of the local Republican party. As the underdog, he is running as a “day-to-day” guy, and says he decided to run because he feels his opponent is out of touch with middle-class, hardworking families in his community.

But his opponent, who is completing his first term in Congress, says he is far from out of touch with his community. He visits each weekend to see his wife and children when Congress is in session.

Though both candidates are immigrants, their views on immigration policy differ. Krishnamoorthi, the Democrat, has been critical of Trump’s policies to decrease refugee allowances and speaks out against family separations at the border.

“We shouldn’t separate parents from children,” he told VOA. “That’s an abomination.”

Though Diganvker, too, opposes family separations at the border, he favors Trump’s promise to build a wall along the border with Mexico and supported the travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.

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Republican challenger Jitendra “JD” Digavnker says he is running as a “day-to-day” guy. VOA

“I’m also an immigrant. I followed the legal process and I believe in merit-based immigration,” he said, adding that merit-based immigration “brings the right skill set of people into our country.”

Krishnamoorthi, however, said that his parents legal immigration to the United States has not hardened his immigration stance.

“The fact that my parents came here legally and someone [else] did not, doesn’t mean that we should be inhumane or disrespectful, doesn’t mean we should treat them with anything less than dignity,” he said.

Diverse constituency

Both Congressional candidates are Hindu, but have wooed members of various religions in the community.

“When you come to this country there is no race,” said Farrukh Khan, a Muslim halal-shop owner in Schaumburg. “We should not go for the race, we should go for the people who more care about you and your community. Hindu or Muslim doesn’t matter.”

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Halal shop-owner Farrukh Khan says that he is unconsidered by the religion of either candidate. VOA

So as not to lose a customer, he did not indicate which man he will support in the November election.

Myrna Frankel has volunteered for Krishnamoorthi since his first campaign, an unsuccessful bid for Illinois comptroller in 2010. They know each other through the Jewish Beth Tikvah Congregation in Schaumburg where the congressman, who lives a few blocks away, sent his children for nursery school.

“He considers himself a JewDu – half Jewish, half Hindu,” she recounted with a laugh.

Myrna’s husband, Robert, said that this diversity and community relationships are typical of their community.

“Our state senator is from Mexico. Our state representative is from Puerto Rico. Our junior senator is of Thai background,” he said.

“We vote by the type of person and what that person can do and not by anything else,” he said.

Also Read: Democrats Gain Fundraising Advantage In The US Midterm Elections

When it comes to policy, voters in the Illinois 8th seem to heavily favor the incumbent. Early polling by Five Thirty Eight shows a “99% chance” that Krishnamoorthi will win. Rasmussen’s most recent poll shows a “Strong Dem” leaning in the midterm. As of June 30, Krishnamoorthi had raised more than $4 million compared to Diganvker’s $29,000.

But the challenger isn’t intimidated.

“People can give him $10 million and that’s not going to scare me,” he said, adding that despite recent polling, his campaign is “1,000 percent sure” that he will win in November. (VOa)

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Reasons For Bigger Houses In America

Here's why houses are getting bigger in America

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Americans prefer houses that have big and open spaces in them. Pixabay

BY DORA MEKOUAR

Americans have long been drawn to big, open spaces, so perhaps it’s no surprise that houses built in the United States are among the most expansive on the planet.

And they keep getting bigger.

The size of the average house has more than doubled since the 1950s. In 2019, the average size of a new single-family home was 240 square meters (2,584 square feet), according to the National Association of Homebuilders.

Deeply held feelings about one’s home may be rooted in America’s homesteading, pioneering past.

“The appeal of the house for Americans, going back into the 20th century, was that it signified autonomy. You know, every home is a castle,” says Louis Hyman, an economic historian and assistant professor at Cornell University. “So, it has these echoes of signifying independence and achievement.”

The federal government has pushed the idea that a nation of homeowners is ideal.

The 1934 establishment of the Federal Housing Administration revolutionized home ownership. By creating the financial mortgaging system that Americans still use today, the FHA made home buying more accessible for millions of people. At the time, most Americans rented. Homeownership stood at 40% in 1934. By 2001, the figure had risen to 68%.

In the 1940s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt equated homeownership with citizenship, saying that a “nation of homeowners, of people who own a real share in their own land, is unconquerable.”

Today, the homeownership rate in the United States stands at around 65%.

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The average newly built house is now twice as big as the average new home in 1945. Pixabay

The ability to invest in their homes has helped mask economic stagnation for many Americans. Although unemployment is near a record low, real wages — the number of goods and services that can be bought with money earned — haven’t budged in decades for U.S. workers.

“As Americans find that their wages are stagnating after the 1970s, they’re able to make money by investing in houses,” Hyman says. “The houses become a way for average Americans to get financial leverage, which can multiply their returns. There’s no other way for Americans to get access to financial leverage outside of houses. You can’t do it in the stock market if you’re just a normal person, and so this is a way to basically speculate in housing.”

For some Americans, owning a big home is a status symbol, physical proof that they’ve succeeded in life.

“This kind of classical example of the big suburban home has been a very powerful idea for many, many decades now,” says architectural historian William Richards. “People sometimes want specific rooms that have specific functions —a mud room; everybody gets their own bedroom; there’s no bunking up; a dedicated laundry room.”

And spacious houses are more financially attainable than they used to be.

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For many Americans, a large home is not only a status symbol, but also an investment. Pixabay

“In the design and construction, there are greater efficiencies now for all sorts of reasons so that it’s less expensive to build a bigger house now,” Richards says.

But do bigger houses, sometimes called McMansions, make people happier? Not according to a recent paper that Clément Bellet, now an adjunct professor at INSEAD, a European business school, wrote as a postdoctoral fellow.

“Despite a major upscaling of single-family houses since 1980, house satisfaction has remained steady in American suburbs,” Bellet writes in the report.

Also Read- Usage of Anti-Inflammatory Drugs to Curb Symptoms of Depression, still Controversial

People living in larger houses, however, do tend to be more satisfied with their property, according to Bellet, but that satisfaction plunges when even more massive houses are built nearby. (VOA)