Clinton's silent majority: Patel Motel & Co, Spanish abuelas and African Americans

New York: There's a new silent majority and they are passionate about Democrat Hillary Clinton. They have fanned out across America wearing Hillary Clinton buttons the size of saucers to get the vote out and "their girl" into the White House.

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) which draws its membership mainly from Indian Americans has a special kinship with the Clintons. Forty years after the first Indian American motel keepers arrived in the America — almost all with roots in Gujarat and the surname Patel — Gujaratis now own 60 percent of budget hotels in the US.

"Bill Clinton read an article in The New York Times titled A Patel Motel Cartel? and phoned me as I was part of the AAHOA. He felt we were an efficient, organised "cartel." During the call, I asked: "Are you tapping me for fund-raising?" He laughed and said "No, this is my last term as President. I want you to come with me to India." After 22 years, a US president finally decided it was important to visit India," said Mahesh (Mike) Patel, the urbane regional director of the AAHOA.

Indian Americans for Hillary Clinton. Photo courtesy: IAHC

Indian Americans for Hillary Clinton. Photo courtesy: IAFHC

"Hillary has a long history with Indian Americans and India. Our members in battleground states like Ohio and Florida are going to get out the vote for Hillary," said Patel at an event in New York organised by Indian Americans for Democrats and Friends of Hillary for President.

The AAHOA has 16,000 members who together own over 22,000 hotels and motels in the US worth $50 billion.

"When Modi met Hillary in September 2014 her eyes lit up when they talked about India. She has such love for the country," said Sant Singh Chatwal, who owns the Chatwal and the Dream hotels and the Bombay Palace restaurant chain.

"Hillary has stood with us on immigration, supported the US-India nuclear deal and understood our Indian culture," said Chatwal who is one of Clinton's "Hillblazers," shorthand for one of her big donors. Hillblazers have typically raised at least $100,000 for Clinton's campaign.

The Republican Hindu Coalition tried belatedly to drum up support for Republican Donald Trump by hosting a Bollywood-style extravaganza in Edison in October, but most Indian Americans say it was too little too late. Trump's campaign has provoked nothing but backlash from minority voters because of his anti-immigrant and xenophobic stance.

"The Indian American community overwhelmingly leans Democratic, with 70 percent planning to vote for Hillary Clinton compared with 7 percent for Trump, according to the most recent polls," reported The Washington Post.

Clinton not only has the Asian vote, but the Hispanics firmly in her corner. Trump has antagonised Hispanic voters with his infamous "bad hombres" comment, racial insults, as well aggressive deportation measures. Trump's get-tough stance on immigration has fired up working-class whites, many of whom think immigration has damaged them, but it has made him a "dark" candidate for the more diverse American electorate.

Stung by Trump's rants against immigrants, Latino grandmothers are leading the charge for "their girl" Hillary. "Abuelas, as they are known in Spanish — are at the front lines of the Democratic Party’s effort... Armies of abuelas are out by the hundreds in states like Arizona, Nevada and Colorado, an initiative rooted in experience and research showing that the best mobilises are often not popular politicians or celebrities, but the people a target audience knows very well," reported The New York Times.

"Abuelas may not quite be a new kind of political boss, but with expansive and interconnected social and family networks, the ones working on Mrs Clinton’s behalf are persuasive messengers. They are matriarchs of families that often have multiple generations living under one roof. Outside, many are leaders of church groups or organisers of social and civic gatherings of women," added the newspaper.

President Barack Obama campaigned energetically for Clinton in North Carolina on Wednesday. The Democratic strategy has revolved largely around getting Obama to inspire African Americans to vote. Early voting shows that even though the black community supports Clinton, they are staying home in large numbers. Black voter enthusiasm which was at historic levels in 2008 and 2012 has fallen off during this election cycle since Obama is not on the ticket. The onerous task of rallying black voters has now fallen on both the president and Michelle Obama. In an emotional appeal to black voters, President Obama has warned that if Trump wins, he will destroy his legacy.

"I know that there are a lot of people in barbershops and beauty salons, you know, in the neighborhoods who are saying to themselves, 'We love Barack, we love — we especially love Michelle, and so, you know, it was exciting and now we're not as excited as much.' You know what? I need everybody to understand that everything we've done is dependent on me being able to pass the baton to somebody who believes in the same things I believe in," said Obama.

The US media reported that a slack in black voter enthusiasm would be picked up by more Latino votes for Clinton.

"Democrats are seeing substantial gains in turnout for other key constituencies like Hispanics and college-educated women, which have the potential to more than make up for any drop-off in black voting," reported The New York Times."

A week before Election Day, Trump may have sounded warnings of a rigged vote, but the boot is now on the other foot. Democratic officials in five states including Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, Nevada and Pennsylvania have filed federal lawsuits complaining that thousands of African American voters have been struck off voter registration lists, and that Trump is encouraging his poll monitoring army to scare away non-white voters at polling booths.

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Updated Date: Nov 03, 2016 19:35 PM

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