Dhillon ’08

Public intellectual Patwant Singh observed that Sikh immigrants have “not only prospered in business, industry, and the professions; they are also beginning to participate in the political life of their adopted homelands.Dhillon.jpg Case in point — Harmeet Kaur Dhillon is currently seeking a seat in the California State Assembly (from the 13th district no less, which covers several prominent San Francisco neighborhoods).

Harmeet’s web site indicates that she has exceptional academic credentials, extensive experience as an attorney, and has been at the forefront of important social issues, especially and including domestic violence in the South Asian community.

Of course, I mention Harmeet’s candidacy here not because of her C.V. or platform, but, let’s face it, because she’s a Sikh. That said, while having more Sikhs in elected public office is important, it does not follow that a Sikh should be supported simply because he or she is Sikh.

When Bobby Jindal ran in Louisiana, several local South Asian leaders invited me to a Jindal fundraiser hosted by area South Asians. I declined the invitation. Yes, a brown face on C-SPAN and at the decision table sounds great in the abstract, for both substantive and symbolic purposes. Jindal’s positions, however, were not one’s that I particularly subscribed to.

Specifically, to me, in the wake of 9/11, the targeting of Muslims, South Asians, Sikhs, and others was one of the most pressing issues in the political landscape. It was my understanding, though, that Jindal agreed with aggressive national security measures that did not take into full account the consequences of these measures on the civil rights and liberties of Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim. Indeed, Jindal spoke out in favor of the REAL-ID Act and making permanent the PATRIOT Act.

My ‘South Asians for Jindal’ friends tried to remind me that Louisiana is a relatively conservative state. Whoever comes out of that area, they implored, would support the administration’s post-9/11 security legislation even if the proposed laws did not contain adequate assurances that racial or religious profiling would not occur. So what’s the difference, they said?

My response was that it was one thing for a non-South Asian to expressly advance profiling or or implicitly tolerate it, and quite another for a South Asian to say, ‘I support these laws even though I know members of my community may be discriminatorily impacted by them.’ Non-South Asian politicians and members of the media could then say, ‘well if there was a concern regarding discrimination, surely it would have been raised by a representative of those affected or factored into his or her ultimate decision to support the legislation.’ In other words, Jindal was to post-9/11 civil rights and liberties as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was to race-conscious admissions.

Harmeet’s candidacy should stand (or fall) on the strength of her experience and the merits of her positions, and not simply determined on the basis of a shared religion. With respect to those positions, personally I am pleased with her unequivocal statement that:

The government shall not single out members of particular religious groups for added surveillance or search absent some independent indicia of individual wrongdoing, as such practices are irrational and discriminatory and make our country less safe.

Harmeet doesn’t just believe in equal treatment in these perilous times — Harmeet has also provided pro bono service to Sikh organizations in their defense of Sikh post-9/11 victims of discrimination. For at least those two reasons, I hope her candidacy is a success.

I invite you to learn more about Harmeet and to ascertain whether — based on your hierarchy of political needs and views — she deserves your support and the opportunity to be a Sikh member of the California State Assembly.


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22 Responses to “Dhillon ’08”

  1. sizzle says:

    i feel like this post and explanation was premised on the fact that dhillon a republican, and thus any number of readers (and all bloggers) wouldn't normally consider voting for her. and yet, you never mention that, making me wonder why the distinction from jindal was necessary. so, i thought i'd explicitly mention it for you.

  2. sizzle says:

    i feel like this post and explanation was premised on the fact that dhillon a republican, and thus any number of readers (and all bloggers) wouldn’t normally consider voting for her. and yet, you never mention that, making me wonder why the distinction from jindal was necessary. so, i thought i’d explicitly mention it for you.

  3. Camille says:

    I'm with sizzle on this one; while Dhillon's work on 9/11 issues sounds positive, her other policy positions are less compelling (depending on your politics):

    She is pro deregulation (because it's worked so well for California in the past), neoliberal free market-ism, freeway/road expansion (as opposed to investment in mass transit), privatization (including privatization of schools and school vouchers), and anti civil rights compliance, affirmative action, and tax. It's an interesting blend of libertarianism — while the principles sound legit, the execution sounds like more of the same Republican boilerplate.

    Are her opponents running on a "pro-torture, pro-rights violating" national security platform? If not, then what distinguishes her beyond her identity as a Sikh?

    I do think it's a "props" moment — she's a young, Sikh, woman of color, which is already unusual in this level of electoral politics. Her campaign is young, and it's difficult to tell what she stands for. Overall, I prefer to vote on the issues I care about, not on my identity.

  4. Camille says:

    I’m with sizzle on this one; while Dhillon’s work on 9/11 issues sounds positive, her other policy positions are less compelling (depending on your politics):

    She is pro deregulation (because it’s worked so well for California in the past), neoliberal free market-ism, freeway/road expansion (as opposed to investment in mass transit), privatization (including privatization of schools and school vouchers), and anti civil rights compliance, affirmative action, and tax. It’s an interesting blend of libertarianism — while the principles sound legit, the execution sounds like more of the same Republican boilerplate.

    Are her opponents running on a “pro-torture, pro-rights violating” national security platform? If not, then what distinguishes her beyond her identity as a Sikh?

    I do think it’s a “props” moment — she’s a young, Sikh, woman of color, which is already unusual in this level of electoral politics. Her campaign is young, and it’s difficult to tell what she stands for. Overall, I prefer to vote on the issues I care about, not on my identity.

  5. sizzle says:

    oh…i wasn't really taking a position on anything with my above comment. i just thought that the fact that she's a republican precipitated the whole purpose of the post – "yes, she's a sikh/indian republican, but not as gross as jindal, deserves our support, and here's why…."

    but that said – oh camille, we were so close to having a moment! i'd definitely vote for her precisely because she is pro-deregulation, a free marketer, privatizer, anti-affirmative action, etc., doesn't pander to the religious right, a lawyer AND a sikh! just such an amazing combination of beliefs and characteristics – the perfect human, if i do say so myself. i wish she wrote for or commented on The Langar Hall so i wouldn't feel so alone.

    as for:

    It’s an interesting blend of libertarianism — while the principles sound legit, the execution sounds like more of the same Republican boilerplate.

    that makes no sense.

  6. sizzle says:

    oh…i wasn’t really taking a position on anything with my above comment. i just thought that the fact that she’s a republican precipitated the whole purpose of the post – “yes, she’s a sikh/indian republican, but not as gross as jindal, deserves our support, and here’s why….”

    but that said – oh camille, we were so close to having a moment! i’d definitely vote for her precisely because she is pro-deregulation, a free marketer, privatizer, anti-affirmative action, etc., doesn’t pander to the religious right, a lawyer AND a sikh! just such an amazing combination of beliefs and characteristics – the perfect human, if i do say so myself. i wish she wrote for or commented on The Langar Hall so i wouldn’t feel so alone.

    as for:

    Its an interesting blend of libertarianism while the principles sound legit, the execution sounds like more of the same Republican boilerplate.

    that makes no sense.

  7. Camille says:

    Ha, thanks sizzle. My point was that the issues Dhillon identifies platform sound totally reasonable, but the prescribed policy solutions are "boilerplate," as in not original, not tailored to San Francisco, and terribly different from what we hear from mainstream Libertarian and Republican candidates. Then again, her policy positions are relatively broad, so there's not much to process or comment on. Hopefully that clarifies.

  8. Camille says:

    Ha, thanks sizzle. My point was that the issues Dhillon identifies platform sound totally reasonable, but the prescribed policy solutions are “boilerplate,” as in not original, not tailored to San Francisco, and terribly different from what we hear from mainstream Libertarian and Republican candidates. Then again, her policy positions are relatively broad, so there’s not much to process or comment on. Hopefully that clarifies.

  9. Publius says:

    sizzle, Jindal was mentioned because of the similar question that the Dhillon candidacy raises – to what extent, if at all, should shared race or religion influence one's support. That question exists whether or not the candidate in question is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

    I'm glad, though, that her policy positions are on the table. That was a point of the post (see the last paragraph) – candidates should be judged on the merits.

  10. Publius says:

    sizzle, Jindal was mentioned because of the similar question that the Dhillon candidacy raises – to what extent, if at all, should shared race or religion influence one’s support. That question exists whether or not the candidate in question is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

    I’m glad, though, that her policy positions are on the table. That was a point of the post (see the last paragraph) – candidates should be judged on the merits.

  11. sizzle says:

    That question exists whether or not the candidate in question is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

    with all due respect, the question might exist, but this post would never exist if Dhillon were a Democrat or Independent. this discussion has become especially prevalent amongst south asians (and other minority groups) as south asians begin ascending the political ladder. but, racial and identity politics and subsequent questions of allegiance are only raised when a minority candidate is of the Republican persuasion due to the perception that they are "uncle toms." (See, Jindal, Dhillon, Clarence Thomas, JC Watts, John Yoo, all the Indian republicans that Sepia covers, etc, etc.). the very nature and theme of your post is to defend her positions in light of this perception. THUS, as i stated above, it'd help the casual reader to know she's a republican – which is all i tried to do. your points are more than valid, and given the political leanings and kneedjerk reactions of most indians in regards to republicans, it is necessary.

  12. sizzle says:

    That question exists whether or not the candidate in question is a Republican, Democrat, or Independent.

    with all due respect, the question might exist, but this post would never exist if Dhillon were a Democrat or Independent. this discussion has become especially prevalent amongst south asians (and other minority groups) as south asians begin ascending the political ladder. but, racial and identity politics and subsequent questions of allegiance are only raised when a minority candidate is of the Republican persuasion due to the perception that they are “uncle toms.” (See, Jindal, Dhillon, Clarence Thomas, JC Watts, John Yoo, all the Indian republicans that Sepia covers, etc, etc.). the very nature and theme of your post is to defend her positions in light of this perception. THUS, as i stated above, it’d help the casual reader to know she’s a republican – which is all i tried to do. your points are more than valid, and given the political leanings and kneedjerk reactions of most indians in regards to republicans, it is necessary.

  13. Publius says:

    You are doing more than helping the casual reader by pointing out that Dhillon is a Republican. You are also suggesting that this post — which informs others of Dhillon's candidacy and implores people to determine whether or not to support Dhillon based on the merits of her position rather than a shared race or religion — would not exist if Dhillon were an Independent or Democrat. If we follow your argument, there would never be a parallel situation (calling up notions of racial/religious loyalty versus fidelity to policy) in which Republican Indians or Sikhs are asked to support an Indian or Sikh Democrat candidate. I doubt that this is the case.

    You also suggest that "the very nature and theme of [the] post is to defend her positions" – I do no such thing. I mention only one position (against profiling) and her experience helping Sikhs on a pro bono basis — something that Sikhs should appreciate regardless of their political orientation. Whether and to what extent that position and experience factors into an overall decision as to whether to support her candidacy is, as it should be, up to the individual voter and particularly the voter's assessment of the merits of her total platform.

  14. Publius says:

    You are doing more than helping the casual reader by pointing out that Dhillon is a Republican. You are also suggesting that this post — which informs others of Dhillon’s candidacy and implores people to determine whether or not to support Dhillon based on the merits of her position rather than a shared race or religion — would not exist if Dhillon were an Independent or Democrat. If we follow your argument, there would never be a parallel situation (calling up notions of racial/religious loyalty versus fidelity to policy) in which Republican Indians or Sikhs are asked to support an Indian or Sikh Democrat candidate. I doubt that this is the case.

    You also suggest that “the very nature and theme of [the] post is to defend her positions” – I do no such thing. I mention only one position (against profiling) and her experience helping Sikhs on a pro bono basis — something that Sikhs should appreciate regardless of their political orientation. Whether and to what extent that position and experience factors into an overall decision as to whether to support her candidacy is, as it should be, up to the individual voter and particularly the voter’s assessment of the merits of her total platform.

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