Democracy First

By Lakshmy Parameswaran

The United States of America – the model of democracy for the world – is at the precipice of becoming an autocratic state. The validity and certainty of the 2020 presidential election hang in the balance. President Trump claims that our ballot system is rigged, that is, if he loses the election. And he will not agree to a peaceful transfer of power. No president in history, Democrat or Republican, has dared to challenge the will of the American voters.

This is the time to put United States first and rescue our democracy by going to the polls.

A traditionally Democratic voting bloc, the Indian-American community is debating voting for Trump in the interest of US-India relations. I believe that we should base our votes on issues that affect our lives as Americans. Voting on the basis of what benefits India will not be in service to this country or future generations. And 2020 election is shaping up to be an example of why we should put this country’s interest above all else.

We migrated to the United States believing in the freedom, equality and opportunity that this country offered. And we were glad to discard the political atmosphere of India – an atmosphere of nepotism, abuse of power, bribery, larceny and threats. We found a near-perfect participatory democracy here that suited our aspirations and rightly so, until 2016.

In the last four years, we have seen Trump exceeding the crooked Indian politicians in corrupting the sanctity of the Presidency. He appointed his daughter and son-in-law in crucial ‘advisor’ roles for which they are un-qualified; he defies ethics and promotes his golf courses and resorts to enrich himself; he used the sanctioned aid to Ukraine as a bargaining tool to smear his opponent, Joe Biden, and got impeached; he demeaned and purged staff members who dared to question him; he despises free press and freedom of speech and assembly; and the list goes on.

But the most egregious of his acts – his decision to lie to the American public about the severity and immediacy of Covid-19 pandemic which has afflicted him now – has caused the death of 210,000 Americans and counting. His mismanagement of the pandemic has driven our economy into a tailspin, ruptured our educational system, overburdened our healthcare system and upended people’s lives.

Seniors like me and my husband are isolated in our homes, our annual medical check-ups and family visits postponed indefinitely. We pray that we do not get hospitalized for any reason. One of us in the hospital will leave both of us even more isolated, unattended and unsafe. Due to Covid-19, our hospitals are no longer the agents of safety and reassurance that they used to be. Whatever outside help we seek would be at our own risk and that of others. For the first time, many seniors find themselves in a situation where both living and dying look equally bleak. It is infuriating to think that if Trump’s pandemic response had been more timely and aggressive, we would not be in this place.

Yet, what is scarier than this pandemic reality is Trump’s delusional belief that he is an efficient president who deserves another term and more. He is working towards power-grabbing by gutting the postal service, delegitimizing mail-in ballots, rushing to fill a Supreme Court vacancy and dismantling the integrity of American institutions like the justice department. His actions are reminiscent of the bully politics that we chose to leave behind in India. We know mayhem will follow.

This is why, conservatives or liberals, we must reject Trump’s autocratic ideals, for we want to continue to debate and espouse issues that are important to us, better US-India relations being one. Our purpose in making USA our home would be lost if this country becomes anything less than the true democracy that attracted us to her shores.

Therefore, it is imperative that we use the leverage of our votes this election to rescue American democracy even if it means voting across party-line.

Indian-Americans are a vested and growing voting bloc. We should be able to discern long-term stability over short-term gains for the sake of our future generations.

Lakshmy Parameswaran is a family therapist and founder of Daya Inc., a non-profit serving South Asian survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Houston ( She is a first generation Indian-American who moved to the US in 1973.