Two First Generation Americans Will Define America Next.
Town of Jasmin in Saskatchewan appears as just a speck of nothingness in the Great Prairie as I look out the window on board The Canadian. A vast white blanket that covers the horizon, broken, very sparingly, by snow-clad bushes, barns, silos and an odd pair of cattle. A few hundred miles to the south, a very similar sight – bleak but starkly beautiful – must have welcomed European Pioneers, and Natives for centuries before that.
Many versions of America were created against an expanse like this. It is also the right backdrop for me to ponder about America Next, the one we will leave for next generations.
Last three years have been spent by telling the world, and myself, what America is not. America is not for a celebrity to declare people of a specific religion celebrated fall of Twin Towers living barely miles away – I was there and it did not happen. Not for an office-bearer to claim three million shadows illegally voted in the largest state – I was there and it did not happen. Not for a state machinery to methodically, and deliberately, ignore and deny existence of rigorous scientific data or analyses, many provided by its own army of scientists who were subsequently denied support just because their scientific inquiry provoked inquisition – my friends were there and it did happen. On and on.
Who, then, writes the manifesto of the Next America?
I judge a political candidate by the company they keep; cohort of their most ardent supporters. On that count both the incumbent and some of his possible opponents leave me without a real option.Tired of rhetoric of his fervent supporters, I have already spent inches of this newspaper averring that this President has freed the country from expectations of the Highest Office; on July 4th I prayed to lose that independence. On the other end of the spectrum, I see a spitting image of the “sarkar mai baap” mindset of India not long back. Roughly paraphrased as “we will depend on the Government as if it is our Parent” – aka a parasitic dependence on the hand that keeps on giving, especially during elections – it marked a slow demise of the Promise of India. I could not wish that upon that Shining City on the Hill.
It seems natural to me that the middle ground is occupied by two first-generation Americans. There is a concept in Economics called “Revealed Preferred” – if you willingly made a choice, then you must have chosen the fundamental premise of that alternative. Since immigrants, especially refugees, chose to come here – often at the risk of their life and limbs and most frequently without a visible support infrastructure – they must have revealed-preferred the American values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even refugees ‘chose’ America because the American Dream beckoned them and they rose to the challenge.
In doing so, they cannot afford to be anything but reconciliatory and making do with whatever they got. Natural tendency for them is to find the greatest overlap and the middle ground. Even when well-meaning well-wishers cheer them from the side, they – alone – have to navigate obstacles of language, culture, family background, and most importantly, lack of a network to hold on for the most part.
It is the last bit – self-taught capacity to nurture a network of support around them even in an unfamiliar setting – that makes them natural statesmen. Even at its noblest, creating a sustainable coalition – preferably based on a principled stance that mirrors best ethos of the country – is sine qua non for any political leader. On both counts immigrants in US – their immediate progenies, more specifically – are the first among equals.
The next American Manifesto must be good enough to erase memories of the last chapter and start with a clean slate, from the first principles of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. It should not pay heed to nativist ideologues nor conspiracy theories. It should not kowtow to sentiments that make a person less dependent on their own selves than they can be, nor should it deny help to the most disenfranchised amongst us. It must not revert to a world where America is any less than a beacon of hope across the continents. It must re-establish America’s commitment to leadership of the world order for whom the Greatest Generation, and millions more, laid down their lives.
The Next American Manifesto better be written by those whose names are on the manifest for the proverbial boat ride across – or their children. If Immigrant ethos is what we call the defining principle of this American experiment, then immigrants – those who made a conscious choice to call this country their home, and/or, those closest in that line – must lead us too. Since the Constitution does not allow those born outside of the country to be nominated, my preference shall always be those born of immigrants – the first-generation – to be our President, ceteris paribus.
The only pair that meet that threshold are Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris. They have charted a path of their own, at times defiant of the reigning idiocies of their party. Mayor Pete is eloquent of the high principles, yet very measured and realistic in execution – a trait honed in the Navy, the corporate sector and in his being Mayor of a small town in “middle America”. Mayor Pete is unique in his faith that he did not forswear but embraced along with his sexuality – a bulwark against usual afflictions heaped against his party. He has chosen to speak at length of his own vision as opposed to easy potshots at the opponents. He has kept his balance, and his cool, when attacked with non-sequiturs. Most importantly, his economic vision for America does not deviate from the path of market driven allocation of resources – a rarity in his party’s cognoscenti. He is the antithesis of the incumbent President while still overlapping widely with the swing moderates; thus best suited to unseat him. Senator Harris comes off as a capable operator who can make a winning coalition a functioning one legislatively. Her prosecutorial years bring gravitas to the table. By resigning from the race early, she lends herself to be kingmaker this time, and a venerable contender sometime next soon. Together, Buttigieg and Harris are capable of carrying the mantle of worthy torchbearer for core values of America.
Let the Next American Manifesto be written by the worthy pair of Mayor Pete and Senator Harris. The world will thank us for the choice, as will Generation Next.
[Partha Chakraborty, Ph.D., CFA is an entrepreneur in Blockchain and Wealth Management in US and India. Dr. Chakraborty spent two decades in all parts of the Investment Management value chain globally; he lives in Southern California with his family. All opinions are of the Author alone, and do not necessarily represent that of any organization he may be part of. The author alone is responsible for any error or omission.]