Election Day

Luke Sallmen - India


November 8, 2016

As I wake up today (late as usual), in India's ninth largest city, nothing seems out of the ordinary. Buses and trucks roar past. Horns honk. Time passes slowly. Nothing is written on Indian calendars under Tuesday, 8 November to separate it from the other 365 days of this year.

But for me, it is a very special day. It's not only different from the hundreds of other days of the year, it's also a very different Election Day. Today, I won't see cars lined up at my local Baptist church, the polling place of choice for my parents for the last few elections. Nor will I come home and look at the little red, white, and blue stickers (from my parents) that say 'I voted!'

No, my Election Day is being spent in India, where, for the vast majority, today is just another day among the three hundred and sixty-six. Just another day for people to go about their regular routines: wake up, go to work, drink tea, eat lunch, drink some more tea, come home, drink one last cup of tea, and finally, sleep.

Other Indians won't sleep much, if at all. Their life plans might be completely disrupted by this election –  that is, if they plan on getting a H-1B Visa, as hundreds of thousands of Indians do. Donald Trump, the infamous anti-immigrant candidate for President of the United States, plans to reduce the amount of H-1B Visas awarded to Indians, or, at least, despite his flip-flopping, we think he does. Less visas mean that fewer highly-skilled foreign workers, particularly Indians, will be allowed to use their skills and degrees in the U.S. to fill highly-specialized STEM jobs.

Clinton, on the other hand, has favored the increase of the H-1B cap and immigration in general, believing that immigrants provide a boost to our economy and diversify our work environments.

For many Indians, the choice is clear: they will choose the candidate that sides with them on the issue they deem as most important.

For Indian-Americans in the U.S., the decision is similarly clear: over three times as many people favor Clinton over Trump. Perhaps they, too, care about work visas. Or perhaps the issues that matter to them are different altogether. Maybe it’s religious tolerance, equality, or empathy for the common man – whatever it is, Indian-Americans don't seem to like Donald very much.

Back in the U.S., many time-zones away, many Americans see this as a one-issue election: they don't want the other candidate elected. From either side, it's understandable. Clinton is a conservative's worst nightmare, and Trump is a worse candidate than most of us thought was possible.

About half of the country is going to be disappointed by whatever happens today, and will probably groan about it for the next four years. I get it, I really do.

But for those that want to move abroad following a certain candidate's election, I would be glad to talk to you about it – I heard India was a really nice place to be at this time of year.   

Luke Sallmen