Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's Right With Kansas

I had the pleasure of meeting KS Rep. Raj Goyle (D) this morning at the AAPI Caucus. Over the past couple of days I kept hearing of the amazing job Rep. Goyle had done in getting elected to a district he himself describes as “the reddest of the red.” Admittedly, this was the first I’d heard of him (in fact, I really had no idea of the current extent of desi representation in state and federal government, and it only seems to be expanding, slowly but surely.) So, like I mentioned this was the first I’d heard of Rep. Raj Goyle and I had no idea what he looked like. So, imagine my surprise, and embarrassment, when I figured out that the desi seated in front of me for most of the caucus was indeed Raj Goyle.

Rep. Goyle is a super-energetic, dare I use the “i”-word – inspirational – speaker. He addressed the caucus for just a few minutes, talking primarily about his campaigning experience, but he had folks sitting up and paying attention. I have to say, as someone who gets a bit apprehensive of talking to random folks, especially about politics, just the idea of an unknown brown man knocking on (presumably) a large number of white doors, makes me want to stand up and applaud – pay my respects. It must take a lot of ‘steel in your spine’ to pull something like that off… and successfully too! In his speech, Goyle mentioned that when he started off with his campaign, he knocked on thousands of doors, only to soon realize that polls had him 19 points behind. And of course, as any truly committed person might do, he kept going… knocking on thousands more until, ultimately, this democrat won a traditionally republican district – i.e. the 87th district of Kansas. Yeah, Desi Power!

Rep. Goyle is the son of immigrant parents from Punjab. When I asked him about what made South Asian candidates tick, he noted that the drive to succeed, to scale greater heights, that characterizes South Asian immigrants and their descendents, helps aspiring politicians to connect with their future constituents. I guess the ‘model minority’ perception does have some benefits… one that can be critically negotiated if it means having more brown folks in office. Of course, it’s not enough to have ‘brown folks’ in office, it takes the right kind of ‘brown folks.’ And Rep. Goyle seems to be of the right kind. Check out his Issues and Ideas page.

I asked him if he intended to run for national office, but for now he seems focused on winning a re-election. So go ahead and support him... we need more progressive people of color in office, no?

You know that question folks seem to be bandying around these days: “What’s wrong with Kansas?” Well, you can read a book on that… but it seems to me that folks like Kathleen Sebelius and Raj Goyle something must be right with it… what?

And hey, there's lots more desis out there running for office... and there'll be even more in the near future. Soon, desi rashtrapati?

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