New Indian-American star politician details Democratic Party's current challenges

Seema Nanda, who early this week took over as CEO of the Democratic National Committee, the organisation responsible for governing America’s opposition party, is the first Indian American to hold such as pivotal position. In an exclusive interview with ET, she shared her thoughts about the biggest challenges that the Democrats are now facing with the Republicans controlling the President’s office, the House and the Senate and how she plans to face them. Excerpts:

What are the biggest challenges that your party is currently facing?

First, we have an administration that is attacking working families and our democracy every day. Our party is fighting back, but we are challenged when Republicans hold the presidency and both the House and the Senate. Second, we have underinvested in the infrastructure of our party. We can’t just reach out to communities every four years; we need to be a presence every day and year round. We’re investing more money than ever in our state parties in order to recruit and train diverse candidates to run and to mobilise voters to turn out for the polls. We struggle with a constantly changing news cycle, so it’s our challenge to speak to Americans every day and communicate our vision for a better America.

There are more and more Indian Americans in public life and political roles of late, do you have a message for young Indian Americans who are moving away from traditional jobs and career paths in the US to take the plunge in challenging & unusual careers?

Absolutely. To all of the young Indian-Americans out there, my story is merely one example of what can happen when you do not accept what may be expected of you. Pursue what you’re passionate about. We all grow up around what we think we are supposed to become, but find your own unique path to leave the world better than you found it.

There are more Indian Americans in Congress now than ever before, do you think there will be many more soon?

I hope so. Congress should reflect the communities they represent. So as our country becomes more and more diverse, so should its leadership. The first Indian American Congress person was elected in 1956. That shows how long it took to gain representation, and five today is progress. As the next generation of young Indian-Americans are growing up, they will see more people like them who are elected officials. It is a privilege to be a part of the growth in representation and opportunity. I’m proud to see the diversity throughout our party, which also includes more women and more African American, Latino, Native American and LGBTQ candidates.

In your own career, what has been the most challenging moments?

The 2016 election was one of the most challenging moments of my career. I have spent my life fighting for justice and equality, so to see some of the dangerous rhetoric pushed at the highest government level was frightening and disheartening. Getting up after Election Day and getting back to work was challenging, but I’m proud to continue the fight.

As an immigrant in the US, did you face a glass ceiling?

There will always be discrimination and backlash from those who believe you’re not fit for a certain position or that feel that you don’t belong, but I’m proud of my background. As an Indian-American woman, I will continue to use my platform to demonstrate that, regardless of the challenges that face minorities and women in different professions, we must continue fighting for the recognition we’re due. We have an obligation to ourselves and to future immigrants to keep hammering on that ceiling and create a better future.


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