Look at the screenshot above. Can you imagine if, instead of Hindi's Devanagari script, it were written in Chinese? Or in Arabic? Or even in Spanish, a language that tens of millions of Americans speak?
The United States' political slugfest is now crossing new frontiers. Less than two weeks before the presidential election, Donald Trump's campaign has released an ad airing on TV channels aimed at Indian Americans in which he not only speaks Hindi (albeit roughly), but adopts the main campaign slogan of India's prime minister, Narendra Modi.
“Ab ki baar Modi sarkaar.” Those were the words Modi used to fuel his landslide victory in May 2014. They mean: “This time, a Modi government.” In the ad, which you can watch below, Trump switches Modi's name out for his own.
The ad comes on the heels of Trump's address to the Indian American community at a convention center in Edison, N.J., on Oct. 15. Featured in the ad are clips from his speech, which he used to assure Indian Americans that the United States and India would be “best friends.”
In the speech, as in the ad, he expressed a deep admiration for Modi, who was denied a U.S. visa in 2005 over his alleged support for Hindu extremists during Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002. Modi has since rebuilt his reputation among U.S. officials and hosted President Obama in New Delhi in 2015 and visited the Oval Office in June for talks.
“I will look forward to working with Prime Minister Modi, who has been very energetic in reforming India's bureaucracy,” said Trump at the rally in Edison. “Great man! I applaud him for doing so. And I look forward to doing some serious bureaucratic trimming right here in the United States. Believe me, we need it also.”
Campaign outreach in various languages is not groundbreaking. Trump's Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, began running a Spanish-language TV ad last week, and has run radio ads in Florida in Creole for Haitian American voters. In 1988, Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis often sprinkled his speeches with Greek.
This may be the first time Hindi has made the list for a targeted ad. It also seems like a long shot.
Trump severely lags behind his Clinton in support from Indian Americans. Only 7 percent of likely Indian American voters indicated in a recent survey that they intended to vote for him, as opposed to 70 percent who said they would vote for Clinton.
Nevertheless, a group called the Republican Hindu Coalition, led by Indian American electronics magnate Shalli Kumar, is hoping to persuade some in the community to vote Trump. Kumar and his immediate family have donated about $2 million to the Trump campaign, and he spent upward of $3 million of his own money on organizing the event in Edison, a city with a large Indian American population.
Trump's perceived tough stance on “radical Islamic terrorism” is one issue Kumar thinks can swing the traditionally Democratic voting bloc Republican. In the new ad, Trump uses those three words while a picture of Mumbai's iconic Taj Mahal hotel burns in the background. The hotel was attacked in 2008 by terrorists operating out of Pakistan who arrived in the port city by boat.
Yet, with polls shaping up decidedly in Clinton's favor in the lead-up to November's election, a Modi-esque landslide for Trump is unlikely. And given that Indian American voters make up a minuscule percentage of the American voting public, the community was never going to tip that balance anyhow.