Monday, May 19th, 2008

The Candidates Have An Asian American Problem

One of the main reasons this presidential election has been historic is that every imaginable demographic has been in play. Long ignored constituencies seem to have suddenly appeared on the screens of political operatives.

Speculation abounds. Will African American vote break the Republican stranglehold on the south? Can Republican nominee McCain split the Latino vote? Will young voters make the Dem candidate invulnerable? None of these questions seemed remotely imaginable before January.

But Asian Americans still get no love.

A presidential forum this past weekend in Irvine, California, organized by APIA Vote confirmed this. Before a reported crowd of 1,000, none of the candidates even bothered to show.

Clinton did a canned speech and took no questions, despite her heavy reliance on Asian Americans for the plum Super Tuesday primary victory in California. McCain’s supporters claimed he couldn’t access the satellite tech to make the appearance, even though he was in New York City to tape Saturday Night Live, a show that happens to be broadcast, uh, live via satellite.

(Hmmm, what genius thought that excuse would get over with Asians?)

Obama literally phoned it in from Oregon. But he spoke about his family–which is as Asian as it is African and white–and took questions–including a thorny one about Native Hawaiian sovereignty in his state of birth. If Clinton took the Asian American vote in key states earlier this spring, credit Obama for not taking it for granted looking toward the fall.

Obama has been accused of having an “Asian American” problem. He did. Last year, Obama’s campaign staff issued a memo criticizing Clinton’s support for outsourcing by mocking her as the Democratic Senator from Punjab. Obama quickly distanced himself from the comments but no heads rolled over the foulup.

Truth be told, the other campaigns look like they have it worse.

Last month, Hillary Clinton’s campaign rallied white voters in Pennsylvania with what Emil Guillermo calls “yellow peril” ads. No one on her lengthy list of Asian American endorsers jeopardized their delegate seats by making any noise about it.

Worse, McCain has never apologized for his “I hate the gooks” comment. (Add that to his ongoing denial of his own pastor problem–even the pastor apologized, kinda–and you’ve got a pattern.)

So leave it to Def Slammer Beau Sia to rock the event with this rant. Too bad that by the time he got onstage most of the political operatives had left.

posted by @ 2:06 pm | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “The Candidates Have An Asian American Problem”

  1. Phenmetrazine says:

    Look at the math. The APA vote appears to be split. The small electorate size to begin with means there isn’t much there to fight for at this point. Much bigger battles are elsewhere.
    A crowd of a thousand isn’t much in a land of near 300 million when the days till November are going fast.

  2. Zentronix says:

    OK I suck at math, but just to humor you, let’s look at it.

    APAs always play a role in the usual places–Hawai’i, New York, California–and in typically Dem states like Washington, New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachussetts, even if this year their vote has been taken for granted.

    But what you–and most party leaders–don’t realize is that huge growth in the past decade mean APAs will increasingly be playing a key role in battleground states like Nevada, Arizona, and Texas.

    This general election could turn on small slices of demographics, the same way the primaries have. But it’s just as important to recognize that these numbers are only going to increase.

    Finally, the APA population is younger than the general population. The bulge of APAs, unlike whites, is in the 20-40 year -old range. Whoever converts this group has not just a potential margin-of-victory now, but a long-term advantage.

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