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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

May 30, 2006

Written by C.N.

Politicians Wooing Asian Americans

Although it’s taken a while, there seem to be indications that politicians are starting to take Asian Americans seriously as a political bloc and constituency group. In addition to the gradually increasing numbers of Asian American politicians around the country, we find that more and more politicians are directly vying for the “Asian American” vote, as evidenced in California and New York:

It was only a matter of time, and political fairness, before Asians, who make up 11% of [New York City’s] population, began to claim a seat at the table of power, alongside our black, Latino, Irish, Jewish and Italian communities. That long-overdue time has come, and we can thank Queens Councilman John Liu for it.

Liu (D-Flushing) has been on a tear lately, using old-fashioned ethnic politics as a springboard to influence citywide issues. Liu’s rise is good for the city, reflecting the growing clout of New York’s Asian population. . . .

In a [California] Democratic primary that may be decided by a slender margin, the leading candidates are openly wooing what may be a pivotal voting bloc come June 6 — Asian-Americans. . . . “Asian-Americans are the second-fastest growing population in California, and they’re also the second-fastest growing voter bloc” behind Latinos, said Garry South, Westly’s senior strategist.

In 2002, when South worked for former Gov. Gray Davis, Davis became the first candidate for California governor to run TV ads in Asian languages. Targeting them, “is smart strategy.”

I see this as a positive trend. For the longest time, we as Asian Americans were largely ignored or worse, used and portrayed as “the enemy” by politicians playing off racist fears and xenophobia in order to get (re)elected. Is the tide now finally turning in favor of Asian Americans?

Before I can confidently say yes, I need to get some assurances that once politicians are elected with Asian American votes that they will remember that help and support policies that Asian Americans tend to favor, such as higher immigration quotas, shorter waits to sponsor family and relatives, and strong support for education.

In this context, it would make matters a little simpler if Asian Americans were more unified in terms of political ideology (about two-thirds tend to vote Democratic while one-third votes Republican). But perhaps that will come in time — for now, we need to continue showing the political establishment that we have numbers and dollars and that numbers and dollars mean power.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Politicians Wooing Asian Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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