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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.

October 9, 2007

Written by C.N.

Mixing Political Ideologies Among Vietnamese Americans

Data on voting patterns consistently show that among Asian Americans, Vietnamese Americans are the most likely to vote Republican. Most scholars and observers agree that this tendency is due to their strong anti-communist ideology that is closely aligned with that of Republicans. But as the Orange County Register reports, in recent years, there has been a very interesting mix of political activities and crossing of traditional party lines going on in Little Saigon, the southern California enclave that is the heart of the Vietnamese American community:

When Garden Grove’s Van Tran launched his historic bid for Assembly in 2004, it was uncertain if he’d even survive the Republican primary. So he hit the streets of Little Saigon. Tran signed up new voters and persuaded a few thousand more to change their existing registration to the GOP, so they could vote for him in the primary. It’s among the county’s most dramatic voter drives. . . .

Last year, [many] GOP voters turned around and helped elect Democratic labor activist Andrew Nguyen – no relation – to the Westminster school board. Andrew Nguyen subsequently endorsed Republican Trung Nguyen – no relation – for county supervisor in the February election. Party membership can seem superfluous among Vietnamese Americans, despite their rapid ascent as a political force.

Thanks in large measure to Tran, Republicans have an advantage in registration – but Tran is also friendly and helpful to Andrew Nguyen and to Democrat Madison Nguyen. Madison Nguyen is a groundbreaking councilwoman representing a large Vietnamese population in the predominantly Democratic city of San Jose.

“Part of being a leader is building coalitions,” Tran said. “[A]s long as there are issues like human rights and democracy in Vietnam – those issues transcend party politics.” . . .

School board member Andrew Nguyen proudly touts his party’s concern with health care and social issues, and attacks the GOP on the Iraq war. Yet he’s also part of Tran’s circle. “We talk all the time,” Nguyen said. “No matter what differences we have, we represent the same community. The important thing is that we care about education. We know that is our future.” . . .

While Little Saigon doesn’t have much of a Democratic support system, Nguyen does have Tran’s network. In fact, he joined Tran and six other elected Republicans in opening a joint office there, to coordinate constituent services.

To be honest, at first, I was a little surprised to read this article and to hear about the ways in which Vietnamese American politicians are collaborating and supporting each other across traditional party lines. Vietnamese Americans are known to be very passionate and even perhaps a little militant when it comes to politics, especially as it relates to their hatred of the communist party in Viet Nam.

However, as I reflected more on this article, I remembered that along with being very political, the Vietnamese American community is also very socially cohesive and enjoys a high degree of ethnic solidarity. There are a few ways that this kind of solidarity has been exemplified in the past. One is the creation of the Little Saigon enclave in the first place, an impressive feat accomplished through the collective efforts of developers, businesses, and customers.

Another example of solidarity among Vietnamese Americans is their relatively low rates of outmarriage. As shown with the latest Census data on my Interracial Dating and Marriage article, Vietnamese Americans (even those born or raised in the U.S.) consistently have the highest endogamous marriage rates (marrying within your own ethnic group) of the six largest Asian groups.

To that list, we can now add the kind of political collaboration described in the article. That is, this high level of ethnic solidarity is apparent in how Vietnamese American politicians and voters can easily cross traditional political boundaries to support “one of their own,” with whether his/her political party matches their own being a relatively minor consideration.

As history tells us, this kind of collective unity and social solidarity can have very powerful benefits for a particular racial/ethnic group as time goes on.


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

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Mixing Political Ideologies Among Vietnamese Americans" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/headlines/2007/10/mixing-political-ideologies-among-vietnamese-americans/> ().

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