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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.

November 7, 2012

Written by C.N.

Exit Poll Statistics and How Asian Americans Voted in the 2012 Presidential Election

I am relieved to report that after a hard-fought and expensive campaign, President Barack Obama has been reelected as President of the United States, having defeated Republican nominee Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts. Many of the major media outlets and blogs will describe in detail the different factors that led to President Obama’s victory and what his victory means for him in terms of moving forward with his agenda in his second term.

President Obama celebrating his 2012 victory © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

For now, I just wanted to share a few interesting exit poll data and quick observations about this 2012 Presidential election as it relates to Asian American voters and compare it to the President’s 2008 victory. The exit poll statistics below come from both the New York Times and CNN.

How Asian Americans Voted

In the 2008 election, 61% of Asian Americans voted for President Obama. In this 2012 election, that percentage increased to 73% as reported by both the New York Times and CNN. In fact, this number is higher than the percentage of Hispanics/Latinos who voted for President Obama (71%).

Although I have not heard of any high-profile Democratic campaign to appeal to Asian Americans, I think this is a pretty remarkable performance by the President. Increasing his support among Asian Americans seems to suggest that even without a direct and sustained appeal that was specific to Asian Americans, the vast majority of Asian Americans still resonated with President Obama’s platform and message.

I also think that increasing his support from Asian Americans should also dispel the belief that Asian Americans are only concerned with economic success and financial issues. In other words, if the majority of Asian Americans thought that fixing the economy was the single most important issue in the election, more than likely they would have voted for Romney, since most surveys found that more than half of Americans thought that Romney would be better at fixing the economy.

Instead, it seems that most Asian Americans, while still concerned about the economy, also considered other policy and social issues to be important as well, which may include immigration reform, wealth inequality and economic justice, civil and LGBT rights, etc. Perhaps this is due to the demographic trends within the Asian American population and how Asian Americans are gradually become younger and more U.S.-born than in years past.

In the end, President Obama getting 73% of the Asian American vote should also demonstrate rather convincingly that most Asian Americans are solidly liberal. While the ideological pendulum will always swing back and forth and the percentage of Asian Americans who vote Democratic will fluctuate, data from the past several elections confirm that Asian Americans are a pretty solid Democratic constituency.

Along with the Hispanic/Latino community, this should be a wake up call for the Republican Party going forward — if they want to have a fighting chance to consistently capture the White House and Congress in upcoming elections, they need to reverse their swing to the far right and move more toward the center if they want to avoid alienating the growing Hispanic/Latino and Asian American communities.

Along with many other Asian Americans, I will savor this victory for now, but also look forward to using this reelection to enact policies that will move the country forward and make life better for Americans from all backgrounds.

Roundup of How Asian American Candidates Fared

Here is a listing of some articles from Asian American media and bloggers on how Asian American political candidates fared in the 2012 election:


May 10, 2010

Written by C.N.

Arizona, Immigration Reform, and Where the Democratic Party Stands

As I’m sure almost everyone has heard about, a couple of weeks ago the Arizona legislature passed a new law (SB 1070), signed by the Governor, that allows local police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an unauthorized immigrant. In making being in the state without authorization a crime, Arizona police can then arrest and begin deportation proceedings against those who cannot properly document that they are legal immigrants.

As many critics of the law point out, the law basically legalizes racial profiling against Latinos, anyone who looks Latino and more generally people of color since it is highly unlikely that this new law can be carried out without the police resorting to racial profiling against the racial/ethnic group most often associated with the issue of unauthorized immigration: Latinos. In other words, it is highly unlikely that Whites will be stopped in large numbers by police and told to prove that they’re in the U.S. legally.

My family and I had plans on visiting Arizona this summer, seeing some friends, and camping at the Grand Canyon (it would have been my daughter’s first visit to the Grand Canyon). But along with many people in the U.S. and around the world who condemn this law, including many Asian Americans, we decided to act on our opposition to this new law by canceling our trip and are now boycotting Arizona. My daughter was disappointed but certainly understands and supports the reason behind it.

Others have written very detailed and convincing critiques of Arizona’s law and I don’t want to just echo what they’ve already said. Instead, I would like to reemphasize some points made by Debra J. Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle. She points out that while it’s natural and generally for critics of Arizona’s law to focus on Republicans for condemnation, Democrats are not completely free of blame either:

President Obama called the Arizona law “misguided” and said he favors “commonsense comprehensive immigration reform.” It’s all lip service. President Obama reneged on his 2008 campaign pledge to push immigration reform – with a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens – during his first year in office because, well, it’s political poison.

At a Cinco de Mayo event last week, Obama had a new promise – “to begin work this year” on an immigration bill. In Spanish that translates into: Adios, amigos. Of course, not all Latino voters want to relax immigration laws, but to the extent that they do, they have guaranteed that the Democratic Party will take their votes for granted.

Meanwhile, why should Republicans stick their necks out for a demographic that abandoned John McCain in the 2008 presidential election? He risked his political ambitions by pushing for a federal bill with a pathway to citizenship in 2007 and then, according to an Edison/Mitofsky exit poll, McCain won a lousy 31 percent of the Latino vote- down from George W. Bush’s 44 percent in the 2004 presidential contest.

Obama helped kill that bill, and he won 67 percent of the demographic.

When it’s in their interests, Democrats ditch their pro-illegal immigration corner. In 2003, the Democratic California Legislature passed a bill to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. Voters revolted and recalled Gov. Gray Davis, who signed the measure. In a craven act of cowardice, the Legislature quickly voted to rescind the bill it had passed.

In 2009, the Obama administration deported 5 percent more illegal immigrants than the Bush administration deported in 2008. As part of his immigration reform proposal, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, is pushing for a national ID card for all American workers – the very type of documentation that critics of the Arizona law have said will turn Arizona into the “Your papers, please” state.

Saunders’ last point about Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer deserves particular attention. A few months ago, Schumer and South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham laid out their “blueprint” for comprehensive immigration reform (this was before the Arizona law as passed). As printed in the Washington Post, some of their provisions directly mirror the anti-immigrant sentiment that prompted the Arizona law:

We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card. . . . We would bolster recent efforts to secure our borders by increasing the Border Patrol’s staffing and funding for infrastructure and technology. More personnel would be deployed to the border immediately to fill gaps in apprehension capabilities.

Other steps include expanding domestic enforcement to better apprehend and deport those who commit crimes and completing an entry-exit system that tracks people who enter the United States on legal visas and reports those who overstay their visas to law enforcement databases. . . .

For the 11 million immigrants already in this country illegally . . . they would be required to admit they broke the law and to pay their debt to society by performing community service and paying fines and back taxes. These people would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.

Regardless of their political ideology, almost everyone generally agrees that as it stands, our current immigration system and policies are broken and need to be fixed. For years, conservatives have argued for an strict “enforcement first” approach that focuses on keeping unauthorized immigrants from entering in the first place and deporting as many as possible those already in the U.S. (or at least making life so miserable for them that they voluntarily leave the country).

Historically, Democrats have supported a more forgiving approach to immigration reform that, while acknowledging their unauthorized status, also recognizes the contributions that they make to the economy through sales, income, and other taxes that they pay and in making labor-intensive industries such as agriculture and construction more globally competitive, to name just a few.

But nowadays, as Julia Preston at the New York Times writes, it seems that Democrats have become just as “enforcement-first” as Republicans:

The enforcement would be more far-reaching than anything in place now — or anything proposed by the administration of President George W. Bush. It begins with “zero tolerance” for immigrants trying to enter the country illegally, by tightening border enforcement and by barring them from taking jobs in the United States.

“It shows how far the Democrats have moved in terms of tougher and tougher enforcement,” said Edward Alden, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who studies immigration. “Across the board you see language that would be very comfortable in a proposal written by Republicans.”

This change in direction by the Democratic Party is not an encouraging sign for supporters of addressing the issue of unauthorized immigration in a more holistic manner (recognizing the humanity of the people involved, the economic reasons many decide to enter the U.S. in the first place, the diversity of the unauthorized immigrant population to include not just border crossers but visa overstayers, and the contributions they make to the U.S.). In fact, while there are still some Democratic politicians who share these beliefs, I would say that as a rule, we can no longer rely on the Democratic party or Democratic politicians to be a staunch ally in terms of supporting a humanistic and holistic approach to comprehensive reform. And as much as I hate to say it, this includes President Obama.

Granted, much of the change in attitude among Democratic politicians toward a stricter “enforcement-first” approach is due to the practical realities of wanting to appeal to their mostly White constituents to get reelected (itself a reflection of the emerging White backlash movement). Nonetheless, for many liberals like me, seeing the Democratic Party distancing itself from their traditional support of true comprehensive immigration reform feels like a kick in the stomach and a betrayal.

At least when it comes to the issue of immigration reform, many within the Democratic Party seem to be making choosing what’s convenient over what’s right.


November 4, 2009

Written by C.N.

John Liu: Asian American Politician on the Rise

Yesterday was Election Day and there were many Asian American candidates running for office throughout the country. For those who are curious, APAs for Progress has a summary of how individual Asian American candidates did in their particular contests. Perhaps the biggest win for Asian Americans came with the victory of John C. Liu to be New York City’s Comptroller. As the New York Times summarizes, Liu’s win is significant in many ways:

John C. Liu © Rob Bennett/New York Times

New York City Councilman John C. Liu was elected city comptroller in 2009, becoming the first Asian-American elected to citywide office in New York City. Mr. Liu’s victory could quickly make him a strong contender for mayor in 2013. . . .

In 2001 Mr. Liu, then a consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers, became the first Asian member of the City Council. The election was hailed as a watershed for the Chinese-American community, which had long been shut out of the political mainstream. Mr. Liu easily won re-election in 2003 and 2005.

These sentiments and early speculation about Liu’s plans for the future are echoed in another news report from New York City’s WCBS TV news station:

[Liu’s successful campaign] is a big deal to many. “He is also an immigrant like me, is not American-born like me, so it’s very exciting,” said supporter Wing Ma. Some see his victory as a fitting reflection of national politics in the age of Obama. “I see a parallel, for him to make history,” said Henry Singleton. . . .

Of course four years is a long way off and no one becomes mayor in this town without a fight, but on Tuesday night, New York’s new comptroller-elect is giving off the glow of a political rising star.

Indeed, a lot of good and bad things can happen to Liu in the next four years, so it is rather early to pencil him in for any higher political office at this point. Nonetheless, he is definitely a rising star in the Democratic party and among many Asian Americans and is worth keeping an eye on in the upcoming years.

I congratulate John C. Liu and wish him the best success.


July 13, 2006

Written by C.N.

Sen. Biden’s Comments About Indians

Recently, Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware commented on a C-SPAN cable television show that “you cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin’ Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent.” Many Indian Americans found this comment to be rather offensive, while Biden explained that he actually meant it as a compliment to the Indian American community:

Biden’s office said the senator admires, supports and respects the Indian-American community — and also sought to explain his gaffe.

“The point Sen. Biden was making is that there has been a vibrant Indian-American community in Delaware for decades. It has primarily been made up of engineers, scientists and physicians, but more recently, middle-class families are moving into Delaware and purchasing family-run small businesses,” said Margaret Aitken, a Biden spokeswoman.

“These families have greatly contributed to the vibrancy of the Indian-American community in Delaware and are making a significant contribution to the national economy as well,” she said.

For now, I am willing to give Biden the benefit of the doubt and believe that deep down, he was trying to complement the Indian American community. However, at best, it should be clear that his comments were in rather poor taste and a very bad choice of words.

If he were trying to complement the Indian American community, he should have just said that he’s pleased to see so many Indian families moving to his state and contributing to the state’s economy and their community by buying small businesses, rather than use the tired, generalizing stereotype of “all convenience stores are owned by Indians.”

Hopefully this episode will serve as a lesson to public officials — that even if you think you’re making a compliment to a particular racial, ethnic, or cultural group, using generalizations to get your point across can backfire and may ultimately cost you support among those you were trying to complement in the first place.