Tag: Asian-Americans

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Mom, Dad, I’m Voting: A First-Time, First-Generation Voter

First-time voters are getting lots of attention this year — both foreign-born Americans who have recently become naturalized citizens and American-born young people who’ve just reached voting age. Patrick Ng falls into the latter group, but he also comes from an immigrant background: he’s a first-time voter and a first-generation American.

Born in 1987 to parents who immigrated from Myanmar in the 1970s, Patrick is a filmmaker and a third-year student at New York University. He says he’s the one who brings an American influence into his family’s home, and that his parents -who are now U.S. citizens- don’t seem overly concerned with the political process in general and this election in particular. Watch him talk about this and more in this video by Feet in 2 Worlds‘ Jocelyn Gonzales:

As voters, Asian Americans don’t get paid the same attention as other ethnic groups. This is partly because they are underrepresented on the voter rolls. But they could be more important than ever this election year for one key reason: they tend to be an independent-minded voting population, without a clear, long-standing affiliation to either of the parties. Asian American voters could have a potentially pivotal role in states like Virginia and Nevada.

A “groundbreaking” national survey of Asian American voters released last week showed that a majority of them intend to vote for Barack Obama, but that also there are still very significant numbers of undecided among them. The figures were: 41% for Obama, 24% for John McCain, and 34% undecided. This contrasts with the eight percent considered undecided among the general population. [To get the National Asian American Survey, visit this site.]

Asian-Americans’ preference for Obama seems clear. Columnist Jeff Yang went as far as to ask whether Barack Obama could “be the first Asian American president?”

Patrick Ng’s heightened interest in the presidential campaign is not unusual for first-generation Asian Americans this year. It was young activists who created “Asian Americans for” websites in support of both Obama and McCain. And, across the country, young Asian American organizations are trying to build political muscle and get others involved.

Still, some wonder if Asian American young people will turn out in large enough numbers to make a difference. “Who is the Asian American vote? ” asks Glenn Magpantay, a staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York. “I’m actually not sure that it’s young people,” he observes.

Speaking at a recent Feet in Two Worlds forum, Magpantay said, “Young people, especially on four-year college campuses have played a tremendous role in these elections. But for Asian Americans we actually find that 18 to 29 year olds have the lowest voter participation rates. It tends to be those over 50, it’s our parents. And so the family lacks a history of voting. The parents don’t vote because they are not citizens, the kids don’t vote either because no one has approached them about what to do. And for some political parties Asian Americans are not a reliable voting bloc.”

AsianPodcast

Podcast: Asian Elites Weigh Issues, History and Race in the Presidential Contest

Asian voters have been called the, “new sleeping giant,” of American politics. Asians make up about 5 per cent of the US population, and their numbers are growing rapidly. But according to a recent study by researchers at UCLA, political participation by Asian Americans is significantly lower than the national average. Even so, both the Obama and McCain campaigns are reaching out to Asian voters. Lotus Chau, Chief Reporter at Sing Tao Daily in New York recently wrote brief profiles of two Asian American Democrats who have come to very different conclusions about Barack Obama’s candidacy.

For Brian Wang, a first-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention there is, “important symbolic meaning for the Asian community,” if Barack Obama becomes the first black president of United States. Wang, a lawyer from San Francisco, recalled the 1988 primary when his mother voted for Jessie Jackson for the Democratic presidential nomination. Holding a Martin Luther King-style poster which said “Change and Progress” in Chinese, Wang recalled that his mother’s Chinese friends were upset by her support of Jackson. But, he said his mother responded to her friends, “If Jessie can be the president of this country, my son also can be the president one day. Voting minority gave me hope.” Brian said he followed the same path as his mother, supporting Obama and at the same time fulfilling his own dream.

Po-Ling Ng, the director of the Open Door Senior Center, was a Democratic delegate in 2004. She is a long-time supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and in 2000 supported Al Gore for president. This year she was invited to be a Democratic delegate form New York, but she refused the invitation. “Deep in my heart, I am not prepared for a black candidate as president of the country. I don’t want to spend my money and time to support someone not from the bottom of my heart. I prefer to step back and stay in New York,” she said.

A record 270 Asian American delegates attended this year’s Democratic National Convention. There appeared to be only a handful of Asian delegates at the Republican National Convention, although an exact count is not available. However, Asians are organizing on behalf of John McCain. James S. Cheng is a businessman from Virginia who is involved in efforts to build support for McCain among Asian Americans. I spoke with him about campaign strategy and the challenges facing the campaign.

Listen to an interview with James S. Cheng a strategy adviser to the Asian Americans for McCain Coalition.

[audio:http://www.jocelyngonzales.net/FI2W/fi2w_cheng.mp3]
AsianImmigration NewsIndianLatino

Favorite Son? Ethnic groups want Obama in their story

In the media frenzy over the Latino vote and the candidates’ recent speeches before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and National Council of La Raza, scant attention has been paid to Barack Obama’s increasing levels of outreach to other ethnic groups, notably Asian-Americans.

In June, Obama’s Indonesian-American sister Maya Soetoro-Ng appeared at a fundraiser targeting Asian voters in California, where she described Obama’s youth in Indonesia and Hawaii (a state where 56% of the population is Asian-American) in an effort to highlight his close ties to their community. Earlier, Soetoro-Ng’s Chinese-Canadian husband Konrad Ng told the New York-based Chinese newspaper World Journal that Obama was deeply influenced by Asian cultural values as a result of his upbringing. This appeal to Asian-Americans will likely increase as Soetoro-Ng continues to campaign more aggressively in the fall and as the campaign makes a more deliberate effort to engage ethnic media to reach voters.

The renewed emphasis on Asian Americans is part of Obama’s evolution in branding from a “post-racial” candidate at the start of the election cycle- remember his “swift and unequivocal” dismissal of race in November 2006—to that of a multiracial candidate who embraces his multicultural identity. Soetero-Ng acknowledged in an Associated Press interview that during the primary season,“the idea was to downplay to some degree race and ethnicity.” But the national maelstrom created by Rev. Wright’s comments and the burgeoning importance of Latino voters lessens the possibility of the campaign doing so now. (more…)