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…)