February 13, 2016

Why the Lack of AAPI Political Engagement?

Editor’s Note: Anthony Chen is our 2016 Mike Honda Writing Fellow. Anthony is currently a Sophomore at Harvard University studying Statistics and Government. A second-generation immigrant and first-generation American, Anthony has been intrigued with the political process since a young age. This interest has developed into experience interning for Representative Mike Honda on Capitol Hill and involvement with the International Relations Council and a mentoring program on campus. Outside of writing for the Asian American Action Fund, Anthony enjoys playing rugby and making GoPro videos in his free time.

Asian Americans are the fasting growing racial group in the United States, increasing at a rate four times that of the total American population. But while the APA eligible electorate grows, the actual voting population lags significantly behind. In fact, Asian Americans had the lowest voter turnout rates among all racial groups at 46.9%, and the numbers for Asian American millennials like myself are even worse with only 37.3% voter turnout. Asian Americans are one of the most educated populations in the U.S, but after adjusting for education and income, the gap in voter turnout rate between Asian Americans and whites grows even more. There is hope, however; the number of Asian American registered voters is predicted to be over 12 million by 2040, more than doubling the 5.9 million in 2015.

It seems that even in a presidential election cycle as chaotic as this one, Asian Americans are almost unwilling participants. One of the most dominant and contentious issues for 2016 has been immigration reform, but as the second largest demographic affected by immigration changes, Asian Americans have been curiously left out of the debate. Only after comments like Jeb Bush’s on “anchor babies” or Donald Trump’s plans to ban all Muslims from entering the country that echoed Japanese internship camps are the views and concerns of Asian Americans recognized in the nationwide immigration discussion.

So what are the causes for the lack of Asian American political engagement? Surveys have shown that Asian Americans were the most likely racial group to choose “too busy, conflicting work or school schedule” as the reason why they didn’t vote; clearly voting is not a priority. This could be explained in part by the fact 61% of Asian eligible voters are foreign born, Asian Americans have recently replaced Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants, so there may be a natural disconnect with the U.S. political process. The Asian American population is also heavily concentrated in certain districts and areas that are not likely to be battleground states, making the effort and time it takes to vote seem less necessary. 46% of the Asian population in the United States live in the West, most notably California, and almost three-fourths of the entire Asian American population live just in ten states.
But even in non-battleground states, Asian Americans have a unique role especially in primary elections. As seen Monday night after the Iowa caucuses, there was a virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. As noted by AAPI Data, the small 1% of total votes held by Asian Americans could have made a significant difference. And in states with large Asian American populations, the increase in actual APA voters has created a new generation of Asian American politicians. The ongoing California Congressional races of Rep. Mike Honda in the 15th district, Rep. Ami Bera in the 16th district, and Rep. Mark Takano in the 41st district all draw from huge Asian American voter turnout rates. These three representatives come from backgrounds in all levels of education serving as teachers and even superintendents, bringing a different perspective to Capitol Hill.

The increasing Asian American population moving to Southern states also serve as important swing votes, where their primarily democratic views have huge impacts in local level races. Kumar Barve, running to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, is seeking support to be the first Asian American elected to Congress from Maryland, after he already broke ground as the first Indian American to win a state legislative seat. But as he’s said in an interview with AAAF, this won’t be possible with the involvement of young people. So let’s get out there, get engaged, and most importantly vote!

Get Paid to Write For Us

writing pen on paper

Do you write? Want to get paid to do it?

Apply to be our Political Writing Fellow! It’s a paid internship to write 4 posts & 1 newsletter.

Compensation: paid monthly stipend (per experience), Democratic National Convention access

The Asian American Action Fund works to increase Asian American political participation at all levels, especially Congressional. We do so by mentoring candidates, advising campaigns, aiding logistics (get out the votes, writing assistance), media (blog, social media, newsletter), endorsing candidates, sponsoring events, and making donations. We seek a writing fellow to write our newsletter, press releases, and social media posts.

What We’ll Give You:

  • nationally renowned AAPI PAC to add to your resume
  • access to prominent AAPIs politicians per your role & interests
  • opportunity to cover the 2016 DNC (Democratic National Convention) in Philadelphia where the party will select their nominee for POTUS; access but room/board not paid though we can book together

You’ll write monthly:

  1. 8 social media posts to reinforce our mission to increase AAPI political participation in the US
  2. 1 newsletter
  3. 1-2 press releases, often in short order since they’ll be about the news of the day

We pay by mailing a check by the 15th of the month following the calendar month in which the requirements are completed.

Apply to fellowship@aaa-fund.org with:

  1. What is your interest in AAPI political participation?
  2. Where can we read 1 writing sample (URL or paste plain text)?
  3. What’s your future in politics?
  4. How will you give the needed time & labor commitment?
  5. 3 professional references
  6. 1 resume/cv
  7. name, address, email, cell, chat method (if any); WhatsApp & GTalk are popular

We look forward to hearing from you!

As always, written submissions to this blog are always welcome.

Trump Is Racist, No Outrage, Just Press Releases

God Isn't Fixing This

A rhetorically expected statement about Trump’s continued racist remarks, too many to bother surgically listing, merely preaches to the same choir.

  • It’s time to take the language to the level that few here dare do and to cite what enables Trump
  • lack of unity, despite all the hot air about unity, diversity, and every self-contradictory in between while the GOP uses hate to cement itself against the backboneless everyone else (that includes the mainstream GOP)
  • no backbone against hate, instead preferring hippie kumbaya responses; you don’t go into a gun fight with a knife
  • standing around Hillary instead of her earning the nomination if lobbyists routed their money more diversely so she doesn’t have to do much, just a few PR-checked words against Trump instead of real action against his hate such as, oh, tangibly defunding his businesses
  • inability to relate or even write (or speak) evocatively, the few who do are highly compensated folks at thank tanks, 2 magazines (The Atlantic, The New Yorker) and in the government service (all referred by each other, of course) securely insulated by holiday parties and travel plans instead of on the ground like the motivated folks are
  • closeting moderate Muslims, preferring to send no one to represent 1.7B believers because not enough grassroots meetings were held to find a such figurehead then liberally debate whether a religion should have a figurehead … well, in that time, others hijacked an otherwise fine religion
  • inability to discuss national security because Hillary’s too busy trying to play the political fit between the GOP and her opponent instead of speaking with conviction; it might be an image problem, but whatever, same result regardless of cause
  • inability to discuss religion without getting all fuzzy and defensive (isn’t this article full of fuzz? does nothing for anyone but its own kind) instead of conveying what its purpose is; come on, we’re adults, why’re we afraid of terms like, radical Muslims, extremist Christians, perverting the flag of Jesus, etc? being politically correct is industry insiders’ day jobs not the public’s care
  • I could go on about how weak the response is to Trump’s hate, but if you even read this far, comment below then

While opponents feign offense, Trump happily spreads unfettered racism. Until you folk grow a backbone and do more than read a blog and take action when you can’t even comment below, consider yourself on the defensive. Prepare for defeat if you’ve not prepared for battle.

Conservative blogger condemns all Asian food on Dec 7th

Red State founder Erick Erickson seems to have a hate on for Asian food. Or at least his parents begrudged it on Pearl Harbor Day.

Growing up, I remember my parents never letting us have Asian food on December 7th. They were children of WWII.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) December 7, 2015

Let’s take a moment to think about how incredibly limited of a worldview (and culinary perspective) that is. Asia is a vast continent whose cuisine covers everything from Vietnamese pho to Indian and Thai curries to eggrolls (which could be Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Singaporean, Japanese.)

As NYMag writer Jonathan Chait says:
Boycotting “Asian food” because of Japan is exactly like boycotting “European food” because of Germany.

I mean, did the Ericksons also avoid pasta, schnitzel, gravlox, waffles, and rye bread? It’s this type of sweeping generalization that ignores the deep and painful histories that have lingered since before World War II. It’s a microcosm of when someone says to an Asian American, “What are you? Chinese, Korean, Japanese? Oh, you’re all the same anyways.” (And yes, I’ve heard multiple variations on this.)

It’s this kind of perspective that led to Chinese American Detroit resident Vincent Chin’s death at the hands of irate Chrysler employee Ronald Ebens and his stepson who were upset about the rise of Japanese automobiles in the United States, and the loss of American jobs. It’s indiscriminate, vitriolic hate. And it actually has real consequences.

This limited worldview conflates vastly different cultures and foods, and also sideswipes the difference between Asia and Asian America. So they decided to not patron an Asian restaurant on Pearl Harbor Day, therefore depriving an Asian American family of some revenue. If Erickson wants to fondly remember how his parents were ignorant, then fine, pass the broccoli and beef – more for the rest of us who celebrate culture through food. Here’s to stomach diplomacy.


The below is from our friends at the DNC AAPI office.


    As we head into 2016, we want to engage directly with all of you with up-to-date news and national conference calls to get your feedback on our efforts. Your participation now ensures that your voice is heard when the nominee is apparent. Fill out the following form to be part of our national advisory group and let us know what we can do to engage you. It only takes 2 mins!


    With primaries and caucuses about to begin in 2016, please take the time to review our AAPI training on how to participate at the Democratic National Convention. If you have any questions on how to connect with your state parties, let us know.


    Courting the Youth Vote: How Both Parties Plan to Target Asian-American Millennials
    During a recent DNC Google Hangout training session, Kota Mizutani, a third-year undergraduate student at Brown University and treasurer of Brown’s Asian American Student Association praised the DNC’s efforts, telling NBC News that the video chat-based sessions showed the DNC cared about young voters’ positions.
    “It’s helpful for us to have this comprehensive review for different tips and steps,” Mizutani said. “My main takeaway was how to get connected with the state party.”

    Supreme Court to Begin Hearing Arguments on Legislative Redistricting Case
    “About one in four Asians and Pacific Islanders are not yet citizens of the United States, yet most are eligible for naturalization,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Eric Walker told NBC News. The DNC filed an amicus brief for Evenwel v. Abbott in September.
    “Excluding these lawful permanent residents for the purposes of redistricting would significantly decrease their political power relative to other groups, such as the white plurality,” Walker said.


    1PM-3PM EST
    Please RSVP to Elias Gonzalez,
    DNC Veterans Outreach Coordinator, at Gonzaleze@dnc.org

AAA Fund Condemns Remarks of Roanoke Mayor to Treat Syrian Refugees like Japanese American Internees

Editor’s Note: We posted it on our Facebook and Twitter. Repost.

AAAF logo

NOVEMBER 19, 2015

Contact: Gautam Dutta (415) 236-2048

AAA Fund Condemns Remarks of Roanoke Mayor to Treat Syrian Refugees like Japanese American Internees

Asian American and Pacific Islander Democratic PAC condemns politicians who seek to scapegoat vulnerable populations

American values do not include xenophobia. Roanoke Mayor David Bowers is wrong to call for treating Syrian refugees the way Japanese American citizens were sent to internment camps during World War II. It was one of the darkest decisions by the American government to unfairly and cruelly relocate and separate Japanese American families, and our government has apologized and made reparations for its actions. It is reprehensible to suggest that Executive Order 9066 was a model policy for how we should treat refugees to our country.

AAA Fund Board Member Ken Inouye commented, “It is truly hard to believe that in this day and age we are seeing the Japanese American Internment being cited as something to be lauded and emulated. President Ronald Reagan had the courage and leadership to sign HR 442 (the Civil Liberties Act of 1988), apologizing on behalf of the people of the United States for the Japanese American internment. Years ago, our great country formally recognized this dark episode of our history for what it was: a mistake, and today we call on politicians of both parties to stand up to xenophobic elements in our communities and work to fulfill the greatest version of our democracy.”

Earlier today, AAA Fund’s Honorary Chair, Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) was interviewed about his experience in the Granada Relocation Camps in Amache, Colorado. “We were able to get the country to recognize that what led to the incarceration was three things: Racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership,” Honda said.

“That’s what makes this country so great: In the face of this kind of peril — terror, tragedy and disruption — that we remain calm and anchored to our Constitution,” Honda said. “That’s what makes us so different.”

The Asian American Action Fund supports the Constitutional and equal treatment of refugees, who are some of the most vulnerable amongst us. Refugees in this nation have gone on to become some of our most celebrated Americans including Albert Einstein, Madeleine Albright, and former U.S. Representative Anh “Joseph” Cao (R-LA).


The Asian American Action Fund (www.aaa-fund.com) is a national Democratic political organization whose goal is to increase the voice of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) in local, state and federal government, by encouraging AAPIs to volunteer on campaigns, raise money for candidates, and run for political office.

Rep. Mike Honda on Roanoke Mayor’s remarks

I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. Here’s what happened: Democratic Roanoke Mayor David Bowers issued a statement on Weds saying that he would deny assistance to Syrian refugees, making a favorable comparison to the internment of Japanese Americans:

“I’m reminded that Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from [the Islamic State] now is just as real and serious a threat as that from our enemies then,” he said.

My initial response was, that’s so wrong. Literally wrong. 2/3 of the Japanese Americans who were interned were citizens, not foreign nationals. Also, that period of history is one of the worst times of American history and in the 1980s, Congress passed and President Reagan signed a bill to apologize and make reparations to Japanese American families who were separated and relocated.

Rep. Honda has so much more to say, and so much more eloquently. From his interview with the Washington Post:

When we spoke, shortly after Bowers’s (D) statement was published, Honda took strong issue with the mayor’s innocuous depiction of the internment. The program began in 1942 with the enactment of Executive Order 9066 a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The order mandated that people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast be moved further inland, out of fear that sympathizers among the group would take up arms or conduct sabotage. But Bowers got basic facts wrong.

“First of all, we weren’t foreign nationals,” Honda said. “Two-thirds were natural-born citizens and the rest couldn’t become citizens because federal law prohibited us from becoming citizens.” What’s more, Honda noted, Bowers fundamentally misunderstood the nature of the program.

“My father volunteered to be part of the group that taught Naval Intelligence the Japanese language, because when they incarcerated other Japanese, they found out that they had no one who could listen to their communication,” Honda said. “They had other Japanese Americans who were incarcerated, and engaged them in the fighting overseas in the South Pacific.”

That resonates with Honda now. “The bottom line for me is that the failure of political leadership is what we have to talk about,” he said. Pointing out America’s past mistakes — history being doomed to repeat itself, and so on — is critical to “quieting the fears” of the moment.

Despite Mayor Bower being a Democrat, his history is quite mixed. He defeated the Democratic incumbent mayor, running as an independent. Bower was a member of Hillary for Virginia’s committee, but has since been removed and the Hillary campaign moved quickly to distance itself from his remarks.

Josh Schwerin, of Clinton’s campaign, had to say when The Post’s David Weigel asked about supporter Bowers’s statement: “The internment of people of Japanese descent is a dark cloud on our nation’s history and to suggest that it is anything but a horrible moment in our past is outrageous.”

Tennessee GOP House Chair Glen Casada goes even further, calling for rounding up and detaining Syrian refugees. From the Tennessean:

“We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can,” said House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, referencing refugees.

“We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.’ “

It’s so great to see how politicians on both sides can be alarmist and xenophobic. [/sarcasm]

More fall out from Bowers’ remarks – the national Democratic Party distancing itself. Even the Virginia Republicans didn’t want anything to do with his remarks.

Here is the DNC chair and Rep. Honda’s joint statement, fresh off the presses:

DNC Chair and Rep. Honda joint statement on Mayor David Bowers’ comments


WASHINGTON – DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), a former vice chair of the DNC who lived in a Japanese internment camp during World War II, released the following joint statement today in response to comments made by Mayor David Bowers of Roanoke, VA:


“Mayor Bowers’ comments about Japanese internment do not represent the values of the Democratic Party, and his rhetoric has no place in our party. The cruel and baseless Japanese internment policies enacted during World War II are an ugly stain on our democracy, and should not be used to justify future exclusionary policies. Mayor Bowers should reflect on dark moments like these in our history when the dual crises of war abroad and the perceived threat of terror at home have emboldened dangerous xenophobia in America.

“We are a nation of immigrants born out of an enduring desire to be free, but it’s essential that we avoid repeating the mistakes of our predecessors. As the war against terror continues worldwide, the Democratic Party is firmly committed to recognizing the humanity of refugees and honoring and protecting the liberty, security and diversity of our great nation.”




Interview with Kumar Barve for MD-8

Editor’s Note:  Maryland Majority Leader and AAA-Fund Honorary Board member and the first Indian-American elected to state legislature Kumar Barve runs to represent Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. The AAA-Fund endorses Kumar Barve and we interviewed him last week.

Kumar Barve for Congress
  1. How did you get your start in politics?

    I started in politics, like most people, by volunteering on campaigns.  I grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland attending public schools.  There weren’t any kids who looked like me or had a name like mine.  When I became interested in politics I saw that none of the volunteers, workers or, certainly, the candidates or elected officials, looked like me.  I became increasingly interested in serving in government, working on issues of social justice and economic opportunity and expanding AAPI participation in the political and  civic life of their communities.  I ran for a seat in the state legislature at a time when I was an unknown and a huge underdog and at a time when no Indian American had ever won a state legislative seat in our nation.  I am very proud that my election in 1990 inspired so many AAPIs to seek and win elective office.  If elected to Congress, I will continue to break ground as the first Asian American to elected to Congress from Maryland.

  2. The AAAF’s mission is to increase AAPI participation in politics
    especially at the federal level such as your campaign does. What would you like to see us do more?

    I would like to see AAAF continue its outreach especially to students and young adults.  The AAPI community needs to continue to build a political farm team.  When I ran for state legislature in 1990 I received virtually no support from the community.  To the extent there was political involvement at that time  it was focused on presidential politics.  We need young people to get involved, to get involved in their communities and to vote!  We need to recruit young people to run for local offices – school board, city and town councils, county office, and the state legislature.  AAAF should be continue to be involved at the federal level and I am grateful for the support of my campaign for Congress –  but we also need to focus on the local offices which will add additional qualified, experienced Congressional candidates in the future.

  3. What’s your hope for your successor in MD House District 17?

    My hope is that my successor will a strong effective progressive legislator, dedicated to the community and constituent service, and, hopefully, reflective of the increasing diversity of my state legislative district.

  4. How do you feel the Maryland elections will end up representing AAPIs?

    First, we need to make sure that AAPI community and political leaders support their own when qualified candidates present themselves.  Next, we need to reach out to all parts of the AAPI community to make sure that they come out and vote.  In areas like mine, it is imperative that the AAPI community recognize that our elected officials are chosen in Democratic primaries and register as Democrats to ensure that the voice of the AAPI community is heard in our elections.

  5. What do you want your constituents-to-be to know as they vote on Nov. 8?

    Well, first I want them to know that the Democratic Primary is April 26.  In the 8th Congressional District, the Democratic nominee is highly likely to be the next Member of Congress so it is imperative that AAPIs register to vote as Democrats and support my candidacy for Congress in the April 26 primary.

    I want the voters to know that I work will hard for them on a pragmatic progressive agenda focusing on the environment and job creation while fighting climate change and encroachment on social justice issues from the right  Voters in my district are concerned about the disappearance of good middle class jobs and quality affordable college education.  They are afraid that their children will never pay off their students loans and move out of their homes.  We must raise the minimum wage and train our workers to fill the millions of job openings across American with qualified workers.