“Since 2008, the Presidential Election Forum has served as a forum for AAPIs to push for AAPI issues to be addressed and on the radar of campaigns and the media. In giving presidential candidates a space to directly address AAPI community members, leaders, and organizers, the Election Forum has become one of the few spaces geared specifically for candidates to speak directly to AAPIs, about AAPIs. “
This year, all four major party candidates were represented:
Attendees used social media and the hashtag #PowerUp to note the importance of having four presidential campaigns address the AAPI community — former President Bill Clinton represented Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Utah’s Attorney General Sean Reyes represented Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, Libertarian presidential nominee former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein.
According to APIAVote, there were over 3,000 attendees, 40 organizations, and watch parties livestreaming the event in 20 states. Normally, this is an event I might consider flying to from the San Francisco Bay Area to Las Vegas for. But having just attended the Democratic National Convention two weeks prior (and also an APIAVote event at the Convention) I was still catching up on my work and personal life, and also don’t have unlimited amounts of money to spend.
“And herein lies the problem I had with the candidates and this forum. Props to Johnson and Stein for showing up, but I didn’t get the sense they really knew anything about the AAPI community (examples: Johnson didn’t know what the term “AAPI” meant and Stein talked about Asia and topics like the Vietnam War when asked to speak about the Asian American community).
But what was more disappointing was that both Clinton and Trump chose not to attend. I get it–running for President is a busy job, but I think choosing to not attend the one major event of the election cycle specifically by and for the AAPI community sends a message. With that said, I appreciate that Hillary sent her husband–a former President and formidable speaker and presence to serve in her place. But as for Donald Trump…Sean Reyes?! Really, this is the best you could do? At least try to make a token gesture that you actually give a fuck about the AAPI community by choosing an “A” list surrogate: Dr. Ben Carson, Chris Christie, hell, I would’ve preferred Scott Baio!”
To be honest, I had no idea who Sean Reyes was – so I Google’d him and found out that he is a Filipino American and the 21st Attorney General of Utah. I was pleasantly surprised that Trump’s campaign sent a surrogate, since prior to the forum, his campaign didn’t confirm a speaker until the last minute. From the comments I saw from friends attending the event though, it seemed that Reyes didn’t really have much to say about Trump as he did have to say for himself.
As for Hillary Clinton, I understand the sentiment – Hillary Clinton did speak at the NAACP national convention in Cincinnati in July, and La Raza last year (but not this year, since La Raza didn’t invite Clinton out of fairness since Donald Trump was not invited due to his perceived hostility to the organization and Latinos) So why not at this forum? Although Asian Americans are the fastest growing demographic group in the nation, we’re not quite the size or as influential as the African American and Hispanic vote, and certainly not as involved and active (which I think will change over time).
As you can see, from an electorate standpoint, the African American and Hispanic vote are 3X the Asian American vote, each. To be fair, Hillary Clinton (as well as President Obama and the Democratic Party) has been a strong supporter of the Asian American community and Clinton surrogate Congresswoman Judy Chu attended and did speak at the event.
On a related interesting note, I came across this article recently where Clinton’s Vice Presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine very much recognizes the importance of the Asian American vote in his home state of Virginia:
“With media speculation bubbling that he’d be picked as Hillary Clinton’s vice president, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine interrupted his schedule in mid-June to dine with an elite group of South Asian liberals.
Over curries and rice at a private home on Capitol Hill, Kaine explained to these Asian-American business figures how their community could decide the fates of Democrats in battleground states around the country. That’s particularly so in his home state of Virginia, where Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up 5 percent of the electorate, more than President Obama’s margin of victory in 2012 over Mitt Romney.
Kaine didn’t specifically mention the presidential race at the dinner, but a source present, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation, said he was surprised to hear the senator talk for an hour in granular detail about the Asian-American voting bloc and its potentially decisive power in swing states like Virginia.
“It was like a moneyball approach to politics,” the source said, referring to the statistics-heavy baseball strategy.”
So it’s reassuring to know that Kaine (and I’m sure Hillary Clinton) know that Asian Americans can be the “margin of victory” in states like Virginia as well as Nevada.
In any case, if you have the time, I encourage you to watch the forum and learn more about the candidates (or surrogates) and where they stand on the issues.