Back in July, I was able to attend Politicon (think of it as Comic-Con for political geeks) in Pasadena, California. This was the third year it was being held – I had first learned about it last year, but had planned on going to the Democratic National Convention (which I did), so didn’t make any plans to attend. This year, I wanted to check the 2-day event out, especially after reading about this panel: Asian American Pacific Islanders: Crucial Vote in Swing States:
“Asian Americans could make up the margin of victory in almost every swing state, and they have more business and consumer economic power than any other minority group. But what are their politics? And why are no politicians trying to court them? This panel looks at how to reach these enigmatic voters. Moderator: Richard Lui Panelists: Bill Wong, Hon. Judy Chu, Lou Diamond Phillips, Steven Olikara.”
I’ve met Richard Lui and Congresswoman Judy Chu, but hadn’t met or heard of Bill Wong or Steven Olikara. And to be honest, I hadn’t realized (or maybe forgotten) that actor, producer & activist Lou Diamond Phillips was an Asian American (“He was born in the Philippines and numbers among his ethnic extractions Filipino,Cherokee Indian, Scottish-Irish, Hawaiian and Hispanic blood.”) – he’s made his racial ambiguity play to his advantage and has played different ethnicities in his acting career (I most remember him from the movie, Stand and Deliver).
Panelist Steven Olikara did note that the room was full of Asian Americans, but to be honest, given that the attendance of Politicon 2017 was estimated to be around 10,000 people, that panel room maybe 200 hundred Asian Americans. Relative to those who attended and also the population of Greater Los Angeles, which is approximately 11% of the population), I was again disappointed.
I was most interested to see and hear Congresswoman Chu speak:
- She mentioned that despite Trump being elected president (Chu is a Democrat), November 2016 was a record year for Asian Americans, where the number of Asian Americans grew from 13 to 18 Asian Americans elected to Congress, also electing the first Vietnamese American woman, Stephanie Murphy, first Indian American woman, Pramila Jayapal and 3 Asian American women in the Senate – Mazie Hirono, Kamala Harris, and Tammy Duckworth.
- Chu also cited that November 2016 had the highest voter turnout for Asian Americans in the U.S. history and a key vote for Hillary Clinton in some key swing states – 69% of Asian Americans voted for Clinton in Nevada (9.5% of the population) and Virginia – 81% Asian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton (5% of the population).
- And for the 2018 Congressional elections – the Democrats have a chance to win back the house. Usually, in off-year presidential elections, the opposing political party usually wins seats. As you may or may not know, there are 7 Congressional Districts that Clinton won that voted for a Republican in Congress, and many of those districts have a large Asian American population. Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to win back the House.
There was a lot more the panelists had to say, but if you’re interested, you can take a look for yourself in the YouTube video.
Overall, it’s is exciting to see more Asian Americans getting involved in politics. But I think there could be so much more involved than we are today. But my frustration must be tempered with the demographic realities that most Asian Americans (something like over 70%) were born outside of the United States, and that many immigrated to the U.S. in the past two decades.