Michelle Kwan Launches ‘AAPIs for Biden’ for President

I had the great pleasure to attend the official kick-off for ‘Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) for Biden’, held in Las Vegas this past Saturday. The last time I had attended a similar event was back in 2016, for an AAPIs for Hillary Clinton event in San Francisco, which was also hosted by Michelle Kwan. This is the first such effort that I am aware of for any presidential campaign this cycle.

You may wonder why Las Vegas was the chosen launch point for AAPIs. Nevada, where most of the population is based in the Las Vegas region, is an early Democratic primary/caucus state – which will February 22, 2020 (with Iowa being first, on February 3rd, then New Hampshire on February 11th).  AAPIs are the fastest growing minority not only in the United States, but also in Las Vegas and Nevada overall:

“According to the latest Census estimates, more than 220,000 Asian-Americans live here today — triple what the population was at the start of the millennium. Most Asian-Americans living in the county were born overseas, and thousands more immigrate to the Las Vegas Valley every year, many of whom are choosing to settle in the valley’s rapidly developing southwest quadrant.

The growth has heavily relied on an influx of Filipinos, who comprise more than half the county’s Asian-American population. Chinese-Americans make up a distant second with about 29,000 residents.”

According to AAPI Data, the AAPI community makes up 10% of the overall electorate in Nevada, with 61% living in the greater Las Vegas area.

Back in April of this year (which I got around the writing about in May), Michelle announced via Instagram that she was joining the Joe Biden for President 2020 campaign. In September, Michelle was actively campaigning with and for Biden in Las Vegas, where she had several interviews with the media, establishing herself as a surrogate, as well as her official role as surrogate coordinator:

“Kwan was a surrogate for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her unsuccessful 2016 presidential bid and now serves on Biden’s campaign as director of surrogates. Her role is to coordinate campaign appearances for Biden’s most noteworthy endorsers.”

The goals for ‘AAPIs for Biden’, as stated from the press release I had received, is:

“Today, Biden for President launched “AAPIs for Biden,” a national network of Asian American and Pacific Islander supporters working to rally the community around Vice President Biden’s record of accomplishment, and his vision to heal the damage done by Donald Trump and to rebuild the middle class.

AAPIs for Biden will recruit, train, and deploy a growing movement of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to run phone banks, canvasses, community events, days of action, and fundraising activities in support of the campaign. Biden advisor and Olympic figure skater Michelle Kwan kicked off the new coalition this afternoon in Las Vegas, which is home to a vibrant AAPI community, and to the all-important Nevada caucus on February 22.”

The main AAPI policy points outlined in the press release are:

  • Expand access to quality, affordable health care
  • Invest in education from birth through 12th grade
  • Reform our immigration system
  • Give all AAPIs a fair shot at the middle class

You can read for yourself all the details in this PDF file of the press release: 2019_10_26_AAPIs_for_Biden_press_release.

After a few welcoming remarks from:

  • Dilawar Syed, former Commissioner, President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans
  • Mailinh McNicolas, Nevada Biden for President Field Organizer
  • Krystal Sun, Nevada Biden for President Regional Field Organizer

Michelle gave her launch remarks for ‘AAPIs for Biden.’

Michelle stated that Asian Americans are the fastest growing minority in the United States and in Nevada. She mentioned how her parents were immigrants to this country, recalling that her father telling her he grew up with nothing and had just enough money to immigrant to the United States to chase the American dream.(As we know in plain sight, Trump has demonized immigrants, especially those of color). I know from her interview at Yale back in April, Michelle had to be ‘scrappy’ while growing up since her family didn’t have much (and coaching, travel, outfits, etc. could get expensive for figure skating).

Michelle wants a president who fights for all Americans, not just for the ones at the very top. A president that actually cares and has a track record of accomplishments (both in the Senate and in the Obama administration) – with 50 years of public service, including such examples as:

Michelle seemed especially enthusiastic on gun control, which is an issue that I’m very much for (if guns make us safe, the United States must be the safest country in the world, right?)

If Trump is not defeated and has a second term, Michelle reiterated what Biden has stated before, our country will fundamentally change. Michelle wanted those in the room to do the work – volunteering to knock on doors, making the phone calls, telling our friends to get them to vote –  or else we’re going to get 2016 all over again. In other words, we shouldn’t take things for granted. In 2016, I think a lot of people didn’t vote because they just assumed Hillary Clinton would defeat Trump (I always vote).

Afterwards, there was also a brief caucus “training” session for local Las Vegas attendees. Nevada is a caucus state – where people gather in one evening to try to actively persuade others to support their candidate, rather than simply mail in a ballot or actually voting in person. Except this year, the caucus will be taking place over four days to allow for those who may need to work evenings – as well as a person could “vote” for the candidate (without the option of staying and trying to persuade their neighbors).

To be honest, this was my first exposure to the overall dynamics and mathematics of how delegates get allocated by caucus. It seemed a bit odd to me, and I would like to do a little more research as to how this method of allocating delegates came to be. From my brief research, you can learn more here.

After the training session, there were some closing remarks by Ajay Bhutoria, National Finance Committee, Biden for President:

“Thanks to everyone for coming out today and thanks to everyone for being a part of AAPIs for Biden I also wanted to wish everyone a Happy Diwali! In Hindu culture, Diwali is a celebration of good over evil, and of new beginnings. So, having AAPIs for Biden launch today feels particularly right! I can’t think of a better way for us to celebrate than by coming together here today for Joe Biden, a man that has spent his life standing up to evil and is in this race to ensure that we defeat evil – or should I say Donald Trump – in November 2020 Happy Diwali to all and let’s go Joe!”

Afterwards, volunteers and supporters hung around and many got photos with Michelle. Since Michelle’s schedule was very tight, I was only able to get a brief mini-‘interview’ with her, which was more like a two minute elevator pitch.

To my embarrassment, I originally introduced Michelle as Michelle Obama of the Obama campaign, and then ask her what she was doing for the Biden campaign:

For the life of me, I have no idea why I introduced Michelle as Michelle Obama – some sort of Freudian slip – or maybe I was nervous? (I’ve never met Michelle Obama, but did see her speak live at the 2012 Democratic National Convention; I’ve met Michelle previously – first in 2015, then in 2018). A few seconds after I said it, I realized to my horror, my error. She laughed it off after I apologized at the end of the two minute interview. To my amusement later that day, Michelle posted this as part of an Instagram Story (screenshots I took):

I’m glad she has a sense of humor! This made me recall how much of a laugh I got when some kids mistook me as Jeremy Lin’s father! BTW, Michelle is quite active on Instagram. I’m not a huge Instagram user, but whenever I do look at the app, she always has a new post or story.

Overall, the event was great and I got to see some familiar faces and meet many of those involved in the Biden campaign. Currently, the Democratic primary appears to be a three-way race among Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Asian Americans can make a huge difference in Nevada for Biden, and as well as for California (which instead of having their primary in June has been moved up to early March – which makes a HUGE difference).

It will be interesting to see which prominent AAPIs the Biden campaign can get – the natural endorsements I can think are former AAPIs that served under Obama, including Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (whom I’ve met), and Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu, who I have interviewed.

As of September from this poll / source, Biden is polling well among AAPI voters:

“When asked which candidate they support as the Democratic presidential candidate for 2020, Asian American and Pacific Islander voters show the most support for former vice president Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren as frontrunners, according to a survey conducted in late August by Change Research that was sponsored by political PAC AAPI Victory Fund and Investingin.Us.

Results largely reflect polling data for the general Democratic primary electorate as the third Democratic presidential primary debate nears.

Questions in the poll distinguished between who a voter would support versus who they’d like to see as the Democratic Party candidate — the latter ultimately tagged Biden as the preferred candidate. AAPI Victory Fund President Varun Nikore said that this suggests voters judge electability differently. A voter may support a certain candidate, but when it comes to the election, they believe that Biden has the best chance at beating President Donald Trump.

Andrew Yang leads the second tier of preferred candidates, polling eight percentage points below Biden, Warren and Sanders. Respondents see Yang as the candidate who best understands issues facing AAPI populations.”

No surprise that Yang has decent support among AAPIs, given he has a natural constituency, a candidate who I had a chance to interview last summer in 2018.

I wish the best of luck to Michelle and the Biden campaign! There’s one thing for sure, I cannot imagine another four years of Trump and will definititely will vote for the Democratic nominee.

If you are interested in learning more about the Biden campaign, contributing and/or helping out, check out: https://joebiden.com/ and https://go.joebiden.com/page/s/join-aapis-for-biden.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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