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Elections: The Asian American Pacific Islander Vote

Elections: The Asian American Pacific Islander Vote

Portland JACL Newsletter: February 2013 Issue
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Board Members Message by Verne Naito

Portland JACL Asian American Pacific Islander VoteA Happy New Year from your newest Portland JACL board member. I am grateful to Co-Presidents Jean Yamamoto and Susan Leedham for appointing me to the Portland Chapter board. Ironically, it was this very newsletter that got me involved. Past Chapter Co-President Jeff Selby wrote that the chapter was looking to appoint new board members.

Prior to reading his message, I had believed that joining the board required putting together a campaign and, of course, running for election. After losing two bids for student body president at Sylvan grade school, I avoid elected offices. So, thanks to this fine publication, Portland Chapter gets a volunteer without an election.

Co-President Jean Yamamoto mentions in the December newsletter that 73% of the Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) voted for President Barack Obama last November. The media has moved on to cheerier topics like the debt ceiling, but the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) vote has been on my mind ever since the election. This may be stating the obvious, but 73% is a staggeringly high percentage. The question is, why

Portland JACL Asian American Pacific Islander Vote

Most readers are aware that the President carried the day with all minorities. There was some press about the AAPI vote following the results and most of the coverage characterized the AAPI vote as unexpected.

Let”s put the 73% into perspective. A higher percentage of AAPIs voted for the President than Latinos. For many Latinos, immigration reform was a pivotal issue and historically, a majority of Latinos have voted Democratic.

The percentage of the AAPI vote for the Democratic presidential candidate has been trending straight up with only one down blip (Bush vs. Kerry) over the last two decades. The Democratic candidate received 45% of the AAPI vote in 1992, 56% in 2004, 62% in 2008, and last November, 73%. The foregoing is in spite of most AAPIs indicating that they have no party affiliation. If there is a force driving the AAPI vote towards the Democratic Party, it appears to be growing in influence.

There were several theories tossed around following the election about the cause of the results. Some of the analysis I read points to the party of the religious right turning off a group that is mostly non Christian. Some wrote that an apparent anti-immigration platform rubbed recent immigrant AAPIs the wrong way.

The press sometimes writes and speaks about AAPIs as if this is a monolithic minority group. Clearly, that is not the case. Nearly one-half of AAPIs are Christians. Over two thirds have been in this country 10 years or longer. As far as I know, there was no decisive political issue at stake for AAPI voters.

If anything, the emphasis on the economy during the campaign, and the number of small business owners among AAPIs, should have leveled the results according to some politicos. Some of the theories may explain some of the voters” behavior, but they all fall short of explaining the 73%.

It seems to me that the electorate has spoken pretty loudly, but about what? Is there something afoot that has the majority of all minorities lining up on one side? I don”t have an answer, but if you have some thoughts on this subject, I”d love to hear from you at verne@henrysakamotofamily.com/2JACL/. Issues like the results of the last election are what have drawn me into JACL. Maybe they will draw you in as well. You don”t have to run for election.

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