It’s that time again, the time every four years when candidates start paying attention to different constituencies and the media assesses the relative value. Asian American Pacific Islander voters matter in Nevada, and we can be the difference in a close election. As a veteran of a few Nevada campaigns, I’ve had people ask me what I think caucus turnout will be here. I think it will be close between Clinton and Sanders, and AAPIs can prove the decisive vote. Unlike many states, polling doesn’t count for much, and we’ve been the margin of victory a few times. In 2010, election night polls had Harry Reid tied with Sharron Angle, and he wound up winning by 5 points because of minority voters (Asian Pacific American and Latino) who remembered her comment that “you [Latinos] all look a little Asian.” In Nevada, AAPI voters made the difference in critical elections going back 20 years. Since our population has more than doubled in the past 10 years, we can be the critical difference once again.
Now let’s talk about where the Nevada AAPI community has been, where we can go, what we can accomplish, and who we should support.
Both Democratic candidates would be strong proponents of AAPI communities, and are committed to welcoming our families into the fabric of American life. For leading Republican candidates, we are undesirable and less than citizens – to be banned from entering the country and deported. Our community has felt the unequal force of discriminatory laws and policies before, and we have no interest in being marginalized again.
There is a clear difference between how our families would be treated under a Clinton or Sanders administration, and under a Republican-controlled government. The Democrats have welcoming immigration policies and support reducing family immigration backlogs that can reach 20 years especially for Filipino Americans. Meanwhile, the Republican candidates including so-called moderate Jeb Bush see us as “Asian anchor babies.” If we don’t vote, then we are at risk of being targeted by discriminatory policies which Republican candidates wish to re-enact at our community’s expense. By voting, we can hold politicians accountable, implement better policies, and prevent punitive laws from occurring. Of course, it helps to have input at the highest levels.
If the Asian American community in the Silver State wants to make progress, and have representation within politics, it’s important that we participate in the Democratic caucuses – it’s not enough to wait to vote in November. Voting means power in the United States, and if we don’t go out to vote, it is the equivalent of giving up power and being voiceless. (And voting for this batch of Republicans might as well be a wasted vote.) If we want AAPIs in decision-making roles, we have to show up. AAPIs turned out in overwhelming numbers (73 percent) for Obama and the president has appointed an unprecedented number of Asian Americans to key Cabinet, political appointments, and federal judgeships, and may nominate the first Asian American Supreme Court justice. What better way to demonstrate that our community has a lasting impact in American life than a historic lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court?
AAPI voters matter in Nevada, and there is increasing awareness and outreach to our communities. Now we have to turnout on caucus day and vote Democratic to demonstrate the strength of our community’s voice and our vote.