WHEN 19-year-old Angelo Salva Cruz mailed in his ballot for the California primary this week, his decision to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden was in part because he remembered learning the term ‘political polarization’ in a recent college class.
“Instead of there being a spectrum, we’re seeing two extremes. Even though I agree with a lot of things Bernie [Sanders] says, he’s too much of a wildcard to depend on him. Joe Biden is a lot more sound and has the experience,” Cruz, a first-time voter from Cupertino, California, told the Asian Journal.
Despite data that shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders largely capturing the hearts of young and Asian American voters across the nation with a progressive agenda, Cruz is among the younger end of Filipino American voters who are throwing their support behind the former vice president, citing his track record and relationships to unite the Democratic party.
For Nicole Carcel, who falls under the millennial age group, Biden won her over during a gun control forum in Las Vegas last year.
“His message really resonated with me because gun violence is such a big issue in America, particularly in the wake of so many mass shootings,” Carcel, an executive team member for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s office, told the Asian Journal. “I have a niece who’s now in kindergarten and it’s crazy to think that she’s growing up in a time when this is the new reality.”
The Fil-Am voter also said that debunking the perception that Biden only appeals to older voters has been part of her mission on social media.
“The vice president has broad support, not only for older, white individuals. He has a platform that reflects that he has thought about things that are reasonable and achievable,” Carcel said. “We have other candidates who say some really great things, but when you think about it, how will those things actually be implemented?”
Recalling her grandfather who fought in World War II, Artesia Councilmember Melissa Ramoso said that no other candidate has direct experience addressing the needs of the Fil-Am community, such as pushing for compensation and recognition for veterans.
“Filipinos should remember in 2009 when [Biden] was able to rally the last votes for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which allowed Filipino World War II veterans to receive compensation. Not many elected officials or other candidates can say that. He really understands our community — that means so much for me and my lolo,” said Ramoso, who is also state chair of the California Democratic Party’s Asian Pacific Islander Caucus.
Following the former Vice President’s 10-state win on Super Tuesday, Ramoso joins other community leaders in launching a national “Filipino Americans for Biden” coalition in a similar vein to groups formed during the presidential campaigns for former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Mark Pulido, a councilmember for the city of Cerritos, set up a Facebook group to virtually connect those Fil-Ams in support of Biden and said that they are in the process of gathering a list of endorsements from community members and creating a platform that addresses their concerns.
“I didn’t back a candidate early on but I was following all of the options and each of the contests. I am now excited to be a part of Fil-Ams for Biden because he is the one who can unify the party and nation and take the country back from Trump,” Pulido said.
In the coming months, the group expects to begin grassroots, direct voter contact by making phone calls and walking precinct in neighborhoods heavily populated by Fil-Ams.
Polls from the past year showed that no one candidate had overwhelming support from the collective AAPI community, though a majority preferred an alternative to the current administration, according to an October 2019 survey from AAPI Data and PRRI. The same data had 45% of AAPI eligible voters in California favoring Biden, while 42% were for Sanders.
However, Sanders received the most support among Asian American voters at around 39%, according to an NBC News analysis of exit poll data from Super Tuesday states. Meanwhile, 21% rallied behind Biden.
Most Asian American respondents (46%) said health care was the most important issue, followed by income inequality (19%) and climate change (18%), the analysis found.
“The community wasn’t coming out for any candidate early on as a whole and that’s very telling of how our numbers and exit polls are. If we’re not coming out for people we believe in, then we don’t get counted and that’s unfortunate. We need to take a stand as a community because we are being lost in the numbers,” Ramoso said, adding that she finally declared her support for Biden to help rally other voters and bring the “Joementum” to the community.
Super PAC Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Victory Fund endorsed Biden in early February and has since organized grassroots events in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and parts of Virginia and Michigan along with AAPIs for Biden.
Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia (who is of Filipino ancestry) and Filipina American businesswoman and philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis have also joined a growing list of prominent AAPIs like Olympic medal-winning figure skater Michelle Kwan and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) as Biden supporters.
Leading up to the Nevada caucuses last February 22, the campaign distributed campaign materials in Tagalog and released Biden’s “vision for the AAPI community,” which includes increasing more AAPI representation in government (citing the Obama administration’s strides of appointing the most AAPI judges and senior staffers than all presidents combined), eliminating language barriers and disaggregating data to tackle the specific needs of each community.
As the once crowded and diverse field dwindled this week, the Democratic primary is now between Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who was victorious in four states, including California. The Fil-Ams for Biden hope voters, who are still undecided or may have supported another candidate, take the time to consider the former vice president.
“For Filipino Americans who can vote, it’s important to make their voices heard and take part in the process. Vice President Biden is going to be that leader that we need to unite the country. He’s genuine when he talks about getting things done. He has been in Washington, D.C. and he knows how the system works. I think it’s important that on day one, he can hit the ground running and work to better the country,” Carcel said.
Both Ramoso and Pulido are also encouraging Fil-Ams across the country apply to be Biden convention delegates in their respective congressional districts.
“I’m energized to be part of what will be a historic convention [in July] and hope other Fil-Ams will join us. Inspired by manong Larry Itliong, who was a delegate in 1972, we hope to play a similar role in advancing the community’s political interests this year,” Pulido added.
But ultimately, the Fil-Ams interviewed agreed that no matter who secures the Democratic presidential nomination, voting blue will still be the way to go.
“I will still participate in the general election because voting is my obligation as a citizen,” Cruz said. “To me, to not vote would mean that I don’t care about these issues and if I lived with an attitude like that, it would be sure to bite me in the butt at some point in the future.”
Pulido added, “I love our party, but I love our country even more so I believe that as an American, I have to do everything in my power to bring people together to heal from this past presidential administration so we can unite and be victorious this November.” (Christina M. Oriel/AJPress)