As the Democratic National Convention kicked off virtually this week, Filipino American Democrats are doubling down on their support for the party’s nominee, Joe Biden, and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris.
Some 400 “Filipino Americans for Biden,” representing a national multigenerational coalition of volunteers, came together on the eve of the convention to rally behind the Democratic ticket and share their plans to boost civic engagement in their local communities as the November election nears.
“It is a real war for the soul of America,” New York-based philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis, who serves as the spokesperson for the group, said. “On one hand, to make it white again, and on the other hand with Biden and Harris, let us make America, America again and why it has become the No. 1 country in the world.”
The group entertained Andrew Yang, a Taiwanese American tech entrepreneur who ran in the Democratic primary, as a guest speaker at the virtual convening on Sunday, August 16.
“I love Filipino Americans,” he proclaimed, before sharing that his college friends are of Filipino descent. Niceties aside, Yang bared what’s at stake in less than 80 days.
“The truth is that our alternative is Donald Trump for four more years, which would be an epic catastrophe. We’re talking about the possible disintegration of our way of life between now and then,” Yang told the attendees.
Several Fil-Ams will be serving as convention delegates this week, such as Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA); Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA); Daly City, California Vice Mayor Juslyn Manalo; Artesia Councilmember Melissa Ramoso; Tyler Dos Santos-Tam, chair of the Democratic Party of Hawai’i; and Maria Castaneda, secretary-treasurer of 1199SEIU in New York, to name a few.
Though they won’t be physically present in Milwaukee, the delegates are participating remotely in caucus meetings, policy roundtables and get-out-the-vote training.
“What we’ve been working on the last several months has been truly a labor of love.
Across the nation, we’ve never had such a coordinated campaign of Filipino Americans for a presidential election and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re able to organize effectively and efficiently so it’s important that we’re all here and then win in November,” Ramoso, who also serves as national co-chair for Fil-Ams for Biden, said.
Representatives of the group recognize the sense of urgency in spreading the Biden-Harris platform to eligible Fil-Am voters across the country, especially in battleground states, tapping into millennials and Gen Zers, and eliminating the excuses that have prevented many from voting in elections past.
“The Filipino vote matters in this country…Many of our families came here because we believed in the American ideals of freedom and democracy that we did not have in the Philippines,” said Vida Benavides, an advisor for the group who has done similar work for previous Democratic presidential campaigns. “So within that context…we’re not going to take ‘I’m too busy’ to vote…You’re here to be part of the social fabric of this country that we are so much part of.”
The coalition is also reaching across the aisle to Fil-Ams who identify as Republicans but have become disillusioned with President Donald Trump’s leadership.
“Many Filipinos are Republicans and so I [wanted] to show them that your loyalty to your party ends where your loyalty to your country begins. Our country is at stake in this election because this president that we have is truly bent in destroying whatever we believed in so it was very important for me to find these well-known Republicans that they are voting for Biden,” Nicolas Lewis said.
First 100 days
If Biden and Harris are elected, the Fil-Am supporters sounded off on what policies should be prioritized, including recovery for a post-COVID-19 country and a pathway for citizenship for Dreamers.
Nicolas Lewis added that the new administration should look into current U.S.-Philippine relations as well as the alleged human rights violations during President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
“All I’m saying is that a government of Biden and Kamala should look again in the human rights violations and the extrajudicial killings and the passage of the [Anti-Terror] law in the Philippines, and do something about it,” she said.
Fil-Ams for Biden also plan to shift gears as a transition group that will push for qualified Fil-Ams to work at various levels of the administration.
“We will be at the table and we will be demanding our seats at the table when it comes to governance,” said Benavides. “Of course, Filipinos are on the frontlines and we will also continue to be on the frontlines of the government.”