The 2020 message from Asia-American voters was clear: find us, listen to what we tell you, and we can help you win.
They turned out to be in record numbers. In Georgia, the surge in Asiatic American voters in the general election was so significant that they were able to play a pivotal role in the two Senate runoffs this week. And on the ballot itself, Asian-American candidates in national politics were more visible than ever, especially with Kamala Harris, a woman of South Asian descent who was elected vice president.
But the elections also offered some caution on the part of Democrats, who have long assumed that increasing racial diversity in the United States will benefit them at the ballot box: demographics alone is not fate. Asian-American voters and Latino voters made it clear that while they support Democrats in general, they do not do so to the same extent as black voters and that both parties continue to be very winning.
At the presidential level, Americans from Asia cast a record number of ballots in battlefield nations where Joseph R. Biden Jr. scored narrow victories. However, an analysis by the New York Times found that Asian-American and Latin American voters have shifted to the right in immigrant neighborhoods across the country. Nationwide, preliminary data suggests roughly one in three Americans in Asia supported President Trump – a slight increase from its support in 2016.
For many Democrats who still hope they will benefit from greater political engagement between Asia and America, the election demonstrated that the party must target non-white voters with the same nuanced approach and urgency that generally white voters in Swing states were reserved.
“There is a small but still significant block of voters that needs to be wooed – and that advertising must be sustained because we are going to have tight elections,” said Varun Nikore, president of the AAPI Victory Fund, a super-focused PAC on the mobilization of Americans from Asia and the Pacific Islanders to vote for Democratic candidates.
But he added, “Things can go backwards. You cannot take the Asian vote for granted. “
Now that Mr. Biden forms his administration, Asian-American Congress Leader and many of their colleagues already are Scrub in a cabinet without a single Asian-American secretary For the first time in decades.
Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York, who holds high positions on both the Democratic National Committee and the Asia-Pacific-American caucus of Congress, sees the situation as an indication that the lessons of 2020 have not yet materialized.
“I don’t think we as a party can match the contributions that A.A.P.I. voters won in the November elections,” she said.
For years, Asian Americans have been written off by both Democrats and Republicans as a small group of infrequent voters. Candidates often went to prominent community members for donations, but with Asian-Americans make up less than 6 percent of the US populationThey mainly focused on traditionally safe blue and red states like California, New York, and Texas, and were rarely part of a presidential campaign’s calculation.
As a group largely overseas born, the Americans of Asia have become a country fastest growing population of eligible voters Year after year, Asian immigrants naturalized pretty quickly and then signed up to vote. Over the past two decades as their numbers grew, the Americans of Asia as a whole went left politically, slowly gaining enough power to help decide some highly competitive house races in districts where they had banded together.
Their influence expanded into presidential politics in this cycle, beginning with the democratic primary race. For the first time, three Asian-American and Pacific islanders sought a major party nomination for president. One, Ms. Harris, is to become Vice President; Another, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, has privately told New York leaders that he intends to run for mayor this year.
In the general election, an early analysis of the available data suggests that the vote count among Asian Americans was higher than any other racial group. While Asian Americans were generally an afterthought for political campaigning, “that is almost certain to change overnight,” said Tom Bonier, executive director of TargetSmart, a Democratic data firm.
Mr. Bonier found that in battlefield states and at the national level, the 2016 Asian-American early election alone exceeded the overall Asian-American vote in 2016. If analysts get a full picture of the 2020 electorate, the data will likely show that the total number of ballots cast by Asian Americans nearly doubled.
Despite the modest increase in support for Mr Trump, roughly two-thirds of Asian-American voters supported Mr Biden – a fact often cited by the Asian-American officials who have asked the president-elect to select a cabinet secretary from their ward.
In addition to choosing Ms. Harris as his fellow campaigner months ago, Mr. Biden has selected two Asian Americans for cabinet-level positions: Neera Tanden as head of the White House budget office and Katherine Tai as US trade representative. A transition spokesman said the selection was part of Mr. Biden’s vision for “the most diverse cabinet in history”.
With the Senate runoff elections looming on Tuesday, Asian-American political activists from across the country have joined local groups in Georgia to ensure that the tens of thousands of Americans from Asia who first voted in the general election vote again Week.
“We won the victory we wanted at the state level to turn Georgia blue,” said Aisha Yaqoob, director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, of Mr. Biden’s victory in November. But she added that getting tired of running into Senate races would be a challenge.
“So this is going to be our big mission,” she said. “To explain that and really break it down for people – to make them feel like they could be the ultimate voice.”
In the presidential election, many Asian-American voters said they were particularly excited about Ms. Harris’s candidacy and disgusted by Mr. Trump’s insistence that China was responsible for the coronavirus and labeled it “kung flu” – news that came with a Increase in reports corresponding to hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
Mr Trump’s rhetoric about the virus made progressive organizers and Democratic candidates, among others, optimistic that Asian-American voters would flock to them. In some cases it has motivated people.
“I really wanted to vote because I didn’t want Donald Trump to be president,” said Jieying Chen, 24, a PhD student in South Philadelphia who became a naturalized citizen in 2017 and who voted for the first time this fall.
Aisha Zainab, 19, whose parents immigrated from Pakistan, believed that Trump’s political stance “is not what America represents”. She voted for the first time in Michigan, a state that Mr. Biden had turned over.
But the president had his own Asian-American supporters, some of whom he drew over from the democratic side.
Timothy Paul, 47, of Cobb County, Georgia, immigrated to the US on a work visa from India years ago and voted for Barack Obama twice. However, he said he voted for Mr Trump in 2016 and 2020, motivated by the president’s positions on taxes and limiting undocumented immigration.
“Democrats just keep writing checks – they’re going to bankrupt the country,” he said, noting that he intends to vote for the Republican incumbent in the Senate runoff this week. “Soon they’ll be giving you Disney + and Hulu for free.”
Around 30 percent of the Asian-American voters Identify neither Democrats nor Republicans, and many settle in the suburban swing districts, which are both party-centered.
It’s a demographic and political reality that has been playing out in parts of Southern California for years. Randall Avila, the executive director of Orange County’s Republican Party, said he found that many Asian-American voters – and potential candidates he was working to recruit – were open to Republican ideas.
“We will not withdraw from any community,” he said.
That commitment paid off when two California Republicans, Young Kim and Michelle Steel, replaced Democratic incumbents and became the first Korean-American women to be elected to Congress.
Janice Lim, 51, of Yorba Linda, California, voted for both Ms. Kim and Mr. Trump, saying the Republican Party shares many of the values that are most important to her and her immigrant parents: family, education, freedom of exercise personal freedoms and limited government.
“People say,” Oh, yay, Young Kim, she’s Asian American and she’s a woman. “I always wonder why people say that,” said Ms. Lim, a city park and recreation officer. “I always think it should be more about who she represents and what her ideals are.”
Progressive advocacy leaders like Mr. Nikore of the AAPI Victory Fund said voting losses like the one in California had shown that it was time for Democrats to focus Support among the color pickers.
The real victory, Latin American and Asian voting experts agreed, would be for color voters to be persecuted with the same force as white voters, who are routinely sub-categorized based on where they live, income, or theirs Level of education.
“Democrats need to stop being obsessed with white rural voters and white suburban mothers,” said Janelle Wong, professor of American studies at the University of Maryland.
Local organizers like Ms. Yaqoob led several reasons for the extraordinary A.A.P.I. Electoral leadership in the general election. For example, grassroots volunteers had built trust with voters months beforehand, encouraging them to take the census or hand in food in the early days of the pandemic.
In Texas, two Democrats with Asian and South Asian heritage lost closely watched Congressional races. One of them, Sri Preston Kulkarni, was defeated by a clear margin in a house race in the suburbs of Houston Some polls indicated that he would win the Majority-minority district. The other, Gina Ortiz Jones, fell to Tony Gonzales in the mostly Hispanic 23rd Congressional District.
Mr. Kulkarni admitted in an interview that he was surprised by his loss but encouraged by the Asian-American turnout for this cycle, the strongest evidence of the potential influence of these voters in American politics.
One place where they can demonstrate their growing political power is in Georgia this week. Neil Makhija heads an Indian-American political organization that runs a $ 2.5 million campaign A.A.P.I. Voters in the Senate runoff election. He sees the sharp rise in the Asian-American turnout in November as a success – and a lesson.
“We’re going to try to take some of what we’ve learned,” he said, “and really do everything.”