Power and Politics - I am Not the Yellow Peril

The life and times of an Asian American activist who tells all the truth (and dishes news and analysis) but with a leftwards slant.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Power and Politics

It's almost the anniversary of the last Election Day, also known as Black Tuesday. I had fought for the better man to win, for democratic ideas to prevail. I fought because I knew that a Bush reelection would mean that I would spend 50 years, or the rest of my life trying to reverse the damage to our country that his policies had created. Four more years would translate into 25 years of hard work to get us back to what we had under Clinton. It had been a long road to that day, and along the way, Howard Dean had rallied the masses with his words: "You have the power!"

It was rare for a presidential candidate to describe the state of affairs so. Rare, empowering and prophetic. Although his own campaign failed, he helped give hope to many Americans who simply wanted more of an active role in the Democratic Party, and to those who had lost hope that anyone truly represented their concerns. Not all of these people were Democrats, some had been entirely apolitical before this, and some were true conservatives who harbored suspicions about Bushco's role in limiting government. To Dean's banner we gathered, and we held him up as a populist champion. Finally we had someone with the guts to say what he thought, media filter be damned.

We were his troops, and if he wasn't our savior, it wasn't for lack of us trying. He was smart enough to say: "Wake up, wake up, it's time to fend for yourselves. If you want change, you have to create it." People ran for local offices with that idea in mind, that ordinary citizens could and should have a voice in government.

Where does this fairytale go? The message isn't new, it's one of the fundamental tenets of organizing - whether it's community, labor or political. Albeit usually in political organizing it goes: "Here's your script. Knock on these doors and tell them to vote for Mr. Status Roboto. If they've already been visited and can't be bothered, tell them that it's a highly important election. Mr Roboto stands for the status quo."

In the fairytale, Dean would have won the primary. In reality, Kerry didn't even win the general election. But a lot of newcomers joined the fight, and increasingly, people saw the importance that seemingly arcane bills and laws passed by a ghostly fleet of old men and a few women in a far off marble and concrete city had in their daily lives.

Dean inspired a lot of people. A friend of mine even ran for a Democratic State committee and came within one vote of winning. Many Asian Pacific Americans also rallied around his cause, as he was the only candidate to show up to a debate that the community held. His Deputy Political Director came out of Clinton's White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

In 2004, an unprecedented number of Asian Americans ran for elected office. Some notables who won were Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and TX State Rep. Hubert Vo. While we have had a number of elected officials come out of, and represent out community in the past, not very many people know that history. Despite elected leaders like former Washington State Govenor Gary Locke, DNC vice chair and US Rep. Mike Honda, the late US Rep. Patsy Mink and the late US Senator Spark Matsunaga, in the public perception, we have not welded the kind of political power that African Americans have had, or that Latinos are gaining. But we are making a name for ourselves outside of places thought of as having higher Asian Pacific American populations like New York, California or Hawaii. We are shattering preconceptions and making history:

Running in 2005 (show them some love):
  • Supriya Christopher is running to be the first Indian American in the VA House of Delegates
  • In New Jersey, Jun Choi will likely be the next mayor of Edison, and the first Asian American one
  • Bostonian Sam Yoon seems likely to sail to a win in the City Council race, and would be the first Asian American to represent a city where we make up 7.5% of the population
Already won:
  • Madison Nguyen ran for San Jose City Council in a race against another Vietnamese American woman
  • Michigan has state Representative Hoon-Yung Hopgood
  • Texas state Rep. Hubert Vo toppled the second highest-ranking Republican in the statehouse
  • Maryland state Delegate Kumar Barve is the 2nd in command in the House of Delegates
  • Swati Dandekar sits as Iowa state Rep.
  • WA State Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos is the Majority Whip
  • And of course we have so much to learn from our friends and state representatives in Minnesota, Cy Thao and Mee Moua
There are many more victories and stories, but I'll leave those for later.

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