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.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Younger Asian American Democrats win big this cycle

I am a huge proponent of young Asian American Democrats because I look up to their drive and dedication to public service. I just read that Scott Kawasaki, Fairbanks city councilman, was recently elected to the Alaska state legislature at the age of 30 (maybe 31?) I haven't seen him mentioned by any other Asian American blogs or national organizations, but this one's a keeper. He's a Western Democrat, and opposes the Patriot Act like newly elected Senator Jon Tester of Montana. The Alaska Dems defeated one incumbent Republican in the State House (Kawasaki) and one in the Senate, as well as picking up 2 Republican-held open seats. Who says Governor Dean's 50 state strategy doesn't work?!? I remember reading Matt Bai's NYTimes Magazine piece on Dean's leadership at the DNC (read the whole thing, it is that good and prophetic - unlike others, I have always found Bai's writing sharp and incisive), and how after a visit to the Alaska field troops, Dean told his DC staff to get the money for another state party organizer for Alaska, and thought: 1) he's really truly committed to the grassroots if he's willing to contest Alaska and 2) Terry McAuliffe never would have done that.

That night, after meeting with Dean at the sad little storefront office that houses the state party, Alaska’s party chairman, Jake Metcalfe, announced to 400 assembled Democrats at a fund-raiser that Dean had just promised to hire an additional organizer for the state. The ballroom erupted in grateful applause as Dean sat there beaming. The members of his staff, gently rolling their eyes, began calling back to Washington, warning the political staff that they would need to find the money for yet another salary in, of all places, Alaska.

In just a few hours, Dean had nicely demonstrated why so many leading Democrats in Washington wish he would spend even more time in Alaska — preferably hiking the tundra for a few months, without a cellphone. . . . . .It’s true that adding a second organizer in Alaska will cost the national party only a modest sum, maybe $35,000 this year, but that same money could pay the salaries for canvassers in Pennsylvania or Connecticut, where a few thousand votes could mean the difference between swearing in Speaker Hastert or Speaker Pelosi next January. Overall, Dean’s investment in state parties could cost the D.N.C. as much as $8 million this year
Now we have a new Asian American legislator in Alaska of all places who won handily over his Republican opposition. Plus he is anti-Patriot Act because his grandparents were interned during World War II, so we know that he is someone who stands for his principles, for civil rights and civil liberties.

This is the difference between having someone like Gov. Dean who believes in the grassroots and who is willing to really listen and not just pay lipservice to Asian American involvement and service with the party. It's what Carville doesn't get when he dumps on Dean - that Dean is a leader because he inspires us, and he sticks to his vision, even when everyone else thinks he's crazy. He's a leader because he has followers, unlike Carville, whose public smearing isn't being echoed by anyone - not Rahm, not Donnie Fowler who ran against him for DNC Chair, not Hilary. Not even Harold Ford who Carville put forth as a better DNC Chair candidate. Hell, Democrats even made gains at the state level in North Dakota, and South Dakotans decisively voted down an abortion ban.
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UPDATE: Steve Gilliard sez:
What attempted coup?

It was more like drunk Uncle Jim demanding the car keys to get more beer. Finally, someone pulled him aside and told him to shut the fuck up and eat more cornbread.

Carville was spouting off because he thought he had power.

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Dean sticks to his guns because he knows it takes time to build a farm team and to (re)build a base and a winning coalition. And I wouldn't be surprised if he was secretly surprised that the groundswell victories have happened so soon after he took office, but I give him a lot of the credit for having the vision to win by running in all 50 states, because you don't win by running in only 40% of the states and districts.

Other Asian American Dems who won new seats this cycle include 37 year old Blong Xiong, the first Hmong American and Asian American Fresno city councilor. And Steve Hobbs, a 36 year old Iraq War veteran from Washington State who opposes the war, and won over a 12 year incumbent Republican state senator. Also give a warm welcome to Kris Valderrama, a labor and civil rights activist, and 31 year old Saqib Ali, who is a South Asian American man endorsed by the Montgomery County Fraternal Order of Police (!!!), who both just won their first seats in the Maryland state legislature. (Hmm, I wonder if George Felix "Macaca" Allen helped boost Asian American turnout across the river - you think? It kinda makes me wish Allen was sticking around to make stupid comments in 2008 and increase our turnout, but not enough that I wanted to see his mug back as the Senator from Virginia.)

Howard Dean's 50 state strategy has dividends not just for the farmers in Kansas or the fishermen in Maine. It benefits Asian Americans and Asian American candidates too. And soon I'll be able to say that it benefits Asian American farmer candidates from Kansas and Asian American fishermen who want to run for political office in Maine, with the way Asian Americans are running for office, uniting disparate groups of voters, and winning all over this crazy beautiful patchwork country of ours. Because hell, we already have our Asian American artist/actor/activist elected official, Cy Thao from Minnesota. And while we could use more like him, we need some diversity in here! I want to see the day that we have at least one Asian American elected in every state, at every level. I want to see us represented in proportion to our population, and I want to see the full spectrum of our Asian Pacific Island American heritages included.

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