Disclosure: After supporting the Castro campaign to its end, I recently indicated my public support for the Warren campaign.
Coinciding with an online presidential townhall organized by Asian American and Pacific Islander advocacy groups today through the hashtag #AAPI2020 and that involved representatives of every current Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Elizabeth Warren released a comprehensive working agenda this morning that presents an extensive vision for Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities under her presidency. The plan highlighted several key planks of her campaign platform.
Warren also introduced novel AANHPI-specific ideas. Warren vowed that as president, she will create a White House task force on data equity to prioritize disaggregation of federal and state demographic data. Aggregated AANHPI data has long led to the erasure of Southeast Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders for access to everything from education, healthcare, and the ballot box, and data disaggregation has been a major issue area for community advocacy groups (as well as for this blog).
Warren also promised to work with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander community leaders to develop other policies to better our communities. This is a vision that heralds back to the Obama administration when the White House worked in close partnership with AANHPI organizers to advance several policy initiatives and to launch the first-ever White House Summit on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Warren’s plan is noteworthy not just for its exhaustive policy research, but also for the way in which it aligns closely with existing advocacy work advanced by AANHPI community leaders. This plan resonates as writing that not only speaks to AANHPIs but that also has been inspired by us and our work — both in framing and in substance. This plan feels like it came from us; like it was developed in partnership with us. I never thought I would live to see the day when a presidential candidate would refer to the legacies of Boggs, Itliong, Vera Cruz, Korematsu and the land protectors of Mauna Kea — and all in the same breath.
Warren also goes beyond standard fare in speaking about the issues that galvanize AANHPI voters. As evidenced by the work of AAPIData, our electorates care deeply about many issues — and not just those that fit racial stereotypes of who we are, such as immigration, education, and the economy. Asian American voters, for example, are profoundly energized by issues such as climate change and gun control. Warren reflects the breadth of our political opinions and the diversity of our communities by introducing an agenda that draws widely from her campaign platform, and that includes discussion of racial justice, reproductive rights, affordable housing and the climate crisis — all areas that AANHPI voters are rarely engaged on, and yet that matter deeply to (and for) us.
Although many of the Democratic presidential candidates have launched campaign efforts to improve AANHPI voter and community outreach, Warren is currently the only Democratic presidential candidate to release a plan for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. In so doing, Warren has signaled a continued interest to work with our communities’ leaders to advance real change — a focus that heartens me as a budding supporter.
Last month, over 140 prominent Asian Americans joined together in an open letter in support of the Warren campaign. I was one of those Asian American signatories (although I wouldn’t self-describe as ‘prominent’), having made a late decision to support the Warren campaign after my first-choice candidate, Julian Castro, suspended his campaign. Although I have residual concerns about Warren’s candidacy, I am gladdened to see Warren’s campaign invest today in engaging AANHPI communities with such a comprehensive vision for our future.
Asian Americans make up a sizable portion of the electorate in several large states including in Nevada, where primary caucusgoers will cast their ballots next Saturday. Yet, voters still largely split in their choice for the Democratic presidential nominee and many remain undecided, likely because nearly half of Asian American voters receive no campaign contact during any given election cycle.
Warren has set an important precedent today in releasing her working agenda for AANHPI communities. I hope that other campaigns quickly follow suit, so that Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities can have a chance at being full participants in national political discourse this primary season.
Anyone who wants to be president should have a vision for the future that actively includes our communities.
Read Warren’s full plan for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities here.