Former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pledged at today’s AAPI Presidential Townhall that he would release a report on the diversity of his campaign staff. Immediately following the event, his campaign issued a report showing that more than one-third of staff (including one-third of senior staff) are people of colour, and more than half are women.
Biden has faced criticism in recent days for failing to disclose the diversity of his campaign staff despite boasting during the primary that had “the most diverse campaign staff of anybody running.” Critics have pointed out that Biden’s top advisors appear to be mostly white. As recently as a few days ago, Biden’s campaign has inexplicably refused to release its diversity numbers. With today’s announcement, Biden’s campaign reported 36% of people working in leadership roles are people of colour, and 58% are women. Biden’s campaign further noted that several senior staffers are Asian American and/or Pacific Islander, including his Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, National Voter Protection Director, Digital Chief of Staff, Director of Digital Partnership, and Surrogates Director.
Less than a day after Biden’s campaign released their diversity report, Trump’s campaign also released a report on staffer diversity. Trump reports that 52% of his campaign’s senior staffers are women, and 25% are people of colour.
By Guest Contributor: Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIAVote (@apiavote)
Edison town council member Sapana Shah realized something was wrong the moment she checked social media, learning that she and her neighbors received the same anti-Asian mailer Wednesday which featured a “deport” stamp on the photos of two Asian school board candidates. The postcard also read, “The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”
Targeting candidates based on bias and hate toward various ethnic, racial or religious identity is not new. And Shah is no stranger to it as a candidate. She recounted multiple incidents to me over the phone. Shah, a long-time resident in the Edison township of Middlesex County, New Jersey, was told to go back to her country when she ran for local elected office. She once found her campaign signs inscribed with the words “dot head,” an offensive racial slur. As a town council member, Shah endured insults from residents who shouted her down at the end of a public meeting for voting to include Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, as a school holiday.
When individuals are targets of hate, it not only affects them but also entire communities.
It seems obvious that greater electoral numbers for AAPIs should yield concomitant greater political power for our community. America is a representative democracy, wherein constituents are promised a seat at the table by a simple sociopolitical contract: our votes are offered to politicians as a quid pro quo promise of beneficial policy changes. More votes might therefore be assumed to invite better policies. Indeed, some AAPI groups – most notably 80-20 — deploy such thinking as rationale for their mission to create a national AAPI voting bloc comprising 80% or more of all voting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; the group’s leaders seek to leverage that bloc for or against specific candidates.
But what if this thinking is flawed; or, at least, incomplete? What if sheer voting numbers do not alone guarantee greater political power for voters on the fringes of American politics? How do AAPI voters, and other voters of colour, build political power when we must cast our votes in a system structurally resistant to prioritizing issues of race and racism?