Kamala Harris (middle) pictured at a campaign event. (Photo credit: Ebony)
Ending months of speculation, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator Joe Biden announced today that he has selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate. With that choice, Harris becomes the first Black woman and the first Asian American to run for the vice presidency on a major party ticket.
Republican Young Kim, who is the first Korean American woman elected to Congress. (Photo Credit: Thomas McKinless/CQ)
Editor’s Note:Since the writing of this post, it has become clear that Young Kim’s race has not yet been called due to a number of outstanding ballots still to be counted; however she leads by a 5-point margin in her race. This post will be updated if the outcome of her election changes.
The dust settled on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018 with a consequential power shift for Democrats: the House of Representatives flipped to a substantial Democratic majority after Democratic candidates were able to unseat or overcome Republican opponents in several states across the nation; and Democrats also picked up 7 governorships, rendering the new gubernatorial balance of power a near-even split with Republicans.
The Asian American community also saw its own historic firsts. Just shy of the number of Asian Americans or Pacific Islander (AAPI) candidates who competed for a congressional or gubernatorial seat in 2016, 26 AAPI candidates were vying in a federal or gubernatorial race on Tuesday night. All AAPIs running as incumbents, including thirteen members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) were re-elected — most by sweeping margins. In particular, Hawaii’s Senator Mazie Hirono — who has dominated headlines recently for her fiery commentary during the Kavanaugh hearings — won more than 70% of the votes in her district, which serve as a clear mandate for more prominent feminist rhetoric on the Hill after more than a year of headlines dominated by the erosion of women’s rights.
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?
Marking the closing of this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (which is celebrated every year for the month of May), eight of Congress’ Asian American Democratic members came together this week to shoot a video honouring the history and contributions of the AAPI community (after the jump).
Representatives Mark Takano, Doris Matsui ,Ted Lieu, Ami Bera, Judy Chu and Mike Honda of California were joined by their colleagues Rep. Grace Meng of New York and Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii to film the three-and-a-half minute video highlighting the accomplishments of historic Asian American civil rights icons such as Fred Korematsu and Dalip Singh Saund, as well as the growing number of young Asian Americans — most of them Democrats — who are dedicating their lives to public service.