By Assunta Ng
President Obama’s presidential election in 2008 inspired an astounding turnout for African American voters. It happened to the Asian community when one of our own was running for office. Why not? It’s an opportunity for Asian Americans to make an impact when it comes to public policy. It’s wonderful to see Asians breaking the glass ceiling because there are so few on top.
We might fall into the trap of “political correctness”, sometimes without really knowing the candidate’s stand. Or we assume we know the candidate simply because s/he is Asian and that we’ve known the candidate for a while.
“Political correctness” could be the same rule that some of us apply to non-Asian candidates. “Yes, this candidate supports the Asian community,” therefore, we should vote for him.
What if the candidate is a lousy leader and he couldn’t govern? He would be an ally of the community but disastrous for the city or the state!
You as a voter have to decide if the candidate’s pro-community position is more significant than his ability to lead. Is your decision based on your personal convictions or your affiliations (because your friends ask you to support certain individuals)? In any case, it’s crucial that you balance your values of convictions and affiliations so you can be at peace with your own conclusion.
Challenge your assumptions
To exercise your judgment, it’s wise to distinguish your own personal bias from facts about certain candidates. Also identify the rumors you have heard. Some might not be true because you have no evidence to verify them. It takes courage to recognize your own fallacies and to vote for strong candidates even though you might not totally agree with them.
A colleague once said his guiding principle is to vote the insiders out and outsiders in. Think twice. Some experienced elected officials are worth keeping. They have built the connection to make things happen for the city and state. Newcomers do take much longer to learn the ropes and build relationships.
Another colleague said always go with female candidates or persons of color. Some vote along party lines. It’s risky to follow those guidelines.
However, if both candidates are equally qualified, then you can vote by gender and people of color.
A candidate with an Asian last name doesn’t necessarily mean s/he is Asian if she uses her spouse’s name. Meantime, an Asian candidate might have a non-Asian last name because s/he is adopted by non-Asian parents. We look at the candidates’ photos and follow up with phone calls to verify their heritage. They don’t seem to be offended.
Voters should always study the candidates by reading the Voters’ Pamphlets and reaching out to them as suggested in the later section.
Vote for the person’s qualifications rather than his political party or other affiliations.
Reaching out to candidates
Most of us have difficulty being informed voters, including the Northwest Asian Weekly. We don’t know everything, so we have to dig up a lot of information by calling the candidates, asking them questions and interviewing their opponents, supporters and neutral parties. You can do the same. The candidates are receptive to voters emailing them questions and even calling them. They are good about returning calls promptly. Challenge them with issues and problems so you know how well they know about their job.
There are a few who never respond, of course, so it tells us that they are not interested in getting Asian voters.
The more you attend candidates’ forums, the more you learn about them in different settings. The API Candidates’ Forum on Oct. 1, held at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, helped an audience of 190 to understand candidates better.
The Ethnic Media Candidates’ Greet and Meet on Sept. 10 enabled us to chat with candidates informally. I also attended downtown forums to listen to city council candidates. All of these gatherings were informative, helping the Northwest Asian Weekly make endorsement decisions. Our endorsements are by no means complete, but they serve as a guide for some critical races. As a small publication, we just didn’t have sufficient time and resources to study every candidate and issue, but we hope we are available to provide some insight. (end)