By Tim Gruver
Northwest Asian Weekly
Months before the presidential election this November, thousands of Americans attended the Democratic and Republican national conventions to nominate their next commander-in-chief.
The Democratic National Convention (DNC) was held in Philadelphia from July 25–28. Hillary Clinton entered the convention with 2,205 bound delegates and 602 superdelegates (unelected delegates not bound to vote for any party candidate) — more than she needed to clinch the Democratic nomination.
Her opponent Bernie Sanders entered the convention with 1,846 pledged delegates and 48 superdelegates — short of the simple majority needed to receive the nomination.
In an emotional moment on July 26, Sanders stopped the roll call vote and pushed for his rival to get the nomination. “Madam Chair, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules, I move that all votes, all votes cast by delegates be reflected in the official record, and I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States,” Sanders said.
The Democrats formally nominated Clinton, making history by choosing a woman to be the first presidential nominee of major U.S. political party.
A small faction of Sanders supporters walked out in protest. Clinton and Sanders supporters were at odds at the beginning of the DNC. A meeting held the morning of July 25 by the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Caucus, was interrupted by Sanders supporters holding a banner that read “Asian American Pacific Islanders for Bernie.” But for many of those gathered at the AAPI Caucus meeting, Clinton was the clear and best choice for the party and the country.
On the eve of the DNC, we spoke to a Democratic delegate who pledged to vote for Sanders. Washington resident Shaun Olsen represented the state’s Legislative District 21 as an alternate delegate for Sanders.
It was his first time traveling as a delegate to a national political convention. Such a role doesn’t come cheap. Only half of his estimated $5,000 travel expenses were paid by the Democratic party, leaving Olsen to pay for the rest out of pocket himself. The cost did not dampen Olsen’s passion for the Sanders’s campaign.
“I was really, really excited when Bernie announced he was going to run, but I was hesitant at first, because I didn’t know if he was going to resonate with everyone,” Olsen said. “To my amazement, his campaign has been an injection of faith in my fellow Americans as his message has resonated around the country.”
Olsen has followed Sanders’ career since the Vermont politician’s election to the United States Senate in 2006. He credits Sanders’ “Brunch with Bernie” Q&A segments on the Thom Hartmann radio program as what initially interested him about Sanders’ progressive politics.
“I was impressed with him doing that stuff right off the bat and it endeared me to his perspective,” Olsen said. “He spoke a lot about where we’ve gone off track and how we can make a more equitable situation for everyone.”
Like many of his fellow delegates, Olsen believed that the 2016 Democratic platform failed to embody key liberal interests, such as raising the cap on social security payroll taxes and calling for a ban on fracking. Chief among these is a stronger stance against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multinational trade agreement that would effectively extend more restrictive intellectual property laws in the U.S., Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Canada, among others.
“There are a lot holes in the platform,” Olsen said. “Some of our objections include the party’s weak stance on TPP, which we believe will be detrimental to how our economy will function in the future, and lifting the cap on Social Security.”
The week prior, the Republicans held their convention in Cleveland, Ohio from July 18–21. Donald Trump, who clinched the nomination since last May, entered the Republican National Convention (RNC) with 1,415 bound delegates and 127 unbound superdelegates — more than he needed to secure the nomination.
Despite Trump’s solid victory in Washington’s Republican primary earlier this year, the majority of Washington state Republican delegates favored Ted Cruz and unsuccessfully demanded a roll call vote on convention rules to unbind the convention’s delegates.
“They shafted all of us,” said Brenda High of Pasco, a Republican state delegate who spoke to Robert Mak of Seattletopstory.com before the start of the RNC. “I just don’t know where I’m going to go from here.”
On July 20, Cruz declined to endorse Trump and told Republicans to “vote your conscience.” Cruz was met with boos from the crowd, but didn’t back down the next day, saying it was personal because of Trump’s attacks on his wife and father.
“I consider [Trump] to be a bit of a bully,” said High. “But hey, bullies make great leaders, so we’ll see what happens.”
While several requests to the Republican National Committee to identify or interview Asian American Republican delegates from Washington state went unanswered, a couple of Asian Americans took to the stage at the RNC.
Kimberly Yee of the Arizona Senate, the first Asian American elected to the Arizona State Legislature said, “It is time for us to get back to our conservative Republican values that make our nation great.”
And on July 21, Dr. Lisa Shin, head of Korean Americans for Trump, called Clinton a “direct threat to the American dream” in her speech. “There is only one candidate who will protect, stand with, and fight for we, the American people,” Shin said to rousing applause and cheers. “There is only one clear choice for America: that choice is Donald J. Trump.”
The RNC was marked by a string of incidents including a speech by Trump’s wife, Melania, who was accused of plagiarizing a 2008 speech given by First Lady Michelle Obama within an hour of leaving the stage.
Washington state Republican delegate Apollo Fuhriman believed that Republicans should stand by Trump as the Republican nominee regardless of their previous preference.
“I like talking about how when you’re driving a car, you have a rearview mirror, but when you spend your time staring in the rearview mirror and everything’s about the past, you get into an accident,” Fuhriman said in an interview with Mak. “You look at it, glance at it, but you move forward.”
Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.