By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
There are many reasons why people vote. Beyond our civic duty, it can also reveal stupid, biased, laughable, and sometimes, dark motives. Many voters might share those motives which I am listing below. Voting decisions are complex, subjective, and emotional because of your life experiences and background. Ask yourself: Do your choices reflect more on you, as a voter, or the candidate?
1. Revenge mentality
Let’s be honest. How many times have you voted for someone — not because he/she is a strong candidate, but because you hate the opponent? Voting as an act of revenge is not unusual. Anger drives many to the voting booth. Many may forgive, but won’t forget or vice versa. I will not be surprised if more voters participate in this upcoming midterm election, due to their resentment towards President Trump.
It happened in the 2016 presidential election. So many white men and women disapproved of Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill Clinton, that they decided to cast their vote for Trump.
2. The race factor
“I voted for her because she’s Asian.” Does this sound familiar? Or “I prefer the person of color candidate over the white candidate,” rather than evaluating their qualifications. Should the candidate’s race be the deciding factor?
It’s the age of progress. For the past five years, the number of Asian or minority candidates has risen. How do you decide if there is more than one Asian candidate running for the same seat? The tough part is, many are qualified candidates, just like the 45th legislative district race in 2017 between Manka Dhingra and Jinyoung Englund. In this upcoming primary election, software engineer Joseph Nguyen and nurse administrator Sofia Aragon are running for the 34th legislative district seat.
The best way is to interview the candidates (the Asian Weekly interviewed both), attending candidates’ forums, and talking to their supporters about why they support their candidate. Study their track record.
3. The gender factor
The same goes with the gender issue. Listen to some of voters. “If the woman is almost as strong as the male candidate, I go with the woman.” “We need to vote more women in.” “Men have run the show for so long, it’s the women’s turn now.”
What if both candidates are female? What if the female candidate is not as capable as the male candidate?
4. The underdog mentality
Community activists usually fight the established candidate, even though he might be a stronger candidate, while treating the inexperienced underdog with special consideration, grace, and affection. The key question for our community is, “Has the established or underdog candidate done anything for the Asian community prior to running for office?” If the underdog candidate hasn’t really done anything, why do some community activists just gamble on someone who doesn’t have a track record? Of course, the underdog would say, “I will listen to, and work, with the Asian community.” Candidates will say or do anything to get elected. Look for candidates who would work with our community, and have the ability and competence to deliver.
5. The front-runner candidate
“Why pick losers? Everyone said he/she’s going to win.” Some voters vote for someone because he/she’s the presumed winner. Polls are not always reliable. Election results are getting harder to predict. Take the 2016 presidential election. Most media outlets predicted Hillary Clinton would win. As far back as 2004, the Washington state governor’s race between Christine Gregoire (even though she had statewide recognition as a two-term attorney general) and Dino Rossi, a former state senator, was one of the closest political races in U.S. history. Gregoire won by a mere 129 votes out of more than 2.8 million.
6. The rich candidate
If you vote for candidates who are rich like Trump, you are blind. Trump said his billionaire cabinet members would be less inclined to be corrupted and more independent. Wrong! At least five of Trump’s cabinet members have misused government funds to the tune of $2.4 million, including chartering private planes, buying special lotions and furniture, and abusing their power, according to Center for American Progress Action Fund.
We can’t generalize, though. Former mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, also a billionaire, has done many good things for the city, in addition to not taking a salary and donating his money to strengthen city, national, and global programs.
7. Name confusion
What’s in a name? Would you vote for someone else because you couldn’t stand the candidate’s name? In 1990, Charles W. Johnson, an unknown attorney, won the election for Washington State Supreme Court seat, beating incumbent Justice Keith Callow, with virtually no campaigning. The media attributed it to voters confusing Johnson with Justice Charles Z. Smith. Secondly, Callow is not a common name like Johnson. Familiarity breeds comfort and friendliness in the ballot box.
Fortunately, Johnson is a well-respected justice and has been elected for a fifth term.
In the 2016 election, Ohio Governor John Kasich lost the GOP nomination. Some immigrants complained that they couldn’t pronounce Kasich’s name, whereas Trump is an easy name to remember.
However, President Barack Obama, with an unusual name, still won big in 2008 and 2012, against incredible odds. That’s a remarkable accomplishment. The name turned out to be an advantage, and he stood out among a crowd of candidates.
8. First-come, first-served
The late political guru Ruth Woo didn’t always support the most qualified candidate. Woo often said, “This candidate came to me first, so I already committed to him.” A more logical approach would be to find out who else is running before you commit. Take the time to learn about the race and candidates. The candidate is pushy and in a hurry. But you don’t have to be.
In 1995, the race between former governor Gary Locke and former mayor of Seattle Norm Rice is an example. Rice announced his gubernatorial intent before Locke. Many Asian Americans had committed to Rice. When Locke announced he was also in the race, several Asian Americans defected to Locke’s camp. It did create some bad feelings between the two groups. Thank God, Rice was gracious. Had some Asian community members waited, it would have been less hurtful for Rice.
9. Friends to friends
It is common for voters to rely on friends and family in politics, as they couldn’t possibly have opportunities or time to meet all of the candidates. If your friends are knowledgeable in current affairs, and are always fair and wise, fine. But if your friends carry certain biases, such as being a loyal Democrat or partisan Republican, you have to judge carefully. It’s always helpful to talk to friends about candidates as a sounding board. But do draw your own conclusions.
I can go on and on. The crucial point is, understand what drives you to vote. You are entitled to change your mind, even at the last second. Beware whether you are following your convictions or detracting from them in your vote. Voting is an incredible journey for personal discovery.
Give a pat on the back to yourself for participating in our democracy.
And don’t forget to vote in the Aug. 7 primary election.
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.