By Janice Nesamani
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Created to foster and empower Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and leaders to play a more active role in state and national politics, the AAPI Victory Alliance was founded in 2017. Today, the organization provides education on progressive issues and advocates policies that help the community.
At the organization’s helm is Varun Nikore, who was in Seattle recently to participate in the Asians in Philanthropy Conference. With Washington’s primary election coming up on Aug. 2, he spoke to us about what his organization feels will motivate AAPI voters to change the tide this year.
Roe v. Wade reversal
“We are monitoring the national electoral landscape and the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade repeal in June is going to have a very negative effect on the AAPI community,” Nikore said.
“It is going to hurt a lot of AAPI women and families and is one of the most devastating things our community has faced.”
If one were to look at states affected by trigger laws, particularly Texas and Florida, Texas has the third largest population of AAPIs and the worst anti-female, anti-women legislation.
Nikore feels that in places like Texas, where most women are not low income, this will be a challenge.
“Granted they can travel, but every roadblock you put against women on this issue severely affects their health outcomes. It’s not only about abortion, but essentially restricting the right of a woman to have control over her body and make her own choices,” he said.
AAPI Victory Alliance is working with allies to figure out what they can do next as this is going to be an election issue for many AAPIs.
Recalling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling established gay rights and reproductive rights erroneous, Nikore feels LGBT rights are next.
“The next time these cases land up at the Supreme Court, they are going to have at least one justice who is going to be working hard to strike down existing freedoms that Americans now have. It’s very scary,” he said.
A day before the Roe v. Wade reversal, the Supreme Court came out against New York state’s open carry restrictions. Even before the Uvalde school shooting, the Latino community’s top issue of the day was gun violence.
The AAPI Victory Alliance is working on a poll that will be released in July that will ask the same questions but to the AAPI community. “I can almost guarantee that gun violence will be one of the top three issues for AAPIs,” Nikore said.
Gun violence prevention is a signature issue of the organization.
“We are going to be working very hard to not only communicate and educate our community on the importance of further gun restrictions, but will also ensure our voters come out this Fall by utilizing gun violence prevention messages in addition to reproductive rights and freedoms,” Nikore said.
Monumental turn for election
Prior to the Roe v. Wade leak and actual reversal by the Supreme Court, AAPI Victory Alliance assumed that the main areas of focus for the AAPI community were going to be the economy, inflation, and violence and hate targeted towards the AAPI community.
“Now the landscape has shifted a little. It is going to be reproductive rights and guns in addition to the hate and violence in our community,” Nikore said.
“Republicans have taken what was their strength this election cycle—high gas prices and inflation—and essentially made them third tier issues,” he said.
Nikore feels the Democrats now have a little more solid footing to appeal to AAPI voters.
While AAPIs are concerned about rising inflation and gas prices and it has obviously hit President Biden’s approval rating, Nikore thinks most Asians are pretty savvy.
“While it is hitting their pocketbooks, they know it is probably not permanent. How can you compare rising prices and inflation with the loss of a right most AAPIs have had ever since they were born or came to this country? I don’t think it compares in the minds of most AAPIs,” Nikore said.
Banner year for women
Nikore believes that this is going to be a banner year for female candidates, particularly for AAPI female candidates.
“We were on track to lose the House of Representatives and it is still impossible to know for sure, but I think we are going to do much better than we would have done in a year where the party of the president traditionally loses seats and it’s because women are fired up to vote,” Nikore said.
He points out that Republicans and Democrats really need white suburban women to win the house.
“Democrats have a lot of women of color on their side, the battle is going to be with white suburban women,” Nikore said.
He is of the opinion that this voter population doesn’t like what has come out of the Supreme Court, will vote, and are going to be throwing a lot of people out of office who, in a normal year, might have won.
Blue states can help the country
The AAPI Victory Alliance views very blue states like Washington, California, and Oregon and their large AAPI populations as being very helpful to the rest of the country.
Most of the elections are foregone conclusions with a few tight races in certain places. So, one of the things the AAPI Victory Alliance is trying to do is galvanize blue state progressive-leaning AAPIs to coalesce some other states that they might try to flip.
“Texas and Florida are two states where blue state progressive AAPIs could be of some assistance,” Nikore said.
Future works of the AAPI Victory Alliance
In December 2022, the AAPI Victory Alliance will organize a policy conference in Washington, D.C. where it will get together thought leaders to discuss how we can move forward in the next congress and in the next legislative cycles to propose policies that are more friendly to the AAPI community.
Janice can be reached at email@example.com.