A Tale of Two Conventions
With the Democratic Convention in the United States now behind us, the
major candidates are out on the campaign trail for the homestretch.
One thing notable from the standpoint of Asian Pacific Americans (APAs)
is the unprecedented amount of air time given to our community from both
On the Republican side, Elaine Chao was given a prime time spot to
speak. The Democratic APAs didn't get such a choice time slot but had a
larger number of speakers scheduled. These included Norm Mineta, the
first APA appointed to a Cabinet position.
The new emphasis on APAs, for sure, wasn't comparable to the focus
placed on Latino Americans. The Latino vote is now considered the real
new force in American politics.
But it does represent an energizing shift from the obscurity or even
notoriety that existed before.
After the fund-raising scandals involving persons of Asian descent
during the Clinton campaigns, many wondered which direction APAs would
take in politics. Generally, our community as hidden when the spotlight
was directed our way.
But the scandals and other events, including the Wen Ho Lee case, seem
to have awakened at least an important segment of the community into
The formation of the 80-20 political action committee was seen my many,
but not all, as a positive development. There are those who suspect that
the organization may be a front for the Democratic Party, or for the
campaign aspirations of spokesman, S.B. Woo.
Woo, the former lieutenant governor of Delaware, has denied these
accusations noting that 80-20's presidential endorsement committee is
evenly divided between Democrats, Independents and Republicans.
We will have to wait and see whether 80-20 can overcome party loyalty
and really galvanize 80 percent of the APA community to support their
That's been their goal from the start (the 80 in 80-20 stands for 80
percent of the community).
This election might signal the beginning of an APA wedge vote that can
greatly increase our political clout. If Latinos in California were
galvanized by Pete Wilson's threats to take benefits away from
immigrants, APAs too seem to be motivated by perceived attacks on their
However, the success of Latinos may have inspired a new social
responsibility in them that wasn't active before. Their involvement
does not seem motivated anymore by perceived threats, but by the taste
of new power.
If APAs can achieve something along the same line of relative success,
no doubt they will get hooked as well.