Why is Obama Snubbing Asian Americans?


By: Emil Guillermo, Jan 13, 2008

    The Feb. 5 ballot is in my hot little hands. I’m a vote by mail guy because, that way, voting ranks up there with my Visa bill. When it’s due, it gets paid. I don’t forget.

    But since I’m a “decline to state,” I can’t vote in the most interesting primary in California in some time.

    So I’m tearing up my voter ballot and re-registering immediately. I suggest you do the same if you’re one of those privacy-seeking “independent” types. You have until Jan. 22 to get on a partisan list, Democratic or Republican (I know there are a few elephants in the tea house).

    It’s just too important this year. By November, the biggest choice for your party will have been made — without you.

    This year, California has moved up its primary from June to February, in order not to have your franchise trumped early in the game. An early ballot also becomes a critical showcase for the most Asian American state in the union. Do you want to make a difference?

    Re-register, state your preference and decide now who will represent you.


    Since most of the APA community tends Democratic, the big vote will be your preference: Clinton or Obama.

    This is causing quite a divide among APA politicos. But read on for the issue that may separate the candidates for you.

    Obama made hay in Iowa when he scored big among women and independents. It may seem logical that Obama must have something if he can score big in the white-belt.

    But for my money, the real test for Obama is how he will play in a state where the minorities are the majority and where Asian Americans are more numerous than blacks.

    So far, Obama has not done well when it comes to communicating with Asian Americans.

    It’s odd given Obama’s background. His prep school buddies from Punahou, now the elites of Hawai‘i, were the most rabid early supporters of an Obama candidacy. Most of those backers were haoles, the island way of referring to whites. But Obama’s overall Hawai‘i connections have always given him a veneer of being an “Asian-friendly” candidate.

    But now there’s real evidence that it would be wrong to assume that Obama is a “rainbow” guy, or that he would even address serious Asian American concerns.

    Barry Obama, the old Punahou High alum, has positively snubbed a humble questionnaire from an APA grassroots organization. While most of the Democratic candidates (Clinton and Edwards among them) submitted answers to the survey, Obama has not.

    That’s a record equal to the Republican snub. Giuliani? Romney? Nothing. Obama’s in real unbecoming company.

    The “dis” is not taken lightly by the originators of the questions, 80-20, a nonpartisan group that has developed over the years into an effective APA political advocacy organization. Led by S.B. Woo, a former lieutenant governor in Delaware, 80-20 is not some fly-by-night group. And its questions to the candidates weren’t puffballs.

    They were specific questions like: If elected, will you direct the labor secretary to hold public hearings regarding the validity of the huge amount of statistical data strongly suggesting discriminatory practices against Asian Americans in workplaces today? If the data were shown valid, will you issue a directive to the Labor Department asking it to focus on enforcing Executive Order 11246 (mandating equal employment opportunity) on behalf of Asian Americans, since in the past similar efforts have already been made on behalf of women and other minorities?

    Why would the “change agent” be afraid to say yes to any of that?

    Other questions asked include whether Obama would seek nomination of qualified Asian Americans to serve as federal judges; Asian Ameicans currently represent 0.6 percent of judges despite being 4.5 percent of the population, and more than 5 percent of the lawyers in America’s biggest firms.

    Woo said Obama’s staff simply declined to answer the questionnaire and responded with rhetorical inanities like “when [Obama] is president, an Asian American will have a better chance to be president.”

    Woo said Obama staffers are also fond of pointing out that Obama’s brother-in-law is a Chinese American. And that will take care of equal opportunity in the workplace?

    I’ll cut Obama a break. He can just let me know his answers if he’s serious about APA empowerment (see e-mail below).

    But 80-20 is so incensed it’s started a nationwide e-mailing campaign to “Defeat Obama.”

    It’s one thing to be slighted by some Desperate Housewives. It’s another thing when it’s an arrogant snub from a history chaser like Obama. Clinton and Edwards answered yes to all of 80-20’s questions. What’s the difference? One word: experience.


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