BY ANDREW TSAO
Guest Columnist/Eastside Democracy for America
It is no secret that Asian Americans are playing an increasingly significant role in American politics. While by no means monolithic, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans are voting in larger numbers, running for office more often, and taking increasingly active stands on a wide range of issues.
The congressional district I live in on the Eastside has a particularly interesting story to tell as far as Asian voters go. With an Asian population that has doubled over the last decade and an Asian population nearing 20 percent in the Bellevue metropolitan area, Washington’s 8th Congressional District is one region where a strong Asian electoral voice is about to be heard.
I believe that voice should be a Democratic one.
In the 2004 presidential election, the majority of Asian Americans nationwide voted Democratic. This was a significant change from a decade before, when the Republican Party could count on a majority of Asian votes. Indicators show that the trend towards a Democratic Asian American voter base in America will continue.
I believe our common ground as Asian Americans complements the Democratic Party’s commitment to the common good in a fundamental way.
My father, who immigrated to Seattle from Shanghai, was a lifelong Republican. However, the Republican Party he was loyal to bears little resemblance to the Republican Party that is in absolute power today. Over the last 20 years, the influences of religious fundamentalism, corporate lobbying and neo-conservative think tanks have left the Republicans where they stand now: morally bankrupt, fiscally irresponsible, internationally arrogant.
My father and mother would tout the Republican ideals of personal responsibility and moral righteousness whenever they would defend their loyalty. Yet, my mother finally asked me the other day; “What is wrong with these people? How could they be like this?”
Asian Americans share an abiding affinity with the Democratic Party on many fronts: restoring ethics to government, building real security at home by telling the truth to our soldiers and citizens who risk their lives for us, creating real energy independence, promoting economic prosperity and educational excellence for every American, making healthcare affordable and accessible for every citizen, protecting retirement security for the long haul.
But it is the fundamental, common ground that the Democratic Party and Asian Americans stand on that is at the core of why Asian Americans will continue to vote Democrat in more and more numbers. Our belief in the common good.
The bedrock of Democratic Party ideals is that as a nation, we all should move forward together. We are not a country of selfish people. We are a nation of communities held together by the idea that what is good for most, is better for us all. When Americans move forward together, miracles happen. Asians from every part of the world understand this way of thinking. We understand it because at its roots, this is the idea of family and community. Above and beyond issues and policies, Asians are most passionate about living in a country where the values of family and community are held high. At the core of these values is the belief that we all share in the struggle, yet we all share in the reward. Together. As a group. As a nation.
This idea of the common good is sorely lacking in the Republican Party. From a maverick president who heeds no other voices but his own, to a congress rank with scandals that daily reveals new levels of individual greed, to a philosophy that entitles the wealthy at the expense of the poor, and praises an “every man for himself” mentality that defies the very nature of the economy and global community we live in. These actions alone demonstrate an exclusionary philosophy. When a senate says it believes in education, then cuts funding for student loans, it is not acting for the common good. When a congress gives tax cuts to the wealthiest one percent but refuses to raise the minimum wage, it is not acting for the common good. When a president hires incompetent cronies and then hails their incompetence as tens of thousands live in peril, he no longer understands what the common good is.
The promise of freedom and the rights of the individual are inextricably tied to the notion of the common good. Valuing individual freedom means embracing different lifestyles, beliefs and most importantly, the equal rule of law. The Democratic Party invites all Americans to participate in our democracy. The Republican Party divides us by making political issues over our differences. They would define for us what makes a good American.
As we stand on the threshold of an election that will decide the direction of our country, I ask Asian Americans to recall their common ground, rededicate themselves to the idea of the common good, and vote Democratic on Nov. 7. Let our common voice be heard all the way to Washington, D.C.