Remember Asian American voters
Without a doubt, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) voters showed up in this 2020 election cycle.
We showed up in numbers never seen before. We showed up with an energy and fervor never experienced before. We showed up to be counted among the historic 80 million votes — the highest ever received by a winning presidential candidate. Most of all, we showed up to elect the first Black and Asian American woman as our next vice president — breaking down the highest glass and bamboo ceiling yet.
As a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and chair of ASPIRE — the political arm of AAPI members of Congress — I am immensely proud of Democrats’ united work to mobilize and energize Asian American communities all across the country.
This engagement, and the subsequent historic turnout, however, did not happen overnight. Motivated by the devastating 2016 defeat, I made it my personal mission to ensure AAPIs were an integral part of our party’s outreach strategy. As such, the DNC’s focus on AAPI coalitions happened early on, years before the presidential election-cycle, consistently in key battleground states.
After all, the numbers do not lie: AAPIs are the fastest growing electorate. To ignore this community is to do so at the Democratic Party’s own peril.
That is why, over the past four years, I traveled across the country to nearly two dozen states and critical locations like Gwinnett County, Ga.; Harris and Tarrant County, Texas; Clark County, Nev.; Lehigh Valley, Pa.; and many others. With each visit, I met longtime Democratic Party insiders to first-time voters; local Democratic clubs, organizations, community leaders, and small business owners, and listened closely to how our party could better serve them. I worked to ensure that the Democratic Party reached out to every Asian American community with cultural competency and in-language materials.
I launched ASPIRE’s Adopt-A-State initiative to connect AAPI members of Congress with the AAPI electorate in critical states. We also collaborated closely with the Biden campaign on its AAPI Bus Tour to motivate our community on voter registration, voter education, and organizing.
At the same time, the Biden campaign, DNC, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) made unprecedented investments in the AAPI community. From hiring dedicated AAPI organizers early on and across the country to making historic investments in in-language ethnic media outlets in battleground states; from investing funds in state parties, and AAPI candidates; to developing micro-targeted data on AAPI voters based on sub-ethnicities — such investments mattered, motivated, and made the ultimate difference.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the dedicated and hardworking AAPI volunteers and advocates. Many had been under-appreciated for too long. Their sweat equity turned out these voters across the country. We owe them our gratitude. Some of these volunteers organized over 14 AAPI affinity groups to support President-elect Biden to engage voters with cultural competency, including in-language phone and text banks, literature dropping, mailing postcards, participating in virtual forums, and establishing WeChat and KakaoTalk groups.
AAPIs favored Biden over Trump 70 to 28 percent. And even more astonishing, 83 percent of AAPI youth voters voted for Biden over 14 percent for Trump. AAPI turnout increased by over 20 percent since 2016, and early and absentee voting rose 300 percent in the battleground states — more than any other group. The influx in AAPI early voting in key states like Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania became President-elect Biden’s margin of victory.
Even now, as the battle for Senate majority continues to wage in Georgia, we cannot overlook that in Georgia alone, AAPI early voters exceeded their total 2016 turnout by 57 percent. On Jan. 5, control of the Senate will depend on continued AAPI voter engagement.
AAPI voters knew what was on the line.
First, electing Kamala Harris as the first-ever AAPI vice president was an electrifying motivation. The daughter of an immigrant South Asian mom, the vice president-elect’s storied background moved our community to the election booths.
Second, the president’s words matter, and Trump’s words of “China Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” and “Kung Flu” fueled hate and violence against Asian Americans. That is why the House of Representatives passed my resolution denouncing such rhetoric and anti-Asian sentiment.
On the other hand, Biden made clear he would embrace and stand up for immigrant communities. He presented a clear and substantive agenda for AAPIs. Ultimately, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will work with us to empower the AAPI community.
And now, it’s on Democrats to continue to steadfastly show up for AAPIs across the country.
Grace Meng represents the 6th District of New York. She is a DNC vice chair and chair of ASPIRE — the political arm of AAPI members of Congress.