We now have the political clout!
Asian Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the US, and some politicians are now scrambling to reconcile a need to appeal to that community with a lingering anti-China sentiment that reached a climax in the 2010 midterm elections.
In that year, at least 29 candidates ran advertisements featuring imagery and messages related to China’s economic rise at the supposed expense of US jobs.
A TV spot for Democratic Senator Harry Reid of Nevada (the US Senate majority leader) accused Republican Sharron Angle of being “a foreign worker’s best friend,” against the backdrop of images of Chinese factory workers.
The most infamous ad that year featured a Chinese professor speaking in subtitled Mandarin to a classroom of the future, recounting America’s downfall: “Of course, we owned most of their debt – so now they work for us,” the professor says to a room full of laughing Chinese students. Produced by Citizens Against Government Waste, the ad seized on the need for a scapegoat amidst a growing mood of economic discontent.
But in 2012, nearly 4 million Asian Americans voted in the general election, representing a 91 percent increase from 2000. According to a Pew study, Asian Americans have surpassed Hispanics as the largest group of new immigrants in the US. Politicians are now faced with the realization that Asian votes are increasingly important to their success, in an atmosphere that often still blames China for a lack of jobs.
The rise of Asian voters and an active social media culture have contributed to more nuanced attitudes toward the handling of foreign policy and race in politics, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, associate professor of political science at the University of California Riverside and the overseer of the National Asian-American Survey.
Although 72 percent of Asian Americans voted for Obama in 2012, many Asian immigrants still retain conservative views toward business and social values. The move toward Democratic allegiance is a recent one: In 1992, 31 percent of Asian Americans voted for Bill Clinton; in 2000, the Asian-American vote was roughly evenly split between the candidates.