Asian-Americans have untapped political power

by Alison Schmauch | 11/1/00 6:00am

Assistant government professor David Kang spoke about the role of Asian-Americans in politics during a dinner last night sponsored by the Pan Asian Council, and said the group has an unrealized potential to impact major elections.

Asian-Americans, like other minority groups, tend to engage in activist politics -- forming grassroots organizations, holding rallies, etc. -- yet they must recognize the necessity of taking practical steps which will enable candidates to win elections, Kang said.

According to Kang, as Asian-Americans form only 5 percent of the voter public, a candidate who appeals only to the unique interests of Asian-Americans cannot be successful within the American electoral system.

While minority groups tend to define rigidly who can be a member of that group and who cannot, Kang said this tendency can prevent minority groups from unifying to elect candidates.

Kang said that Asian-Americans tend to take positions that are more moderate than those of other minority groups.

For instance, he showed statistics indicating that while Asian-Americans do not oppose affirmative action as often as whites do, they do not favor it as strongly as blacks and Latinos.

Because they occupy this position politically between blacks and whites, Kang said that Asian Americans are crucial "swing voters" who could perhaps decide the outcome of future national elections.

For example, he said that the five percent of the population that supports Ralph Nader is currently proving influential in the presidential elections and so Asian Americans might prove equally influential.

However, Kang said that Asian-Americans have not organized as effectively as possible to accomplish political goals and said they should look for ways to correct this problem in the future.

After Kang's speech, students discussed his remarks over a dinner catered by the Hanover Inn.

Each table received a set of discussion guidelines encouraging participants to speak about what factors they think play a part in Asian-Americans' participation, what they learned from Kang's speech, and about their own roles in the political process.

Each attendee also received a sheet containing summaries of George W. Bush's and Al Gore's positions on major issues of concern to Asian-Americans, including immigration, education, Supreme Court and other political appointments, hate crime legislation, health care, foreign policy, and campaign finance reform.

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