Michelle Steel was raised in Japan after having been born in South Korea, and last year she made history by becoming the first ever Korean American woman to win a House of Representatives seat for the US Congress. While she was running for office, she faced a number of challenges simply because she is an immigrant, but she managed to overcome them and reach her aim in life. Steel’s involvement in politics is representative of the changing face of America’s electorate and the who they are choosing as their government officials.
Asian Americans Flexed Their Muscles in 2020
In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed, which removed the barriers that prevented African Americans from casting their votes. Since then, the face of America’s electorate has changed constantly. During last year’s elections, Asian Americans decided to flex their political muscle when it came to the congressional and presidential races, with a record number of voters turning out across the nation.
Experts and demographers declare that Asian Americans will steadily become a dominant force in politics in the US. In 2020, the number of Asian Americans who voted hit an all-time high of close to 60% according to a study that was carried out by the US Census Bureau. These vast majority of these Asian Americans voted for Joe Biden over Donald Trump.
Sara Sadhwani, who is a senior researcher at AAPI Data, said that Asian Americans are now a new electoral force that parties have to take seriously. She went on to say that over the last few election cycles Asian Americans have sided with the Democratic party, and that was definitely the case last year.
When Asian Americans were asked by the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund about issues that matter the most to them, the economy, jobs, and health care were regularly mentioned. Many of the Democrats’ main talking points during 2020 resonated with plenty of Asian Americans. According to EunSook Lee, the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund Director, Trump’s handling of the pandemic alongside racial injustice were some other high-ranking problems that saw Asian Americans vote for Biden.
Researchers declare that the huge increase in Asian American voters in 2020 when compared to 2016 was driven by an increase in racial incidents against Asians across the country. Sadhwani went on to say that there have been plenty of studies that have taken a look at the impact of being discriminated again and how it galvanized Asian Americans to register themselves so that they could vote in the election.
Georgia’s Margin of Victory
When compared to other minority groups, Asian Americans increased their polls turnout at every battleground state a lot more. The battleground state of Georgia is a very good example of how voters of an Asian background had a huge influence on the outcome of the election in 2020. There were more than 62,000 Asian American voters in Georgia in 2020 than there were in 2016. Asian Americans truly were an important part of the narrative that saw Georgia flip from a Republican stronghold to a Democratic one.
Not only were Asian Americans in Georgia influential in putting Biden in office, but they were also influential in flipping control of the Senate over to the Democrats. In January, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won both of the US Senate runoffs that determined which party would have control of the Senate.
Asian Americans in Politics
In 2020, 21 Asian Americans were elected to Congress, which now gives the Asian American population of the US an incentive to carry on voting. With every election that has passed in recent years, there has been an increase in Asian American participation, and whenever there is an Asian American on the ballot sheet, there has been an increase in Asian American voter turnout.
Despite the fact that 21 Asian American politicians were elected in 2020, it is fair to say that Asian Americans are still underrepresented in American politics. Asians and people from the Pacific Islands make up 6.1% of America’s population, but only 0.9% of them are elected officials.
One contributing factor to this could be the fact that the United States is not the birthplace of around 70% of Asian American adults. Many, despite having been in America for many years, speak very limited English. Judy Chu, who became the first Chinese American woman to get elected to congress in 2009, said that Asians are a population that are not familiar with democracy. It takes people from an Asian background a little time to get used to democracy, especially those who come from countries where elections are fixed or do not happen at all.
Since Biden became President, Asian Americans have seen a number of hate crime laws passed in congress that address the increase in violence against them. While this is a positive thing, not all Asian Americans are optimistic that more positive changes will arise. Some feel that once the recognition from politicians subside, things will go back to how they were, and that Asian Americans will be in the shadows. However, if the Asian American population carry on voting in their hundreds of thousands at elections, they will continue to be a political force.