One third of Asian American voters still have not decided who to vote for in the presidential election, according to a recent survey. Yan Tai, a reporter for the Chinese-language daily World Journal and Feet in Two Worlds, says younger Chinese Americans are helping their parents overcome their ambivalence about the candidates. In an interview Friday on PRI’s The World, Yan talked about Chinese American families where young people who support Barack Obama have convinced their more conservative immigrant parents to vote for the Democratic candidate.
Earlier this week La Opinión reporter and columnist Pilar Marrero, who is also a FI2W journalist, appeared on The World to talk about Spanish-language radio and TV ads being run by the McCain and Obama campaigns. She explained how both candidates are battling over who has the best record on immigration, but only in Spanish-language media. They almost never mention immigration to English-speaking audiences.
On Friday, Marrero reported on her blog about a new Obama ad in which the Democratic candidate speaks to the audience entirely in Spanish. Marrero notes that up ’till now both campaigns have used Spanish-speaking announcers in their ads. But in this new, soon-to-be released commercial, it’s Obama who is doing the talking, telling Hispanic voters that he shares “their dream.” According to Marrero, Obama doesn’t actually know how to speak Spanish. In the ad he pronounces the script phonetically. But she says his pronunciation “isn’t bad at all.”
North Carolina is now considered a swing state, and the Obama campaign has been targeting Latinos there. But the state’s Latino voting population is still relatively small. Could Hispanic voters have an influence on the allocation of the state’s fifteen electoral votes? Feet in 2 Worlds interviewed Gregory B. Weeks, an associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, to talk about this.
North Carolina at Pollster.com on Tuesday Oct. 21
It seems these days political news junkies can’t get their eyes off the electoral map predictions at CNN, Real Clear Politics or Pollster.com: whenever you look away, another state becomes a swing state.
Take, for example, North Carolina, a once-solid red state that now seems to be turning blue. The three websites were calling it a tossup earlier this week — and The New York Times described it as “a raging battleground.” If Barack Obama indeed wins the Tar Heel state, he will be the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since Southerner Jimmy Carter did it in 1976.
Like a number of other states that voted for President Bush in the last two elections, the Obama campaign has jumped at the opportunity to try to “steal” North Carolina from the Republican column. Last weekend, Barack Obama campaigned in Fayeteville on his sixth visit to the state since the primaries, according to the Times. (John McCain was in Concord, near Charlotte, trying to defend Republican turf.) On Thursday,Obama’s running mate Joe Biden will make three stops in the state: Charlotte, Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, and Meredith College in Raleigh.
If the presidential primaries are any indication, voter turnout on November 4 will be very heavy. Some electoral analysts believe this will be especially true in key ethnic communities, including among Latinos, who appear set to turn out in record numbers.At a recent Feet in Two Worlds town hall forum on “Deconstructing the Immigrant Vote,” political organizers and ethnic media journalists agreed that anger is among the most important factors motivating immigrant voters this year.
Journalist Pilar Marrero speaks at the forum on Deconstructing the Immigrant Vote at the New School. Josh Hoyt, Executive Director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rightsandjournalist Aswini Anburajan were also on the panel.
“When an electorate gets angry they go out and vote,” said Feet in Two Worlds journalist Aswini Anburajan. “And it’s starting to mobilize people.”
According to Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), anti-immigrant laws and rhetoric have been “the driving force” pushing a growing number of Latino immigrants to become naturalized citizens. “It’s out of anger, it’s out of fear, and it’s out of the sense that if they become a citizen and vote it’s an act of self defense,” he said.
Arturo Vargas, Executive Director of NALEO responds to a story by Pilar Marrero on Latino ‘s who are becoming citizens so they can vote in this year’s election.
Speaking to an audience at The New School, where the forum was held, Vargas said Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform is also motivating Latino voters. “We saw it in 2006 when millions of people took to the streets of America demanding … immigration reform.” Vargas noted that many of the protesters in ’06 were teenagers who have since reached voting age. “We have now a new generation of Latino youth who have reached the age of 18 in a very politicized environment where their consciousness has been raised,” Vargas said.“They told us two years ago, ‘Today we march, tomorrow we vote.’Well, tomorrow has arrived.”
It’s not just Hispanics who may vote out of anger. Asian American outrage over a racially charged remark by U.S. Senator George Allen of Virginia played a key role in his razor-thin loss to Democrat Jim Webb in 2006. Webb’s victory gave the Democrats control of the Senate for the first time since 1994. (more…)
Pilar Marrero and Aswini Anburajan joined Brian Lehrer on Thursday (9/25/08) on WNYC, New York Public Radio to talk about the impact of mortgage foreclosures and the financial crisis on immigrants in the US. They also discussed how economic concerns may affect the election in battleground states like Nevada and Florida, which have large numbers of Latino voters.
In a piece that aired on Marketplace on Friday (9/26/08), Aswini Anburajan reports on the rising political influence of Indian Americans. During the presidential primaries, Indian American donors gave $5 million each to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and half a million dollars to John McCain. Now some of these Democratic voters are seeking to expand their national presence with a political action committee, the Indian American Leadership Initiative.
Brazilian President Lula da Silva at the U.N. Tuesday.
Miami is sometimes half-jokingly called “the capital of Latin America,” for its concentration of Latin American expats, Latin American corporation headquarters and even vacation homes for the region’s richest. No wonder then that both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama opted to outline their potential foreign policy towards the region while campaigning in Florida last week. Both candidates gave interviews to Radio Caracol that made headlines, each in its own way.
The highlight of McCain’s appearance was his apparent confusion as to Spain’s location and who its prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is [you can listen to it here.] A story on the incident in The Sydney Morning Herald was headlined “The brain in McCain under strain about Spain.” However, a campaign advisor denied there was any confusion, which can only hurt Spanish pride.
In respect to Latin America, McCain expressed coldness for the more anti-American leftist leaders in the region and support for Mexico’s Felipe Calderón in his war against drug cartels.
I think it’s important for us to not overreact to Chavez. I think what we have to do is just let Chavez know that we don’t want him exporting anti-American sentiment and causing trouble in the region, but that we are interested in having a respectful dialogue with everybody in Latin America in terms of figuring out how we can improve the day to day lives of people.
Most people in Latin America would agree that the U.S. has not paid attention to the region so far this century. A lot of them, however, would probably view that as a good thing. Most Latin Americans consider the much-disliked free-market economic policies of the ’90s known as the Washington Consensus to have been forced on the region by the U.S. and the multilateral organizations on which it generally exerts commanding control, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. (more…)
A new sense of the challenges that lie ahead for Sen. Barack Obama seems to be settling in among ethnic media reporters covering the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. On Monday, just as convention delegates were starting to buzz with excitement over Michelle Obama’s scheduled prime time TV speech, reporters and columnists who work for ethnic newspapers from across the country were discovering a shared hesitancy about Obama’s candidacy in the communities they cover.
“The Barack Obama campaign started late to try to reach out to Latinos,” said Pilar Marrero, a reporter and columnist for La Opinion in Los Angeles and a Feet in Two Worlds reporter “They basically gave up the Latino vote in the primaries to Hillary Clinton…and there’s a struggle now.”
Raymond Dean Jones of the Denver Urban Spectrum and Pilar Marrero from La Opinion speak with Feet in 2 Worlds executive producer John Rudolph.
Speaking at a forum on Deconstructing the Ethnic Vote, organized by Feet in Two Worlds and the New York Community Media Alliance, Marrero said, “polls show that Latinos are thinking of voting for Obama, they’re obviously thinking about voting Democratic.” But she cautioned that enthusiasm about Obama’s candidacy is not necessarily the main motivator for many Latinos. “After a couple of electoral seasons when a specific number of Latinos went to the Republican Party – up to 40 per cent of Latinos voted for George Bush in 2004 – they are going back to the Democratic Party because they don’t like the way things are going in the country. They don’t like the immigration rhetoric, they don’t like the economy, they don’t like the war.”
Noting the overwhelming Latino support that gave Hillary Clinton a critical edge in her primary victories over Obama in Texas, California and other states, Marrero said Obama has yet to match Clinton’s popularity. “The level of support that Obama has among Latinos is still not high enough,” she said.
The challenges facing Obama among Chinese American voters are even more stark, according to Lotus Chau, Senior Reporter at Sing Tao Daily in New York. Chinese voters, “think Obama is too young, he doesn’t understand the US-Chinese relationship, and he really doesn’t understand China’s issues,” Chau said. After it became clear that Obama would be the Democratic nominee, many Chinese voters who had been enthusiastic supporters of Hillary Clinton, “switched their votes to McCain,” according to Chau.
Lotus Chau of Sing Tao Daily speaking with John Rudolph. Jehangir Khattack, a freelance Pakistani journalist, looks on. Their conversation was broadcast on KGNU, independent community radio in Boulder and Denver, Colorado.
But Chau said Chinese American voters are curious about Obama. And she noted that the Obama campaign recently took steps to reach out to Asian voters including the launch of a bilingual Web site aimed at Asian Americans. “But it’s a little bit late,” Chau said, “because it just happened recently.”
Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid casts a shadow over Obama’s campaign in a number of immigrant and ethnic communities, even among African Americans. “There really is a reason why (during the primaries) the super delegates and many influential black people lined up behind Hillary,” said Raymond Dean Jones, a columnist for the Denver Urban Spectrum, a newspaper that serves people of color in the Denver area. “There was something so different about Obama that people needed to be convinced (that he was united) with the black community in America.”
Jones, who is a member of the Denver Mayor’s African American Advisory Commission, believes that black voters’ doubts about Obama during the primary season have faded as he moves into the fall campaign. Jones also points out that African Americans are very proud of Obama’s political achievements and his intelligence. Even so Jones argues Obama’s personal history – as the son of a white American mother and an African father – is an issue with some black voters. “The truth is, this is a different guy. And he’s different in many ways because he’s not like African Americans are, and people know that.”
Parts of Obama’s biography that give pause to some blacks may actually help him with Latinos, according to Pilar Marrero. “Some (Latinos) think that he’s an immigrant, but they confuse him with his father,” she observed. “And that’s good because that makes him understand the immigrant experience.” But when it comes to the question of which candidate best understands Latino voters’ concerns, Marrero believes Obama faces tough competition from Sen. John McCain . Even though, she acknowledged that, “the Republican brand is damaged among Latinos,” Marrero said “McCain’s been around, he’s pushed immigration reform. It’s really an advantage that he has.”
Diego Graglia is documenting the lives of Latinos during this presidential election year as he travels from New York City to Mexico City. For more on La Ruta del Voto Latino-The Road to the Latino Vote visit www.newyorktomexico.com.
On our first day on the road we arrived in Manassas, Virginia, not far from Washington D.C. Our goal was to revisit the intense and controversial debate on immigration that has been taking place there.
A year ago the Prince William County supervisors launched a crackdown on undocumented immigrants. They passed a resolution whose outstanding feature allows local law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of people they suspect of committing a crime or misdemeanor (even jaywalking.) Officers can also report undocumented immigrants to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation processing.
As soon as we arrived, I met Teresita Jacinto, a spokeswoman for Mexicanos Sin Fronteras/Mexicans Without Borders. Listen here to a Podcast of my interview with Jacinto.
Teresita Jacinto at 9500 Liberty St., “El Muro de la Calle Libertad.” (More photos here)
I interviewed her in front of what people in Manassas call The Wall — and those supporting immigrants regardless of their status call El Muro de la Calle Libertad (Liberty Street wall). It’s painted on the side of a burnt-down house by Mexican-born owner Gaudencio Fernández. In the wall’s strong message, he calls Prince William County, “the national capital of intolerance.” [Read the full text in this photo.] Unfortunately when we arrived Fernández was on vacation in Mexico.
The wall has been the subject of controversy and the target of attacks. As you’ll read in this story, Fernández has to go to court after his vacation. But I was more concerned with understanding its message.
Today Feet in Two Worlds introduces a new feature, La Ruta del Voto Latino – Road to the Latino Vote, which will tell the story of Latinos in the 2008 election. Independent journalist Diego Graglia is taking a two-week road trip from New York City to Mexico City, stopping in urban, suburban and rural communities along the way for an in-depth and intimate look at Hispanic voters in an election year when the Latino vote is expected to be crucial in many states and many regions of the country. You can follow Diego here on the Feet in Two Worlds blog and on his bilingual blog www.newyorktomexico.com. In addition to regular blog posts, Diego will be producing audio and video podcasts and radio stories about his trip. I invite you to check back frequently to see what Diego discovers during his travels. You can leave comments for him here or contact him directly at email@example.com. As Diego and his girlfriend Amy leave New York we wish them buen viaje.
John Rudolph – Executive Producer, Feet in Two Worlds
Monday morning, as you wake up and make coffee, I’ll probably be driving under the Hudson River, having my morning mate and exiting New York once more. After five and a half years there, I moved to Mexico City, el D.F., at the beginning of this year. Now, I’m uniting the two cities in a roadtrip that will take me through the nation’s capital and the Mid-Atlantic region, the Deep South, Texas and the desert of northern Mexico.
While this trip was born as a private adventure, my journalistic genes could not let such a big opportunity to tell good stories pass without doing something about it. Of course, the biggest story in the land right now is the presidential election, with two candidates whose life stories could not be more compelling, and several issues –the war, the economy, immigration, the environment- triggering the most passionate opinions.
The Latino population in the U.S. has been growing for decades, and Latinos recently became the biggest minority in the country. Of course, this categorization is a little weird, since Latinos can be black, white, Native American, and a lot of other things – sometimes belonging to more than one minority at a time. (I, for one, am quite Caucasian, bear an Italian last name and speak English with a pree-ttee strong Latino accent.) Nevertheless, the existence of Latinos as a group does count, big-time, in terms of the ballots that will be added up on November 4.
As soon as our gallant 1992 Subaru Legacy station wagon, El Rayo Blanco (uh-huh, that’s The White Lightning) exits the Jersey City side of the Holland Tunnel, I will start bringing you the faces, voices, ideas and feelings of that diverse Latino population. The Dominicans who live in the neighborhoods above 137th Street in Manhattan, the Mexicans who work in poultry factories in rural North Carolina, the few Hispanics that remained in a Florida Panhandle town after an immigration raid, the Texan families who’ve been Americans for several generations, Hispanic last names and all.
I will visit Prince William County in Virginia, where the debate over undocumented immigrants has been intense, and where local authorities are enforcing federal immigration law. I will talk to a Mexican activist in Greenville, N.C., who’s been advocating for the rights of rural workers in the area for 20-plus years. I will watch party activists working hard everywhere at registering Latino voters, trying to woo them to one side or the other.
El Rayo Blanco and its crew: Amy -driver- and Diego -reporter-.
The site where all this will go up, www.newyorktomexico.com, has many interactive features, so I hope to hear from readers from all over the country – and from abroad, too. We want to know what people – Latino and non-Latino – think about the election, what issues they care about, and their opinions of the two candidates. By the time we finish the American leg of this trip, entering Mexico from Laredo, Texas, we should have some clearer – and distinctly grass-roots answers to those questions.
Oh… if you’re along our route, please don’t forget to recommend the best Latin American eatery in your town – this is going to be hard work and we will need to replenish our energy often.
* Diego Graglia is an Argentinean journalist with a strong interest in the relationship between the U.S. and Latin America, and Latino culture and society in the United States. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at @nydf, and through Live Chat and comments on www.newyorktomexico.com.
In June, Obama’s Indonesian-American sister Maya Soetoro-Ng appeared at a fundraiser targeting Asian voters in California, where she described Obama’s youth in Indonesia and Hawaii (a state where 56% of the population is Asian-American) in an effort to highlight his close ties to their community. Earlier, Soetoro-Ng’s Chinese-Canadian husband Konrad Ng told the New York-based Chinese newspaper World Journal that Obama was deeply influenced by Asian cultural values as a result of his upbringing. This appeal to Asian-Americans will likely increase as Soetoro-Ng continues to campaign more aggressively in the fall and as the campaign makes a more deliberate effort to engage ethnic media to reach voters.
The renewed emphasis on Asian Americans is part of Obama’s evolution in branding from a “post-racial” candidate at the start of the election cycle- remember his “swift and unequivocal” dismissal of race in November 2006—to that of a multiracial candidate who embraces his multicultural identity. Soetero-Ng acknowledged in an Associated Press interview that during the primary season,“the idea was to downplay to some degree race and ethnicity.” But the national maelstrom created by Rev. Wright’s comments and the burgeoning importance of Latino voters lessens the possibility of the campaign doing so now. (more…)
Despite appearances and pollnumbers, neither presidential candidate has a lock on the Latino vote.The National Council of La Raza convention in San Diego, which just ended yesterday (7/15/08), showed that both candidates have to overcome a strong measure of doubt among Latinos – Obama because of his race and the bitter primary battle, and McCain because of his backtracking on immigration reform.
Obama appeared first, on Sunday, and McCain the next day.They were both well received but not with the same fervor: Obama got a bigger crowd, strongest applause, and two times more press.
By the time McCain came around on Monday, the press corps was diminished greatly, many activists didn’t show up for lunch –the overflow room that was full on Sunday was virtually empty on Monday- and the excitement level had noticeably dropped.
It’s completely anecdotal evidence, of course, but it shows that the Latino groups and activist crowd that usually attend the NCLR conferences support what the polls are saying.The latest Gallup Poll of Latinos shows a 30 point difference in support between Obama and McCain.Obama is getting close to 60 percent and McCain has about 29 percent. (more…)