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Deconstructing the Ethnic Vote at the DNC

New America Media, News analysis, Anthony D. Advincula Posted: Aug 29, 2008

Will ethnic Americans vote in large numbers for Obama? NAM asked ethnic media journalists attending the DNC event in Denver to get some answers. Anthony D. Advincula is NAM New York based editor.

DENVER, Colo.Will Chinese-American voters who largely supported Hillary Clinton be ready for Barack Obama? How about Pakistani Americans who presently have two Republican members in the legislature? Are Latino voters now more concerned about the U.S. economy than immigration? Will the majority of African-American voters in republican states vote democratic this year?

Here at The Big Tent, a few blocks from the Pepsi Convention Center, members of New Yorks ethnic media participated this week in a radio project called Feet in Two Worlds. They talked about the impact of ethnic voters in the coming U.S. presidential election and whether immigrant voters connect to the Democratic candidates this year. New York Community Media Alliance co-sponsored 10 ethnic and community journalists to cover the DNC.

With shifting political parties allegiances, a trend that is becoming more prevalent in their communities, both Democrats and Republicans are wooing ethnic voters. Political analysts described them as the swing vote that would be critical to the outcome of this years election.

While the majority of our voters like Barack Obama, many are also supporting John McCain and the Republicans, says Muhammad Jehangir-Khan, a reporter for the Dawn, an English-language online publication for Muslim Americans.

The conservative views of Republicans, Khan says, have drawn a large number of Pakistani- and Muslim-American voters to back John McCain. The two Pakistani-American members of the U.S. legislature, who are republicans, are contributing to the strong Republican Party appeal in the community.

But Khan says that Pakistani-American voters are beginning to understand who Obama is and his political platform for the American people, most particularly for Muslim Americans.

Obamas record on reaching out to Muslim community is actually not that impressive, Khan says. But because he is committed to change, the Muslim-American, and South Asian-American communities as a whole, are now beginning to believe that he is the person who could stand up for us. Muslim Americans, the victims of racial profiling and hate crimes after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, view Obama as their ray of hope.

In the Chinese-American community, according to Lotus Chau, chief reporter for the Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily in New York, the political debate focuses mainly on race. She says that no one wants to talk openly about it because of its racist implication, but a large number of Chinese Americans may not vote for Obama, even those who considered themselves Democrats, because he is black.

I dont think Chinese voters are ready for a black president, Chau says.

Chau says she believes Chinese-American voters who strongly backed Hillary Clinton are unlikely to shift to Obamas camp. I even talked to a Chinese-American delegate here at the Democratic Convention, and she admitted that if she had a choice, she [wouldnt] be here. In the end, she will vote for McCain.

Asked whether the prejudice in the Chinese-American community could change, Chau says that it would [take] long years of education. But if Obama continues to reach out to Chinese Americans and build strong ties with the community, he could win more Chinese votes, she says.

But Kaiping Liu, deputy city editor for The World Journal in California, says that the race factor is not everything in the Chinese community. While it is partially true that many Chinese voters dont like Obama because he is black, the young Chinese voters like him a lot.

Liu says that for the majority of younger Chinese voters most of them American-born view having a black U.S. president as history in the making. They support him and they will surely vote for him, Liu says.

Raymond Dean Jones, a political columnist for Denver Urban Spectrum, a community paper that serves African Americans, admitted that Obamas campaign also started slow in the black community.

Although there was speculation among African Americans that Obama is a hotshot, he was not well known in the community. But what really opens the door for Barack is Michelle, Jones says. Because of Michelle Obama someone who is strong, educated and tough blacks believe that she has the attributes of a first lady. Then, Jones says, it became easy for black people to listen to his message about change.

But is Barack Obama now making a connection with black voters, even in Republican states? Amazingly, for me he is, Jones says. But he needed to win the presumptive nomination and thats not happening in the south, because most of blacks in the south are still leaning towards Hillary Clinton.

With Hillary showing enormous support to Obamas campaign, despite apprehension among her supporters to shift their votes, Jones says that Obama is now making strong gains and people are going to vote for him.

For Latinos, the Obama-Clinton push and pull, could still be felt in the community, according to Pilar Marerro, political writer and columnist for La Opinion, a Spanish-language publication based in Los Angeles, Calif.

Obama started late reaching out to Latinos, Marrero says This is a struggle now.

Presently, Latino voter support for Obama is not as strong as that for Hillary during the primary elections. However, with the present economic downturn, war, and the rhetoric on immigration by Republicans, Marrero says many Latino voters are shifting to Obama.

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