Asian Americans in Politics and Public Policy

Asian Americans are about 5% of total US population. Although they are spread out across the country, California, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, Washington have number of large concentrated Asian American communities.

Previously we discussed how the community is portrayed in the mainstream media and, their disproportionate academic success and how it affects the way the community is viewed by the larger society.

The “model minority” myth means that issues like poverty, access to job opportunities, domestic violence, gender and religious issues facing the community do not get as much attention.

Political empowerment of Asians and Asian Americans is also of concern because compared to their success in medicine, technology or business, the community’s involvement in local and national level politics is minuscule, and erratic.

In states where there are large concentrations of Asian Americans like California and New Jersey they have found some success. San Francisco just elected it’s first Asian American mayor and in local level too Asian Americans are visible politically. In states like Texas (unlikely, I know) their participation is encouraging.

See this graph by University of Texas on race and Texas legislature. Asian participation is 1%, and they make about 3.8% of the state’s population.

The other side of this limited but encouraging success is the in states without concentrated Asian American population, their presence in state and local politics is dismal. Does this mean that their success still depends on large community backup and the country still does not see them as mainstream or is this different for Republicans?

What about Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley?

Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley’s success, that too in the South-often misunderstood and with long history of racial bias, is often used as an indicator of how Asian Americans are starting to make their presence in politics. In a way, that is true. They are of Indian heritage and have made their name in national level too.

The flip side of their success, they are hard Republicans, a party which in recent times is known more for it’s anti-immigrant stance and conservative religious values. Their appeal among Asian Americans, beyond the wow factor, is questionable. Even among Indian Americans, their policies could be a deterrent.

Their success is based heavily on their policies that court the Republican base. If they were Democrats pursuing liberal agenda, could they have produced similar success?


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