The Asian American Vote: Is it Swinging Left or Right?

They only make up about 5 per cent of the U.S. population but their vote still matters. And, the two main presidential candidates see this and are fighting for those votes.

After Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama made a speech early last month in front of a group of South Asians, he reiterated how different he was from past candidates. The democratic nominee also stated he was a “desi,” an informal term meaning “South Asian.” Although, his comments and public image have captured the interest of many minorities – it didn’t do much for AliBabaIncorporated of Hong Kong and blogger for

“The outreach is nice, but NO, having an immigrant father, some Asian friends, and a few years in an Indonesian school and a few more in Hawaii doesn't make you Asian, and it certainly doesn't make you Indian.”

But on the flip side, not only does Obama appeal to Christina, an Asian-American teenager – his speech at the Democratic Convention brought her to tears. Christina, who is still too young to vote, stated that Obama knows what issues are most important and what needs change in her blog, The Obsessions of Two Asian Teenage Best Friends.

“I know that being an American, we don't always expect the government to be there. We like to keep a distance from our government but at this time, this period, we need our government desperately. I see the economy, homes, families, and people crumbling before me. I know of the problems that exist in this country and Obama does too and he has pinpointed and addressed every one of them.”

While the Asian teenager is in support of Obama, Asian American author Irwin Tang has written a book titled Gook: John McCain’s Racism and Why it Matters. Paul Schmelzer, managing editor for the Minnesota Independent and blogger Eyeteeth: A journal of incisive ideas, writes about Tang’s book.

“‘I hate the gooks,’ McCain said in 2000. ‘I will hate them as long as I live.’ A war veteran who was tortured by Vietcong captors, McCain later apologized for the comment, but as Tang argues in his new book, it still matters. The Texas native says that “gook” is “both a term of war and a term of racism, and John McCain is very active in both areas.” The word goo-goo, he explains, was used to describe Filipinos when U.S. troops occupied the country, and it morphed into “gook” when the U.S. occupied Haiti. In Vietnam, as in other conflicts, it was used to de-humanize the enemy.
The author of Gook: John McCain's Racism and Why It Matters, Tang concludes: ‘If he had used the n-word rather than the g-word — ‘gook’ — we would've disqualified John McCain for the presidency immediately.’”

AngryABCGirl, another blogger of, further analyzes McCain’s comment. The Chinese American writes that his comment questions his overall character.

“The fact that someone running for public office—the President of the United States, no less—would unabashedly use this term, and then repeatedly refuse to apologize for it (he eventually did), is reasons enough for me to question his character. We as Asian Americans are no strangers to racial epithets being thrown our way, whether they're meant as “jokes” or meant to cause harm. Here, “gook” was clearly being used as expression of resentment. The fact that McCain was a P.O.W. does not excuse him from harboring these feelings. Why is this even under debate?”

Despite McCain’s comments and the ranging views of Obama, both candidates still have a large group of Asian supporters – whether the majority is swinging left or right will soon be determined.

1 comment

  • Regarding both of the ‘blunders’ of Obama calling himself a “Desi” and McCain proclaiming his hate for “Gooks” – Both cases show something of each mans character.

    Proclaiming “hate” for anyone is about as extreme as you can get in the negative end of humanities spectrum of emotions. If this was an emotional outburst, something said without thinking, a comment made before considering running for president, or even something repeatedly apologized for makes no difference to me. This man does not have a character that I believe in. A man of integrity, a man of honor in battle, many many other good things can be sited regarding him … but he’s not a man of character.

    Labeling yourself a “Desi” or including yourself in any other family / race / tribe / brotherhood-sisterhood that is not accurate is simply belittling your own true heritage. It makes me wonder what kind of pride he has in his heritage and why he would decide that it is not enough so he needs to include “Desi” into his family blood and heritage. It is a flawed character that cannot fully embrace ones family and tribe with honor and cannot respect those around him with grace. I don’t think a self-proclaimed “Desi” is really respecting the term or the heritage.

    Based on the two statements of race and heritage these men have made they are both lacking character … just in different degrees. So once again we are faced with varying degrees of ineptitude.

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