Locally, Nevada is a battle ground state with more than 205,000 Asian-Americans, (half Filipino) in the Las Vegas area alone. In 2012, about 115,000 AAPIs in Nevada could vote. To capitalize on this large voting bloc, AAPI organizations are focusing on important swing states, including ours. Last election cycle, the Every Vote Counts campaign by the NV Chapter of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance registered more than 3,000 voters here. And this year, AAPIVote strategically selected Las Vegas as the location for its national convention.
Half of the equation is courting Millennial voters, the other exploding and rising electorate. We are officially the new boom! In 2016, Generation Y is expected to finally outpace the Babyboomer population. Consultants and candidates should know that we are a special breed and will not turnout unless we feel our voice is adequately heard. Please don’t expect to reach us with fear mongering or statistics about Medicare or Social Security.
Now, that leaves us with the real question: what actions are Democrats and Republicans taking to authentically reach the intersection of Millennial Asian-American voters?
First, the issues matter. Candidates should be aware of what is important to Asian-Americans. Most people assume immigration and education are what Asian-Americans care about. However, an Asian-American agenda includes economic justice - 72% support an increase in the minimum wage, 69% want to see limited political spending, and 80% want stricter gun laws. Notably, all of these issues are in line with a typical progressive plan as well.
To be fair, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has done its research in an effort to be more inclusive for 2016. The RNC’s Republican Leadership Initiative, a recruitment and training program for the next generation of leaders and community organizers is underway, and it offers great promise. There are also ads tailored specifically to Asian-American millennial voters. Another thoughtful tactic deployed by the GOP involves language appropriate print communications. From a 2012 poll, more than 1/3 of Asian-American voters have limited English proficiency. To overcome language barriers, the RNC is encouraging candidates to write op-eds in local ethnic papers. This can have a great impact. For example, the Las Vegas Chinese Daily News circulates more than 30,000 copies per week, and is the only daily Chinese language paper in Southern Nevada.
Similar to their opponent, Democrats are investing in digital outreach. This month, The Democratic National Committee is set to launch ProgressAAPI, which is designed to engage young Asian-American voters through flashy initiatives like increasing their social media presence and focusing on community events. If the grassroots strategy isn’t your jam, another approach is inclusive hiring. Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, added Lisa Changadveja to her powerful team as the AAPI Outreach Director because of her proven influence with the Asian-American and progressive communities. Additionally, according to Clinton’s campaign website, AAPI for Hillary officially launched yesterday Friday, January 7th too.
Lastly, AAPI millennial candidates like Lindy Li are driving home the message that our generation is missing a representative voice in congress to address our unique generational needs. She and others Asian-Americans could encourage voter turnout through basic identity politics. It is no secret that if a candidate looks like you, you may be more drawn to them.
To authentically engage with the often neglected AAPI Millennial community, it will take more than the current Democratic strategy. Be that as it may, hopefully, ProgressAAPI is successful in energizing the youth vote, especially considering the types of investments Republicans have made in reaching those critical voters.