Panelists in a recent Google Hangout, including the author of the recently published book Brown is the New White, argue that progressive community leaders and political candidates of the Democratic Party are not working hard enough to gain the votes of what author Steve Phillips calls the “New American Majority”, or the people of color and progressive White electorate.
In the campaigns for the upcoming election, Hillary Clinton already has an upper hand on the Democratic side with API voters because of her AAPI for Hillary platform. Bernie Sanders apparently hasn’t tried hard enough to win over the non-White voters. And given that Latino voters have low turnout rates similar to that of Asian American voters, we haven’t yet seen a platform for Latinos. What can the Democratic Party do to win over the New American Majority?
Two panelists at the Hangout called for the greater use of storytelling and evidence in progressive campaigns. The importance of building a platform that speaks to issues that resonate with communities of color, and storytelling matched with evidence and data, were two common themes that popped in the panelists’ discussions.
One of the panelists was Stephanie Chang, who is a Michigan state representative and the first Asian American woman in the Michigan legislature. When asked how the recently published book entitled Black is the New White is important for the work that she does, she discussed using the tools the book offers to highlight how the Flint, Michigan water crisis disproportionately affects communities of color.
Most interestingly, Chang discussed her experience campaigning to be representative of a district with a largely Black and Latino presence. She was encouraged by community leaders to run for office. Her campaign focused on personally connecting with the residents. She knocked on all the doors of her primary voters. Her background in social justice activism and progressive causes enabled her to relate to her community on the issues that matter to them and ultimately, gain their votes. People “just want someone who shares their values and works hard,” Chang says. By building a platform that enabled her to connect with her community and their values, she was able to transcend race and ethnicity to win the seat.
The idea of storytelling to humanize communities of color to mobilize and inspire them as a political base was brought up a several times during the Hangout.
Also present in the Hangout was Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science and founder of AAPI Data, who also directs the National Asian American Survey.
Ramakrishnan discussed that the book addressed the privilege that non-POC have in being able to successfully use rhetoric without statistics and evidence. He pointed out that without that privilege, some communities may have to “prove themselves more” to be heard. “People need to pay attention to the evidence,” Ramakrishnan says, pointing out the misconceptions that many politicians have about the voter composition of the AAPI community, especially Republicans.
Also joining the Google Hangout were the author of Brown is the New White, Steve Phillips, who is a national political leader and civil rights lawyer; Monica Dennis, the New York City regional coordinator for #BlackLivesMatter; and Tanzila Ahmed, campaign strategist at the Asian American media organizing group 18MillionRising.
Listen to the panelists’ discussion here:
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