By Nick Lee
Chinese Americans for Hillary
As a volunteer I knew we would hit the ground running the first day of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), but I was not entirely prepared for exactly how fast. We started work at 9 am and after a short meeting we headed straight downstairs to the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Caucus, essentially a rally for the AAPI Democrats in attendance at convention. Armed with an iPhone and the Periscope app, my job was to get as close as possible to the stage and livestream the event without my arm giving up on me. This gave me a front row view to the speakers and their messages to the AAPI community.
The best way to describe the atmosphere at the AAPI Caucus was one of excitement, excitement at the prospect of a new day for AAPI visibility in this election. For many of the local delegates and volunteers from around the country, seeing so many AAPIs in one room that are equally passionate about politics must have been an uncommon occurrence. Congresswoman Judy Chu’s favorite line that “we are going from being marginalized, to becoming the margin of victory,” was received with cheers and applause from the collection of delegates and supporters who gathered around.
Congressman Mike Honda also delivered powerful remarks that celebrated how far the party and our community had come by speaking directly to AAPI historical experiences. He proclaimed, “If we had a [Democratic] party like we have today, I would have never been sent to [the internment] camp. If we had this Democratic Party back in the 1880s we would not have had the Chinese Exclusion Act. If we had parties like this, with our sentiment, Native Americans would have a better break, Native Hawaiians would have a better break.”
Constance Wu also spoke out about the growing power of AAPI choice from her perspective as an actress on the hit sitcom Fresh Off The Boat . She attributed the rise of new shows prominently featuring Asian Americans as a product of increasing Asian American power. “This shows that Asian American voting and attention matter,” she explained. “They would have never picked up those other shows if our show hadn’t garnered a large audience that was really hungry for that content.”
Being in that room, surrounded by dozens of other AAPIs who were equally excited about a Democratic victory in 2016 helped lend credence to the theme of the Caucus: “Our Time Is Now”. There is a hunger in the AAPI political community to be legitimized in the eyes of the media, government, and larger political sphere. In the words of Congressman Ami Bera, “We’re a rising electorate. This is a coming of age election for the AAPI community. Let’s make 2016 our year.”
Later on that night, I received credentials to see some of the brightest superstars of the Democratic Party speak. Even though I have called DC home for two years and hardly blink when I see a Congressman, I was left mesmerized by the power that they brought to the arena. Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Michelle Obama all laid out powerful progressive visions of an inclusive society formed on tolerance, justice, and fairness; a vision that appealed to my liberal instincts and did not shy or back away from issues.
However, what spoke to me most powerfully from the evening was seeing a crying Bernie supporter on the Jumbotron, as her candidate spoke fervently about the need to support Hillary in November. In that moment, I saw myself in her eyes and realized how hard all of the Sanders supporters present must have worked to try and get their candidate the nomination, and also how incredibly disappointing it must be to never reach your highest ambition. I thought back to those late nights spent making phone calls to strangers and striving to get Hillary the nomination, and remembered that they must have done much of the same.
Even though I still strongly believe Hillary would be the best president, I sympathized with the Bernie camp and their struggle to try and enact their vision of progressive change in America. Today reinforced the notion that the goals and ambitions of a Clinton presidency are far more similar than they are different from Bernie’s. Bernie’s campaign slogan “A Future to Believe In” spoke to me, because I felt that last night was an important step in healing the differences of the past and uniting in a common goal. I am looking forward to working with Bernie supporters going into November, where we need their passion and hard work to ensure that there is a future that we can all believe in.
(Nick Lee will be sharing his thoughts all week with AsAmNews readers. Last week, we ran the diary of an AAPI Trump delegate)
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