Views from the Edge
While AAPI candidates for POTUS have had an impact in the Democrat’s debates, Asian Americans have been absent among the moderators for any of the debates for the POTUS candidates for the Democrats.
“It is now time for the DNC to take their commitment (to diversity) even further by ensuring that Asian Americans are represented among moderators on the debate stage,” wrote Rep. Grace Meng, who is Chair of ASPIRE, said. The New York congresswoman is also vice chair of the DNC.
ASPIRE, the political arm of Asian American and Pacific Islander Members of Congress, sent a letter last week to declared candidates for the Democratic nomination for President encouraging them to prioritize AAPI communities in their outreach, hiring, and campaign materials.
AAPI voters’ participation in the 2018 midterm elections increased more than any other racial group, according to a letter sent by ASPIRE,
Meng said she was hopeful that the DNC would appoint an Asian American or Pacific Islander as a debate moderator. “[I] look forward to Chairman Perez responding to our request,” she said. “I am confident that host networks will not have trouble finding qualified and talented AAPIs to include in their moderator panels.”
Apparently, the PAC’s letter fell on deaf ears. ABC announced Wednesday (Aug. 21) the four moderators: ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir, ABC News correspondent Linsey Davis and Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.
The Democrats have staged two debates hosted by NBC and CNN and no Asian American journalist have been among the panelists questioning the candidates although they featured female, Hispanic and African American moderators.
CBS journalist Elaine Quijano, a Filipino American, was the first Asian American to moderate a general election debate when she performed the chore for the 2016 Vice Presidential Debate between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican Mike Pence. She performed professionally and acted as the adult in the room while trying to corral the argumentative candidates clamoring for attention.
Two of the 10 candidates who have qualified for the September debate thus far — Sen. Kamala Harris and businessman Andrew IYang — are Asian Americans. A third, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, has until Aug. 28 to meet the requirements for the debate.
If Gabbard qualifies – she is currently serving her stint in the Hawaii Army National Guard — ABC will move to a two-night debate format with assignments given to the candidates by random draw.
“Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest growing population in our country, and we are already an important constituency in key electoral states such as California, Nevada, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. It’s crucial that candidates seeking the Democratic nomination pay attention to Asian American and Pacific Islander voters across the country,” said Meng in the letter also sent to the various campaigns.
Besides Meng, the letter from ASPIRE was signed by Representatives Ami Bera (CA-07), Judy Chu (CA-27), TJ Cox (CA-21), C Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-08), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Doris Matsui (CA-06), Stephanie Murphy (FL-07), Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (CNMI), Michael San Nicholas (GU), Bobby Scott (VA-03), and Mark Takano (CA-41), all of whom are Democrats.
The DNC has already committed to ensuring that at least one woman and one person of color serves as a moderator at each of its primary debates for the 2020 cycle.
“The DNC is committed to an inclusive and fair debate process,” DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill told Refinery29 in May. “That means that all 12 DNC-sanctioned debates will feature a diverse group of moderators and panelists including women and people of color, ensuring that the conversations reflect the concerns of all Americans.”
The 10 candidates who have qualified for the debate stage as of Aug. 22:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
- Sen. Kamala Harris of California
- Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
- South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas
- Andrew Yang, entrepreneur
- Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
“We encourage you to keep Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in mind as your campaign makes hiring decisions and prioritizes outreach to different voting blocs as you campaign for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. History has shown us that we are stronger when all voices are represented at the decision-making table,” wrote the Aspire members.
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