Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton promised that her administration would address issues that concern Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including immigration, wage discrimination and foreign policy.
Clinton penned an op-ed for NBC Asian America on Monday that outlined key ways her administration would support Asian Americans to “get an education, get a good job, support their families, and contribute to their communities.”
She also acknowledged inequalities faced Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, like the ethno-gender wage gap in which women of Asian descent earn just 86 cents for every dollar paid to white men, and stalled immigration reform that has left some Asian Americans waiting two decades for family visas.
Clinton further underscored the need to “erase the prejudice, ignorance, and racism that still touches too many people’s lives.” The comment appeared prompted in part by a slight that Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R) made about the Asian ancestry of his re-election opponent, Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D), during a debate last week.
Clinton’s courting of Asian American voters comes as the population ― now the fastest-growing racial group in the U.S. ― flexes its political power.
Fred Lee, an assistant professor of political science and Asian American studies at the University of Connecticut, said there’s a long-held political science theory that explains why Asian American and Pacific Islander voters are typically ignored by targeted outreach efforts. Unlike black and Latino voters, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up a small percentage of the eligible voting electorate and are concentrated in states like California and New York that have voted reliably Democratic since 1992.
“This is now changing these days,” Lee said, noting the growing Asian and Asian American population in states like Virginia, Washington and Nevada.
The growing population expands the group’s views and priorities on political issues. Nevertheless, the population is becoming even more solidly Democratic, according to experts.
Some political strategists said Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has mocked Chinese and Japanese accents, vilified China and intimated he may have supported the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, may be speeding the shift toward Democrats.
Lee speculated that in the face of the group’s growing political clout, the Democratic Party may begin to see itself not just in ideological terms, but as an alliance of U.S. ethnic and racial minorities.
“It’s a development of a trend that’s going on at least since” the election of President Barack Obama, Lee said. Democrats “thereby keep up with the demographic changes and really make the Republicans scared on account of the shrinking white electorate.”
NBC Asian America noted that it invited both presidential candidates to write op-eds, but Trump failed to respond.