By JOHANNA HESTER
The 2012 election will likely be known as the first time where AAPIs truly flexed their political power. Exit polls showed that Asian Americans backed President Obama by even higher margins than in 2008 – a 49 percent margin, with 73 percent supporting the President.
These numbers where higher than even the coveted Latino voting bloc, where President Obama gained 71 percent support. Even among young Americans between 18 and 29-years old, Asian Americans demonstrated their political power.
The increasingly powerful AAPI vote comes as no surprise, though. AAPIs are the fastest growing racial and ethnic groups in the nation, rising by 46 percent in the last decade, says 2000-2010 census data. Some of the key battleground states also exhibit some of the highest AAPI growth rates.
In Virginia, 66 percent of Asian American voters turned out for Obama and 49 percent in Nevada – states where the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance’s Every Vote Counts initiative was in full force. The magnitude of the AAPI vote became evident when President Obama captured every battleground state other than North Carolina.
If the 2012 presidential election tells us anything, it is that America’s demographics are changing and the rising American electorate is becoming more diverse by the day. The election results highlight the perils not only in ignoring these population changes, but in ignoring the values and policies that Americans are looking for.
Unlike his Republican opponent, President Obama secured the confidence and vote of the AAPI community by addressing the issues facing our community and relating to voters on a personal level.
AAPIs wanted a president who would fight for them, enforce fairness and ensure the American Dream was available for all Americans. This is why they overwhelmingly voted to reelect President Obama.
Like all Americans, AAPIs voted with jobs and restoring the nation’s economy on their minds. When President Obama said the American people “voted for action, not politics as usual,” he was right. His record over the last four years proves his commitment to reforming and investing in the needs of AAPIs and our entire nation.
President Obama’s first term is a testament to his vision of fairness, shared responsibility and a firm belief in the American worker. His policies and investments produced 31-consecutive months of private sector job growth, rescued the auto industry and saved 1 million jobs.
He made education a priority, believing in the dreams of young people and recognizing what they can offer to our nation’s economy, entrepreneurial spirit and global competitiveness. Over 9 million students and families have benefitted from a college tax credit that makes paying for college more affordable. And we’ve seen the average Pell grant award climb from $4,731 to $5,550, enabling more low-income students with financial need to further offset the cost of rising tuition.
And perhaps most importantly for AAPIs, President Obama understood and respected the hopes, dreams and experiences of immigrants.
On November 6, AAPIs may have flexed their political power, but now they are looking ahead to 2013 and beyond for even more changes, investments and reforms.
AAPIs stand ready to work with the administration and Congressional leaders to move America forward and improve our economy at all levels, by investing in education, protecting American workers and fixing our broken immigration system. Because we know that from today forward, the real work begins.
Johanna Puno Hester is President of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), the nation’s first and only national organization of Asian Pacific American union members to advance worker, immigrant and civil rights. She is a strong labor activist and also serves as Director of Organizing and Field Services of UDW, The Homecare Providers’ Union of AFSCME Local 3930 based in San Diego, California.