- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

Voters are not yet focused on the fall elections, but political organizers are busy. They want to steer voters their candidate's way and Asian-American political organizers have joined the bandwagon. The problem is that some Asian-Americans have the funny idea that this ethnic group could be molded into a bloc and vote as an Asian-American bloc come November.
Take, for example, organizers of the "80-20 Initiative." Relying heavily on e-mail, 80-20 plans to mold Asian-Americans from all political persuasions into a voting bloc so that at least 80 percent will vote for one candidate. It believes this Asian-American voting bloc is particularly important in California, New York and Texas which carry a substantial number of electoral votes and which have a high population of Asian-Americans. 80-20 says the Asian-Americans there could be swing voters, and it wants to be the king-maker. It claims to be bipartisan and indeed recruited some prominent Republicans to give it the appearance of bipartisanship. Let us take a closer look.
First, 80-20 publicly endorsed former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley, over the objections of some who subscribed to the 80-20 Initiative. Apparently, there was no meaningful deliberation among those who subscribed to the 80-20 Initiative over who 80-20 should endorse; neither did 80-20 disclose to the 150,000 e-mail addressees it says it has, how it arrived at the decision to endorse Mr. Bradley over the other candidates: Al Gore, John McCain and George W. Bush. That unilateral action by its leaders at the top rankled some 80-20 supporters who thought it was bipartisan and would be democratic in its own decision-making process. It did not happen.

The reality is Asian-Americans are the most diverse ethnic group in the country, each with a unique history of immigration, education, social, employment and economic experiences. Each person has his or her own agenda.

Second, 80-20 leader Democrat S.B. Woo and former lieutenant governor of Delaware, called for a boycott of the Bush campaign and urged group e-mail addressees to re-register as Democrats or independents and not to contribute to the Bush campaign, because the Bush campaign did not reply to its four-point demand.
The four-point demand called for presidential candidates to vow to 1) hold hearings to validate discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans (APA), 2) prosecute workplace discrimination, 3) end the "glass ceiling" for APA professional advancement, and 4) appoint APAs to policy-making positions in the judicial and executive branches, including a Cabinet position.
80-20 claimed that both Mr. Bradley and Mr. Gore had agreed to the demand. Mr. McCain did not agree to the demand, it alleged. Mr. Woo had an off-the-record meeting with Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson in an attempt to, let us guess, leverage his position as leader of a bipartisan group that could make the king.
It is crystal clear that 80-20 is not a bipartisan group and it should say so and operate honestly as a Democratic initiative. What it does is to bait Asian-Americans of all political persuasions to join the group under the guise of a bipartisan initiative and then switch to a partisan move to endorse a Democrat, Mr. Gore. Pure and simple.
Third, 80-20 is built on the belief that all Asian-Americans think alike. This belief treats Asian-Americans like a herd, not as individuals. It is an insult to the thinking man and woman. It says someone else will think for them and tell them whom to vote for. Never mind if the interests of those who want to think for others, and the interests of the others for whom those "thinkers" want to think, do not converge.
The reality is Asian-Americans are the most diverse ethnic group in the country, each with a unique history of immigration, education, social, employment and economic experiences. Each person has his or her own agenda. Not everyone wants to be validated as belonging to a class of certified victims of discrimination; not everyone is unhappy with the way our anti-discrimination laws are executed; and not everyone is interested in the "glass ceiling" phenomenon, or in judicial, executive or Cabinet posts. Yet that's exactly what 80-20 is demanding.
The truth is more Asian-Americans want a country led by a president they could respect and be proud to talk about with their children, their relatives and friends abroad; a president they could trust when he tells the country about his policies on education, health care, Social Security, tax and national security policies a president whose words they could believe; and not one who argues what the meaning of the word "is" is or one who takes credit for inventing the Internet but claims little knowledge of computers when asked about the missing e-mails from his office.
So in November, Asian-Americans will take stock of the issues that most interest them and cast their votes for the candidate who they believe will bring honor and integrity to the nation's highest office, and who they trust will implement the policies as he has promised during this campaign season. Some will vote Democrat, some independent and some Republican. They are thinking individuals. That's why so many of them voted with their feet and came to America in the first place.

Susan Au Allen is president of the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Washington.

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