Monday, December 8, 2008

William Jefferson Clinton, okay. William Jefferson, not so much.

Voters in Louisiana have elected Ahn Cao, a Republican lawyer, to the U.S. House of Representatives, the first Vietnamese-American to be sent to the U.S. Congress. 

The district had been safely Democratic for quite some time, so much so that the incumbent, Representative William Jefferson felt at ease enough to get himself into a corruption scandal. White voters didn't like that too much, and thanks to the population-clearing effects of Hurricane Katrina, their strong turnout was enough to elect the 41-year-old Cao, an immigrant who arrived on American shores at the age of eight. It didn't help Jefferson's case that the Obama team didn't really give him much support. 

Although Democrats enjoy high support amongst many minority groups, there are three notable exceptions: Americans of Vietnamese, Korean, and Cuban descent. What do these three have in common? Their community's identity since the Cold War has been heavily influenced by strong anti-communist sentiment (which, historically, seems to jive more with Republican policies), even after the Cold War ended (since Hanoi and Havana are still communist, while Seoul is routinely antagonized by Pyongyang). 

Younger VAs, KAs, and CAs may have less fervor against the reds, something reflected by changes in the motherland: South Koreans have been pushing for engagement with North Korea, Vietnam has opened to the United States, and relations with Cuba edge closer toward reconciliation. Nevertheless, animosity toward the communist rulers of North Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba can remain strong among older voters. 

Among younger voters, though, the Republican party's pro-business stance has great appeal to the entrepreneurs in the Korean-American and, I believe, the Vietnamese-American communities.

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