Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang believes that the xenophobic language President Donald Trump used to describe coronavirus should have been a wake-up call for Asian Americans to get out and vote.
Trump repeatedly called coronavirus the “China virus” and the “Kung Flu.” In tweets, rallies and press conferences, Trump, Republican leaders and right-wing media have doggedly used racial slurs to describe the virus, which originated from Wuhan, China, leading to “alarming levels” of hate crimes against Asian Americans.
Exit polls from NBC News reflected 63% of Asian American voters supported President-Elect Joe Biden and 31% voted for Trump. According to data from Edison Research, 30% of Asian Americans voted for Trump, up three percentage points from 2016. (A nearly identical increase among African Americans and Hispanic voters as well).
“I was surprised and disappointed by those figures. I thought that Asian Americans would uniformly reject Trump given how much he has thrown us under the bus, where the coronavirus is concerned,” the former Democratic presidential candidate said in an interview with Yahoo Finance this week.
In addition to the health and financial concerns triggered by the coronavirus, Asian Americans have been the unfair target of racist attacks. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that’s combating anti-Asian American discrimination, received 2,583 reports of discrimination from March 19 to August 5. Political candidates of Asian descent have experienced heightened physical and verbal harassment.
Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial/ethnic group of eligible voters in the United States. There were 4.6 million eligible Asian Americans in 2000, and that number has skyrocketed to 11.1 million for this year’s election, representing 5% of the country’s eligible voters, according to data from Pew Research.
Organizations like APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander) Vote have been making a concerted effort to get more families to view voting as a civic duty, tapping into young celebrities like “Fresh Off the Boat’s” Hudson Yang and “Modern Family’s” Audrey Anderson-Emmons to urge eligible voters to hit the polls.
‘In my house, we didn't talk that much about politics when I was growing up’
Yang, who is the child of Taiwanese immigrants, plans to run for public office again in 2024. He hopes he’s paving the way for other Asian Americans to pursue a career in politics.
“One of the things I'm really passionate about is activating Asian Americans politically, because in my house, we didn't talk that much about politics when I was growing up. My parents were not into American politics. I got this message that it wasn't something I should frankly consider as a line of work. And I think many Asian Americans are brought up similarly, and one reason we vote at lower levels than other people,” he said.
“Too many of us are not donating, running for office. So one of the things I love to do is help hopefully open Asian Americans’ eyes to the fact that we need to engage politically and civically in this country of ours, or else, you know, like things that we don't like are more likely to take place,” he added.
Earlier this year, Yang predicted that Trump’s stoking of xenophobia would have a material impact on voter psyche in this year’s election.
“It’s not just wrong and evil to characterize this virus in racial terms,” Yang told Yahoo Finance in April. “It's also going to be a key factor in whether he’s successful in getting re-elected by making the case to the American people that this was somehow a foreign effort as opposed to a phenomenon that frankly experts have been warning about for years ahead of time.”
While the Asian American voter bloc may still be a small minority, the nation as a whole has decided not to re-elect Trump or his rhetoric for a second term.
Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.