As of this writing, the elections in the United States is in full swing. You may have even seen some Filipino-American relatives and friends proudly showing their support for their chosen candidates on social media. Given all of this, one cannot help but think of the role of Filipinos in American Politics.
We’re a minority in the US. But if you think about, do we as a people even have an impact on American Politics? The world is watching closely to see if the US will continue to be led by Donald Trump, or if Joe Biden can take back the White House. What role do Filipino-Americans play in choosing who helms the most powerful country in the world?
Filipino-Americans are Americans, first and foremost
It’s no secret that Filipinos have one of the biggest diasporas in the world. This is especially true for the US, as we have traditionally had close relations with them that traces back to even before the World Wars. This relationship we have had with Uncle Sam has been one layered with economic and cultural baggage. And has resulted into an estimated figure of over 4 million Americans with Filipino ancestry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Many of these are 2nd, 3rd, or even 4th generation children and grandchildren of migrants from the 1970’s and 1980’s who ended up being given citizenship. Therein started the larger doses of assimilation for Filipinos into American culture. Simply put, they became Americans. This is square one in unpacking the role of Filipinos in American Politics.
So many of these younger Fil-Ams have never even set foot in the motherland. Even if they strive to reconnect with Filipino culture, and have relatives back in the islands, they are Americans, first and foremost.
This means that they operate in the political space of the United States. They are a minority, yes, but like other minorities, they end up picking candidates from either end of the US Political Spectrum. Some Filipino-Americans are staunch Republicans, and some are undeniable Democrats.
Joining whatever side resonates with their values
The short answer to the role of Filipinos in American Politics begins by re-establishing that they’re actual American voters. Since many of these younger Filipino-Americans have fully assimilated into American culture, they have also fully assimilated into the US’s bipartisan political system.
There are some actual Filipino-American politicians, like Sean Reyes – Utah’s Attorney General. Reyes is a Republican, and is a fervent supporter of Donald Trump. But Utah isn’t the only place in the US where Filipinos participate directly in American politics. We are everywhere, and in some places, Filipinos continue to fight for representation at a community level. As of writing, it seems Todd Gloria has made history, becoming the first Filipino-American to be elected as Mayor of a major US city (San Diego).
On the other hand, there are Filipino-Americans like Loida Nicolas-Lewis. She is a Democrat, and is considered one of the richest women in the US. She may not have political power by holding a position, but she has enough influence in her local community for her political bias to actually matter. This is true for the US as well as the Philippines. She reportedly has been a a supporter of the Liberal Party, and is an outspoken critic of the Duterte Administration.
The fact is, Filipino-Americans vote for candidates that champion causes and communities dear to them. They are in the thick of the American political system, so they identify with the party that resonates most with their values.
Some Filipino-Americans identify with the conservative and traditional values of the Republicans. They may feel that it’s closest to the Filipino values that they’ve held dear since childhood. Some identify with the liberal values of the Democrats. Those Fil-Ams feel that being progressive is the only logical inclination as part of a minority.
Every vote counts, and Filipinos vote around the world
With Filipinos composing roughly 1% of the American population, they are no small number. This is specially true given the electoral system of the US. Filipino-Americans can actually swing the votes on a Federal level, specially for states with a big Filipino community.
This doesn’t apply to just the US. If you think about it, a lot of Filipinos are citizens of their adopted countries, and have their own locales with their own issues and political leanings. At the end of the day, every vote counts. Isn’t it fascinating that Filipinos have that unique experience of experiencing politics not just in our home country, but all over the world?