Vietnamese American - Political Activism

Political Activism

According to a study by the Manhattan Institute in 2008, Vietnamese Americans are among the most assimilated immigrant groups in the United States. While their rates of cultural and economic assimilation were unexceptional compared to other groups (perhaps due to language differences between English and Vietnamese), their rates of civic assimilation were the highest among all the large immigrant groups. Vietnamese Americans, being political refugees, view their stay in the United States as permanent and became involved in the political process in higher rates than other groups.

As refugees from a Communist country, many Vietnamese Americans are strongly opposed to communism. In a poll conducted for the Orange County Register in 2000, 71% of respondents ranked fighting communism as "top priority" or "very important". Vietnamese Americans regularly stage protests against the Vietnamese government, its human rights policy and those whom they perceive to be sympathetic to it. For example, in 1999, protests against a video store owner in Westminster, California, who displayed the current Vietnamese flag and a photograph of Ho Chi Minh peaked when 15,000 people held a vigil in front of the store in one night, causing debates regarding free speech. Membership in the Democratic Party was once considered anathema among Vietnamese Americans because it was seen as less anti-communist than the Republican Party. However, their support for the Republican Party has somewhat eroded in recent years, as the Democratic Party has become seen in a more favorable light by the second generation as well as by newer, poorer refugees. However, the Republican Party still has overwhelming support; in Orange County, Vietnamese Americans registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats at 55% and 22%, respectively, while a national survey in 2008 showed that 22% identify with the Democratic Party while 29% identify with the Republican Party. Exit polls during the 2004 presidential election show that 72% of Vietnamese American voters in the 8 eastern states polled voted for Republican incumbent George W. Bush compared to only 28% who voted for the Democratic challenger John Kerry. In a poll conducted prior to the 2008 presidential election, two-thirds of Vietnamese Americans who made up their mind stated they would vote for the Republican candidate John McCain, in stark contrast to the other Asian American groups surveyed. The Republican Party's particularly strong voice of Anti-Communism tends to make it more attractive to older Vietnamese Americans and first generation Vietnamese Americans, especially with their arrival to the US during the Reagan Administration. Although most Vietnamese are registered Republican, most young Vietnamese lean toward the Democratic Party. A AALDEF poll found that Vietnamese Americans from the ages of 18 through 29 favored Democrat Barack Obama by 60% during the 2008 Presidential Election.

Recently, Vietnamese Americans have exercised considerable political power in Orange County, Silicon Valley, and other areas. Many have won public offices at the local and statewide levels in California and Texas. One Vietnamese American, Janet Nguyen, serves on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, one has served as mayor of Rosemead, California and several serve or have served in the city councils of Westminster, Garden Grove, San Jose, and places as varied as Clarkston, Georgia. In 2008, Westminster became the first city to have a majority Vietnamese American city council. In 2004, Van Tran, a Republican candidate and Hubert Vo, a Democratic candidate, were elected to the state legislatures of California and Texas, respectively. Viet Dinh was the Assistant Attorney General of the United States from 2001 to 2003 who was the chief architect of the USA PATRIOT Act. In 2006, as many as 15 Vietnamese Americans were running for elective office in California alone, a sign of the growing maturity of the community. For federal elective office, at least four candidates have run for a seat in the United States House of Representatives as their party's official candidate. Some Vietnamese Americans have recently lobbied many city and state governments to make the former South Vietnamese flag instead of the current flag of Vietnam the symbol of Vietnamese in the United States, a move which raised objections from the Vietnamese government. Their efforts resulted in the California and Ohio state governments enacting legislations to adopt that flag in August 2006. From February 2003 to January 2006, in the USA, 9 States, 3 Counties and 76 Cities have adopted Resolutions recognizing the yellow flag as the Vietnamese Heritage and Freedom Flag.

During the months following Hurricane Katrina, the Vietnamese American community in New Orleans, among the first to return to the city, rallied against a landfill used to dump debris near their community. After months of legal wrangling, the landfill was closed, which the activists consider a victory, and the Vietnamese-American community in New Orleans became a political force. In 2008, Anh "Joseph" Cao, a Katrina activist, won Louisiana's 2nd congressional district seat in the House of Representatives as a Republican, becoming the first Vietnamese American elected to Congress.

Read more about this topic:  Vietnamese American

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