Biden woos Asian American voters after Trump ‘kung flu’ quips

As President Trump stoked outrage by calling COVID-19 the “kung flu,” presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was quietly courting Asian American voters.

And Biden’s efforts could pad his electoral edge in crucial, culturally diverse battleground states, such as Nevada, Texas, and Georgia.

“Asian Americans are being targeted with violence and subjected to xenophobic rhetoric from the mouth of the president himself,” Biden told Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote’s presidential forum last weekend.

He added, “Our AAPI community is essential. Period. Period. Not just as essential workers, but essential to the very fabric of this nation.”

Asian Americans represent the fast-growing demographic of eligible voters compared to other major races and ethnicities, the Pew Research Center found last month. The group’s comprised of about 11 million eligible voters, or 5% of the country’s eligible population, up 139% over the past two decades. And the advantage for Biden is that they lean Democratic.

In 2018, Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote estimated that more than 40% of Asian Americans identify as Democrats, as opposed to almost 30% who consider themselves Republicans and roughly the same percentage who think of themselves as independents. To put that in context, of the 5 million Asian Americans who voted in 2016, 4% of the total electorate, three-quarters supported Hillary Clinton to the quarter who cast a ballot for Trump.

Now, as November’s 2020 general election nears, China’s in the spotlight thanks to the novel coronavirus. And Asian Americans are a focus, similar to the “yellow peril” fervor of the mid-1800s.

The Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center received almost 1,900 discrimination and harassment complaints during an eight-week period from the start of the outbreak to mid-May. The incidents, documented by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and San Francisco State University, ranged from verbal abuse, such as hearing “yellow n—–” slurs, to death threats.

Both Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council’s Manjusha Kulkarni and Cynthia Choi, Chinese for Affirmative Action co-executive director, blame Trump and loyal Republican lawmakers for encouraging ill feelings by describing COVID-19 as the Chinese or Wuhan virus.

But Trump escalated matters this month. He labeled COVID-19 the “kung flu”at his comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before repeating it last week during a trip to Phoenix, Arizona. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied Trump was racially motivated, explaining the president was simply pointing out the virus’s origins.

Former President Barack Obama slammed Trump last week for adopting the term, saying it “still shocks and pisses me off.” Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic Georgia gubernatorial nominee and floated 2020 vice presidential candidate, said the phrase underscored how “racism is the core of his appeal.” Even White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, whose husband George is half-Filipino, said she didn’t “agree” with it, though she parroted McEnany’s defense. In March, Conway blasted reports that a Trump administration official used it with Asian American CBS reporter Weijia Jiang as “wrong,” “highly offensive, and “very hurtful,” yet prodded Jiang to reveal her source.

Trump may be tossing proverbial red meat to his base to gin up enthusiasm and counter unfavorable polling. But he’s doing himself a disservice in states such as Nevada, Texas, and Georgia, according to Democratic California Rep. Ted Lieu. Trump desperately needs the latter two states in his column on Election Night if he wants a second term in the White House.

“Asian Americans now make up 11% of the electorate in NV, 5.5% in TX and 4.7% in GA. So go ahead @realDonaldTrump and keep saying racist stuff like Kung Flu. Also, you are making fun of a pandemic that’s killed over 120,000 Americans in four months. See you in November,” Lieu tweeted.

First reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, Trump and Biden have each leveraged criticism of China’s transparency regarding the virus outbreak on the campaign trail, against China, and each other.

The precarious U.S.-China relationship was already being litigated by the rivals before the virus. Republicans highlighted Biden repeatedly downplaying China as an economic threat during his primary. And both camps ripped the other for familial business connections to China, Trump through the Trump Organization, and Biden through his son Hunter. But the pandemic upped the ante.

Outside groups such as pro-Trump super PAC America First Action spent $10 million in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania on ads pinning “Beijing Biden” as a China sympathizer. For the video, the group dug up footage from his half-century in public life where he’d lavished praise on the country. Biden’s team pushed back days later with its own spot, claiming Trump had “rolled over for the Chinese.” The campaign has been boosted by Biden-aligned super PAC American Bridge, which ran a similar blitz worth $15 million.

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Author: Washington Examiner


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