After a tumultuous election cycle in Georgia, the Democratic Party is sending Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate. This win can be attributed to many factors: record setting turnout, the sheer force of Black women, increase in college-educated voters, Trump’s election fraud propaganda, and enthusiasm from Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).
Following a tough loss in one of the most heavily AAPI districts in Texas, I, along with many of my colleagues, set our sights on Georgia. I was brought onto the Democratic Party of Georgia’s (DPG) AAPI Coalition only two weeks away from election day. As many of my fellow AAPIs know, we tend to find each other, no matter where we are. That is exactly what our team did.
We were not ignorant of the fact that the AAPI community in Georgia is fairly small. However, this worked to our advantage: A small community means close relationships. A strong relational organizing program, we reasoned, could be exactly what it takes to turn out a historically ignored constituency.
Relying on WhatsApp, a beloved messaging app used by our aunties and uncles, we launched a program to help our volunteers reach their family, friends, and assigned lists of targeted voters. In the last four days of the campaign, our volunteers sent 66,000 WhatsApp messages, many of which were in-language. Many of our volunteers were even able to switch to communicating in-language when there was confusion around the date of Election Day and voting.
During phonebanks, our AAPI volunteers spoke directly to members of their community (we had lists to call from in 16 unique AAPI ethnic groups) in their language of choice. We canvassed with literature translated in five AAPI languages that featured solutions to issues that disproportionately impact AAPI communities, like healthcare and immigration. Our volunteers often found that voters were surprised when they heard their names pronounced correctly and were subsequently more willing to talk.
Not only were we able to harness the power of the AAPI community via traditional campaign tactics, we were able to gather for a socially-distanced celebration of our culture in a Suwanee Patel Brothers parking lot. We had ethnic food trucks, traditional song and dance, chai making class, and an actual red carpet to complete our “New Year, New Senate: Bollywood Red Carpet” festival.
As a little mixed kid from Sugar Land, TX, I never thought I would find a community of AAPI leaders who would make me feel so seen. I firmly believe that the DPG AAPI coalition is setting the example we all need to see for constituency outreach. Texas is home to one of the fastest growing AAPI populations in the U.S. If we are going to flip Texas in 2024, we absolutely need to harness their power. We saw Sri Preston Kulkarni break language barriers in TX-22 and Georgia nail AAPI relational organizing, but we have to make the prioritization of AAPI outreach a norm in every single election. This means not only phone banking and canvassing in multiple languages, but meeting our AAPI brothers and sisters where they are and celebrating their culture.
AAPIs are becoming a monolith and there is not much time left for the Democratic Party to continue to ignore the community and still win. It’s really easy to forget the power of the AAPI community when you aren’t trying to hear them, so let’s listen.
Photo: IMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP via Getty Images