‘Grin and Click’ Generation Matures to Create AAPI Voter Education Fund

by | Jan 12, 2016 | Uncategorized

Two long-time South Asian American political leaders are slated to head up the AAPI Victory Fund, which is set to formally kick off Jan. 14 at 9:30 a.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Heading the new Super PAC – the first aiming to bring together all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders under one political umbrella – is Shekar Narasimhan, who will serve as the PAC’s chairman. Co-founder Dilawar Syed will serve as vice chairman.
Former congressman Norm Mineta, who has also served as former Secretary of Commerce and former Secretary of Transportation, is scheduled to speak at the launch. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia – former governor of that state – will also speak at the kick-off event.
“We of the AAPI community have been writing checks to politicians for a very long time. What we’ve asked for in return is a photograph. My son calls us the ‘click and grin’ generation,” Narasimhan told India-West ahead of the launch, adding that – despite significant funding – the AAPI community still lacks adequate representation in the American political system, both at the national and local levels.
Narasimhan, co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Indo-American Council and a commissioner to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said the AAPI community – though disparate in ethnicity – shares many of the same values: a focus on education, expanding employment- and family-based visa programs, encouraging small business and entrepreneurship and policies that embrace “family values.” He added that Asian Americans are currently the strongest drivers of American foreign policy, and noted that the historic Indo-U.S. civil nuclear agreement – signed in 2008 – could not have happened without massive Indian American engagement.
“Individually, we don’t have the numbers to make a difference. But collectively, we can make a difference, especially in the traditionally battle-ground states,” said Narasimhan, managing partner at Beekman Advisors and chairman of Papillon Capital.
More than 18 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders currently reside in the U.S. The AAPI community is the fastest-growing ethnicity in the U.S. In a report released in September 2014, the Center for American Progress noted that the Asian American population had risen by 46 percent between 2000 and 2010. The Pacific Islander population had grown by 40 percent during those same years.
Conversely, the Latino population, traditionally a key driver of U.S. population growth, has slowed in recent years, reported the Pew Research Center in a study released in January 2015.
Syed, who also served as a commissioner to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, told India-West that the AAPI community played an increasingly important role during the last presidential election. The 3 percent vote created a margin of victory in key states, he said, noting that the new PAC will target key states – including Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Colorado, among others – where the AAPI vote could create the margin of victory.
The PAC is not affiliated to any party, but Narasimhan said the organization will be biased towards the Democratic Party and progressive candidates. AAPIs who do vote overwhelmingly tend to favor Democratic candidates, according to Pew Research Center reports.
The AAPI Victory Fund – a multi-million dollar effort – will not fund specific candidates, but will instead create resources to engage the AAPI community in the electoral process. Syed – a technology entrepreneur and business leader – envisioned a team of volunteers who could engage potential voters in their own language, and voter registration drives targeted at the large population of AAPIs who are eligible to vote, but do not register.
Since the last presidential election in 2012, there has been a generational shift, with AAPIs much less tied to any specific ethnic identity, which allows the community to unify, said Syed. Moreover, the eight-year course of the Obama administration has created a network of AAPI leaders with a leadership core, he said, noting that the White House AAPI Initiative has allowed community leaders a base from which to engage with one another on common ground.
“I want to create a platform which institutionalizes our individual efforts,” said Syed.
A second launch of the AAPI Victory Fund is scheduled for Jan. 30 in Palo Alto, Calif.

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